Sequim’s next big crop: sugar-free fruit treats

SEQUIM — Karen Junell started baking sugar-free apple pies for her diabetic husband, John, about 10 years ago.

He devoured the pies, shared with his friends — and imagined a day when sugar-free apple products would be widely available on the North Olympic Peninsula.

This week, at last, the fruit of Karen’s labor is proliferating in the form of five new products from Sequim Family Farms, an apple company formed by Junell, Leroy Beers and Gary Smith.

The plant, in an old dairy building off Cays Road, has already processed 18,000 pounds of apples — and stocked shelves at QFC, 990 E. Washington St. in Sequim, with applesauce, apple dessert topping and lavender-apple sauce.

Also available are jars of Katie’s apple butter, named for Smith’s mother-in-law, Sequim pioneer Katie Schmuck.

In addition to the 2,300-square-foot plant, Sequim Family Farms has 8,000 square feet of subzero freezer space, where it stores its other big product: Frozen apple slices for restaurant or home bakers to put into pies and other pastries.

Apple products sugar free

All of the above is sugar free.

And Sequim Family Farms is developing its recipe for apple pie sweetened only with concentrated apple juice.

“We want to maintain the real flavor of the fruit,” said Smith.

Instead of manufacturing what he calls “candy” — as in sugared applesauce — Sequim Family sought the essence of Jonagold, Gravenstein, yellow transparent and other tart varieties.

Sugar-free apple pie, added Junell, “is probably the most awesome food a diabetic could eat.”

And after his wife shared her recipe with Beers’ wife Janet, she found that neither she nor he ever desired any other.

The three Sequim Family men hope to maintain the Dungeness Valley’s natural flavors by expanding markets for local fruit growers.

Gravensteins thrive here, and other apples have potential in Sequim’s climate, Smith said.

He should know about crops in these parts.

Smith’s family has run the Maple View dairy and vegetable farm for the past several decades.

Now that he’s selling the farm to his sons, Smith is branching out.

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