Brisk breezes and chilly nights have replaced the humid air and sweltering days. The smoky scent of burning wood wafts throughout the neighborhood and replaces the scent of freshly cut grass. And signs for u-pick orchards begin popping up as you venture farther away from downtown Cleveland. As fall creeps into Northeast Ohio, transforming this area into a vision of yellows, oranges, and reds, we enter into the heart of apple season—an annual event that shouldn’t be missed.
Every year when I was a child, my family would load into our Subaru and make the 45-minute trek to our favorite apple orchard. Sometimes we would go with friends and make an afternoon of it, stopping for lunch at a local diner along the way. Other times it was just our family of four, and we would go to a special event or festival the orchard was hosting. With cash in hand (many places accept only cash or checks), off we went ready to gather all the apples we could carry. We always picked at least two types of apples: Some were best for eating while others were better for baking. And multiple trips to the orchard were common during the fall months, because we knew that September produces completely different apples than November. It was always a treat picking an apple straight from the tree and sinking my teeth into it as the warm, sweet juice dribbled down my chin. Once we had our bags filled with apples we would head home, ready to enjoy our bounty as pies, applesauce, and a sweet snack.
With a climate perfect for growing apples, Northeast Ohio produces a variety of apples, each with a distinct flavor and season. Ranging from tart and hard to soft and sweet, apples have a wide range of tastes and textures that can be highlighted in different ways. Here are a few suggestions for how to use specific apple types. But be sure to pick a variety of apples and see what you like best!
Baking: Tart, hard apples are best since they will not turn to mush–Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Jonagold
Apple butter and sauce: Soft, sweet/tart apples are best as they melt down during cooking and create a smooth, rich, and intense flavor–McIntosh, Cortland, Stayman, Jonathan, Ida Red, Jonagold
Eating: Everyone has their favorite, but I love a sweet/tart apple with a crisp slightly hard texture–Jonagold, Honeycrisp, Mutsu, Fuji, Gala
Check out our U-pick apple orchards guide (PUBLISHER’S NOTE: This list is was published in 2013, so please call for updates before visiting any of these locations. And if you see an orchard missing, please add details in our comments below. Thanks!)