CLEVELAND, Ohio — One apple variety is not like another or another or another. That’s why Patterson Fruit Farm in Chesterland, has 28 different varieties in its orchards. West Wind Farms in Madison has 19 varieties and Ransom Sage Farm in Chardon has about 50.
“They each have unique flavors, storage lengths, textures, colors, and uses. We like to say there is an apple for everyone,” says sixth-generation farmer Dave Patterson.
“We have a combination of old and new varieties. Some of the older varieties have different tastes and uses,” he says. “For example, apples like Cortland and Empire do not brown after they’re cut, Golden Delicious pairs so well with other apples in pies and sauces, but the new apples have incredible flavors and tend to store much better than older varieties.”
“McIntosh is one of our oldest, most well-known apples and EverCrisp is our newest apple,” he says. Developed in Ohio, Patterson says EverCrisp has “fantastic flavor” and great storage ability.
Asked to classify the apples grown on the farm he operates with his brother Bill Patterson’s family, Dave cites the following. Of course, tastes vary from person to person. And, varieties vary by farm. Another farmer will have different answers.
- Sweetest: Gala
- Tartest: GoldRush
- Best for pies: Melrose and Jonagold
- Best for sauce: Empire and Idared
- Best for eating: HoneyCrisp
- Best for storage: EverCrisp and GoldRush
While some apples — the popular HoneyCrisp, for example — are at nearly every farm, different growers may have a mix of different varieties. Ransom Sage Farm is introducing a small crop of a new apple: Sweet MAIA. Developed by the Midwest Apple Improvement Association (MAIA)and just recently available, it’s described by MAIA as an early-season apple that’s crispy and sweet with bright, attractive red coloring.
Ben Sage, the owner of Ransom Sage and fifth-generation grower, says a few “secret” apples will be introduced in the coming years as the trees mature.
In addition to picking apples, the farms often offer other activities. Patterson’s location s at 8765 Mulberry Road, Chesterland, offers its Family Fun Fest through October. Admission is $6 per person Monday through Thursday, and $10 per person Friday through Sunday. At the separate market on 11414 Caves Road, visitors can enjoy a free playground, browse through the bakery and gift area, and visit chickens, sheep, rabbits, and turkeys.
Ransom Sage offers more pick-you-own such as pumpkins, gourds, dahlias and sunflowers throughout the season. Visitors are invited to take photos and a wedding venue is also available.
Once you get home, the way to store apples is in your refrigerator crisper with a damp towel. Drying out can be the worst thing for your apples, says Patterson.
It’s apple picking season. Following is a representation of the apple farms open for picking in Northeast Ohio. Hours may vary by day and throughout the season. Check out their websites for details on varieties, activities and more.
Eddy’s Fruit Farm: 12079 Caves Road, Chesterland; 440-729-7842.
Heavenly Hill Farm: 18375 State Road, North Royalton; 440-537-3018
Hillcrest Orchards: 50336 Telegraph Road, Amherst; 440-965-8884
Hillside Orchard & Farm Market: 2397 Center Road, Hinckley; 330-225-4748.
Patterson Fruit Farm: 8765 Mulberry Road, Chesterland; 440-729-1964.
Quarry Hill Orchards: 8403 Mason Rd., Berlin Heights; 419-588-2858
Ransom Sage Farm, 505 Rt44 (Center St.) Chardon, 440-479-6433
Westwind Farm: 4600 South Madison Road (Ohio 528), Madison, 440-428-0192.
So, what do you do when you’ve picked too many apples? You cook and bake.
“Cooking apples vary because they each have different characteristics, such as cooking down, or staying in slices,” says Thomas Paulson of West Wind Farm in Madison. “We’ve found that for sauce, pies and crisps, a blend of apples works best, depending on what varieties are ripe at any given time.”
Ben Sage is less definitive about pie apples. He suggests buying what reminds you of home. “All apples work well for pies. Everyone has something that reminds them of what grandma made,” he says. “It depends on whether you like chunky or soft. And it matters how long you cook them.”
Sage says Macintosh apples, for example, require shorter oven times while the heirloom Northern Spy apple may bake for more than an hour.
To achieve my goals for pie or sauce, I buy a bag of apple pie mix at Sage’s Apple Farm in Chardon. The bags contain a variety of apples of different flavors and textures. If you’re creating your own blend, Dave Patterson recommends Empire, Jonagold, Melrose and Golden Delicious.
I bake in metal pie plates. I like this one because it’s made in the USA. I find the crust bakes better in metal. Speaking of crust my two favorite recipes are an adaptation of Julia Child’s pastry dough and the following butter crust below.
I often make apple sauce as I need it. To do so, I use a mix of apples. For canning, I’m more selective. When I luck into them early in the season I choose the slightly tart Burgundy apple for a bright pink sauce and cook them with skins on. Sage also recommends Jonamac, Courtland and Macoun for pink sauce.
I’d love to hear your tips and tricks for making the best apple pie. Email me at email@example.com.
Pie Crust Recipe
- 8 ounces all-purpose flour, sifted
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 sticks butter, cold and cubed
- ¼ cup ice water
- ¼ cup plain vodka, ice cold
Put flour, sugar and salt into a food processor. Pulse five times to blend. Distribute cold butter over dry mixture in food processor bowl. Using short pulses, run the food processor until the flour and butter mixture looks like small peas. Pour water and vodka into measuring cup, then lightly drizzle into processor while pulsing. Continue until dough starts to clump. Dump mixture onto pie mat that has been lightly sprinkled with flour. Squeeze the dough into a solid mass. Split the dough in half, make two balls. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour to overnight.
Apple Filling Recipe
Seasonal favorites, according to Patterson, include Empire, Jonagold, Melrose, Golden Delicious.
- 4 ¼ pounds tart apples (about 8 large apples), peeled, cored and sliced.
- 8 ounces light brown sugar (1 cup packed)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon (more if you’d like)
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger (optional)
- ¼ tsp table salt
- ¼ cup quick-cooking tapioca
- 1 egg, whisked
- Turbinado sugar or sanding sugar
Combine brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger and salt in a gallon-sized, zip-top bag. Add apples to bag and tumble until coated. Macerate at room temperature, flipping the bag occasionally to distribute syrup, about three hours or refrigerate up to eight hours.
Add tapioca to the apples, reseal the bag, and toss to combine.
Roll out the bottom crust and line the pie plate. Place apples into the prepared pie shell, and drain away some liquid. Roll and drape top crust over filling. Pinch to seal both crusts together and trim. Brush with whisked egg wash, sprinkle with turbinado/sanding sugar and slit holes for steam to escape. I like to make designs.
Refrigerate the pie until cold and firm, at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat to 400° F. Bake 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 F and bake 40 minutes. Cool at least an hour.
Fresh Apple Sauce
- 4 large apples, preferably
- ½ cup apple cider
- sugar or honey (optional)
- Cinnamon (optional)
Peel, core and slice apples. Place apples and ½ cup cider in pot over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20-35 minutes until proper consistency. Adding sugar or honey –your choice — depends on the sweetness of the apples used. Add honey or sugar, to taste. Serve with a shaker of cinnamon as an option.