September 2012 Issue
A Taste of the Orchard
Ohio apple growers are expanding to help quench our thirst for sweet cider.
Walk down a grassy hill and over a small wooden bridge and a single Jonathan apple tree can be seen growing near the road. It is the only surviving tree of the originals planted at MacQueen Orchards, established in 1936.
“There’s no plaque on the tree, and we kind of neglect it because it is all by itself over here,” admits Jeff MacQueen, whose 180 acres of apple trees would amaze his grandfather and farm’s founder, Hugh MacQueen.
But MacQueen doesn’t dismiss the tree’s significance. The farm originally was home to hogs and cows, until Grandpa MacQueen saw potential in a neighbor’s single apple tree. The wise farmer decided to forgo squeals and moos for crisp apples and fall’s favorite drink, cider.
Today, the orchard in Lucas County’s Holland village makes 50,000 to 60,000 gallons of apple cider a season, which it sells on-site and also to local retailers.
MacQueen Orchards (419/865-2916, macqueenorchards.com
) is a tourist destination for Ohioans who officially welcome autumn as they watch apples being pressed into cider. A rack and cloth press is still used at the orchard, not because it is the most efficient method to make the drink, but because visitors like to watch the traditional operation through observation windows. More modern equipment is used to make the majority of the orchard’s cider. Apples are sorted, cleaned, rinsed, ground to a pulp, filtered and bottled.
Ohioans love cider. We quench our thirst with a tall, cold glass after raking leaves in the yard. We add a cinnamon stick to a warm mug of cider on a chilly evening. And what fall festival would be complete without small, white paper cups of cider to sample?
Ohio ranks ninth among all states for the amount of apples grown. About half of all apples are used to make cider. It takes one bushel (about 42 pounds) of apples to make three or four gallons of cider.
Cider makers claim the best cider is a blend of sweet and tart apples. Steve Hirsch, owner of Hirsch Fruit Farm in Chillicothe (740/775-7055, hirschfruitfarm.com
), says, “We are in the Pepsi/Coke generation now and people like cider a little sweeter than they used to.”
Ohio farmers favor Gala, Honeycrisp, Jonathan, Fuji, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Stayman-Winesap, McIntosh, Rome Beauty, Cortland and other apples for their cider “recipes,” but mixtures vary according to availability.
Because of this year’s early spring and then nasty frosts, Ohio’s apple crop production will be “average,” but only in quantity, not quality, according to Bill Dodd, program director of the Ohio Apples Marketing Program. The results of the unusual weather may slightly boost cider prices as orchard owners scramble to buy apples from others to keep up with the demand.
But some Ohio apple growers are changing their growing methods and significantly increasing crop yields. Think of an illustration of an apple orchard in a children’s picture book. Bright red apples hang from perfect apples trees in a sunny picturesque orchard while happy bees go about their business.
Those apple trees still grow on the fifth-generation Grobe Fruit Farm in Elyria (440/322-8312). But owners Allen and Laurie Grobe are embracing “tall spindle,” a method of growing apple trees on a trellis system much like growing grapes. Severe pruning keeps the trees’ sizes in check. Instead of planting 180 trees per acre, 1,000 can be grown, three feet apart.
Not all pick-your-own customers like the trellis arrangement, because, according to MacQueen, “They still want their kids to climb the trees.” But the new method’s efficiency is stunning. And he keeps part of his acreage like “an old-fashioned orchard” for the traditionalists, while slowly converting much of his orchard to the newer method.
Innovative apple farming has come to Ohio. The Grobes, who use the entire apple in their cider production (two-thirds of the fiber and many antioxidants are found in the peel), call themselves “commercial growers with farm-market-quality products.” With their equipment, one man can make 500 to 600 gallons of cider per hour. In 1997, the farm produced 8,000 gallons a season. This year, it expects to make 150,000 gallons. Cider from the Grobe and MacQueen orchards is flash pasteurized, a quick-kill method of destroying five kinds of bacteria.
“Flavor and color are not affected by the improved pasteurization methods,” says Dodd. “And most people prefer cider pasteurized for safety these days.”
According to Laurie Grobe, pasteurized cider can be kept unopened in a refrigerator for three months. Opened jugs can last two weeks in the fridge and three years in the freezer. (Pour a little cider out of the jug to allow for expansion before freezing.)
“But a gentleman I know always buys two half gallons and puts one on top of the refrigerator,” says Hirsch, who grows 21 different kinds of apples. “He likes it when it becomes ‘champagne bubbles.’ But cider will become bitey and eventually turn to vinegar.”
All the more reason to pass the jug now
CIDER WITH A KICK
A Westlake entrepreneur makes the fermented version of our favorite fall beverage.
What’s a Cleveland Clinic microbiologist doing in the basement of a former winery in Westlake? When he’s not in the medical lab, Richard Read, a Brit who came to the U.S. in 2005, makes hard cider in the style of the country he left — with a healthy alcoholic kick and an extraordinary taste.
Read founded Griffin Cider Works in 2010, but has been making fermented cider since he was 14. He uses only Ohio-grown apples and he has a big plan.
“I want Ohio with all its apple orchards to be like Napa Valley and California with its wine, only here it will be cider,” says Read, whose products are carried by a number of grocery and beverage stores and are served at several trendy restaurants in northeast Ohio.
Read offers Griffin Original, full-bodied, medium sweetness with an apple flavor; Lolo Romy, mango-infused, almost like white wine; Burley Man, medium dry and robust; and Country Cottage, infused with elderberries.
“A crusty piece of good bread, a slice of cheese and cider — that’s living,” says Read.
For more information, visit griffinciderworks.com
. — JS
Enjoy a taste of cider at these events:
Lordstown Apple Cider Festival
, Sept. 14–16, Lordstown School Grounds, 1824 Salt Springs Rd., Lordstown 44481, 330/824-2650
Norton Cider Festival
, Sept. 28–30, Columbia Woods Park, 4060 Columbia Woods Dr., Norton 44203, 330/825-4967. nortonciderfestival.com
, Apple Butter Festival, Oct. 6–7, 7605 Garden Rd., Holland 43528, 419/865-2916. macqueenorchards.com
2012 Ohio Cider Festival
, Oct. 6–7, Hidden Valley Fruit Farm, 5474 N. St. Rte. 48, Lebanon 45036, 513/932-1869. hiddenvalleyfruitfarm.com
Courtesy of home economist Jane Rogers
Cider Raisin Sauce
Makes 1-1/4 cups
Try this flavorful sauce over pork tenderloin medallions,
roast pork, turkey, ham or sweet potatoes.
1 heaping teaspoon cornstarch mixed into 2 tablespoons cold cider
3 cups cider
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (or other vinegar)
1/2 rounded teaspoon spicy brown mustard (or other mustard)
1 pinch each ground cloves and salt
2 pinches each nutmeg and
1/4 cup golden raisins
(or regular raisins)
Stir cornstarch/cider mixture until dissolved. Set aside. In saucepan, combine three cups of cider with the remaining ingredients. Boil gently for 10 or more minutes until liquid is reduced to 1-1/4 cups. Remove from heat until needed.
Before serving, stir in cornstarch/cider mixture and gently reheat sauce until slightly thickened. Sauce will taste tangy, but complements food well. Store in refrigerator up to five days. Reheat gently.
Spiced Cider Tea
Makes 20 ounces; serves two people
All the spices used to make apple pie taste wonderful brewed with tea and cider. Try other favorite spices, such as star anise or a pinch of mace.
2-1/2 cups apple cider
1/2 cup water
1 pinch ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tea bags
Boil water and cider with spices and pour into a teapot with three tea bags. Cover and steep seven to 10 minutes. Remove tea bags. If desired, strain spice residue before serving. Optional: Stir with cinnamon stick.