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Apple harvest underway

Pumpkin pies are delicious, changing leaves are stunning, and the blue skies with crisp temperatures are great, but delicious homemade applesauce trumps them all in my opinion because it takes your taste buds back to the bounty of autumn harvest all year long. And, glancing in the freezer, I know that autumn is here because the supply of my wife’s homemade applesauce in the freezer is dangerously low. It must be time to pick apples.

In general, Ohio had a pretty good growing season for apples (though most of the state’s peach crop was wiped out by the cold). There were some pockets of apple frost injury with the cool, late spring, but the moderate temperatures and ample moisture around much of Ohio this growing season have led to a fairly large, and high quality crop for many orchards this year. Wet weather can often mean more fungicides, though cool temperatures helped keep diseases in check.

Cortlands are the apple of choice for making applesauce at the Reese house. The sauce is fantastic and a pleasant pink hue when that variety is used. That is not to say Cortlands are the only option out there. OCJ staff member Beth Carper simply goes to Legend Hills Orchard in nearby Utica and gets seconds of a mix of apples that differs a little every year and makes sauce from those. She cans the delicious sauce and takes great exception to anyone who argues that better applesauce can be bought in the store.

I would agree. Good homemade applesauce is hard to beat. Our daughter shares my sentiments and reportedly refused to eat applesauce at school last week because “it wasn’t as good as Mommy’s.”

The recipe for the delicious applesauce is simple: apples, and sometimes a little sugar. The apples are cored and sliced, run through a colander and boiled until soft. Once it cools, the sauce is frozen in small containers. My enviable role in all of this is to remove the sauce from the freezer and eat, sometimes with a dash of cinnamon sprinkled on top.

We are also big fans of autumn apple cider at our house. Favorites of ours include ciders from Hugus Fruit Farm, Hirsch Fruit Farm, and Laurelville Fruit Farm. In my experience, you really can’t go wrong with any of these central Ohio cider staples or most cider-producing Ohio orchards. The winners of the Ohio Apple Marketing Program (OAMP) 2013 Apple Cider Contest were: Hidden Hills Orchard, Marietta (Gold medal); Kuner’s Fruit Farm, Clinton (Silver medal) and Sage’s Apples, Chardon (Bronze medal). This year’s cider winners will be selected in January.

And, along with the cider and the sauce in the autumn, it is also hard to beat the tasty crunch of a good apple and a bit of juice running down your chin. Ohio is fortunate to have many orchards producing a wide array of delicious varieties of apples each year all over the state. Apples are not only great tasting but good for you too. Here are some apple nutrition facts from OAMP.

•  Apples are fat free, saturated fat free, sodium free and cholesterol free.

  • Apples serve as an excellent source of fiber, which helps combat some types of cancer, heart disease and high blood pressure.
  • Apples are a natural source of health-promoting phytonutrients, including plant-based antioxidants.
  • Apples and apple juice are two important foods contributing the mineral boron to the diet, which may promote bone health.
  • Apples contain natural fruit sugars, mostly in the form of fructose.
  • Because of apples’ high fiber content, the fruit’s natural sugars are slowly released into the blood stream, helping maintain steady blood sugar levels.
  • Much of the fiber, and many of the antioxidants, in an apple are in the peel.

And, just think of many of these wonderful health benefits in a dessert — the incomparable apple pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream! This time of year in Ohio is wonderful for many reasons, and certainly not least among them is the truly wonderful autumn apple.

You can find orchards in your area and much more about Ohio’s apples at ohioapples.com.

You can find orchards in your area and much more about Ohio’s apples at ohioapples.com.

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