All About Apples: It’s not too late to visit the orchard to pick the perfect fall fruit
The combination of a fair, mild late summer afternoon and the prospect of picking fresh apples off the tree brought the McCay family of Parkersburg across the river and up State Route 26.
Their destination was Hidden Hills Orchard, a few miles east of Marietta.
As their grandson, Landen Morgan, 4, explored the orchard and three quiet teens stood by, John and Sherry McCay listened as orchard keeper Tom Burch explained some of the basics of apple husbandry, gesturing around the neatly rowed trees heavy with fruit.
McCay said he had come in pursuit of Honey Crisp apples but was told he missed that variety by a day.
Burch said that out of more than a dozen varieties the orchard grows, six are offered for ‘you-pick’ customers, each for about two weekends — they ripen sequentially from late August to late October — and on Sept. 5, it was time for Golden Delicious. The Honey Crisp trees were picked clean, although some were bagged for purchase in the orchard’s market store.
McCay said the trip to Hidden Hills is an annual event for the family, that usually comes away with about four half-bushel bags of apples. His relatives in Parkersburg get most of them, he said.
“They’ve gotten to the point where they expect me to make this run,” he said. “I’ve had Honey Crisp apples everywhere, and these are the best by far.”
He told Burch he might try the Golden Delicious this year.
For Tom and Cathy Burch, this is the seventh season of running an orchard. The couple bought the property from Kate and Andy Grimm in 2010.
Although originally from central Ohio, the couple spent many years in Houston, Texas, while Tom worked in the petroleum industry. He was able to take early retirement, and both of them fulfilled a dream when they moved back to their home state.
“He told me when we were dating in high school that he would own an apple orchard one day,” Cathy said. Tom grew up in Granville next to an apple orchard and the ambition to own one never left him.
Both got what they wanted, she said.
“I love to talk to people. He wanted an orchard, I wanted an old house to fix up,” she said.
The owners’ residence on the orchard property dates back to 1895, when the property was a dairy farm, she said. The Grimms established the orchard in 1999, she said. It’s now planted with about 5,500 dwarf apple trees.
The you-pick part of the operation accounts for about 10 percent of the orchard’s business, Tom said. They also sell apple butter, applesauce and apple salsa, made off-premises from Hidden Hills fruit. Apples from the orchard are sold in local groceries.
Starting Sept. 22, apple cider goes up for sale. Tom said the best cider incorrporates a mixture of sweet and tart apples. The Hidden Hills cider won the contest held by the Ohio Apple Marketing Progarm twice in the past four years, he said.
A normal weekend sees about 50 transactions at the market barn that overlooks the orchard, he said, althogh traffic varies widely — the Labor Day weekend saw about 130 purchases, but Cathy noted that the weekend before that was a wash because heavy rain kept people away.
When they do come, it’s not just locals. Apple lovers frequently come from Charleston, an hour and a half to the south, and visitors from Texas and Florida have come to pick apples at the orchard, Cathy said.
Shannon McGowan and Nicholas Smith drove up from West Virginia after finding the orchard online. Standing at the checkout in the market barn with a bag of apples, McGowan said she values the health benefits of fresh fruit and eats an apple a day. She also spent some time talking to the Burches.
“I learned a lot about apples today,” she said.
U-Pick apple operations:
Hidden Hills Orchard
5680 State Route 26, Marietta
Open weekends through Nov. 4
APPLE DUMPLINGS (makes 8 dumplings)
¯ 4 large apples
¯1 can crescent dinner rolls
¯ § stick unsalted butteer
¯ § cup sugar
¯ ¢ tsp pure vanilla
¯ ¢ cup 7-Up
¯ Cinnamon to taste (I grind the sticks)
Peel and core the apples, cut into quarters, stuff crescent rolls by placing two quarters in each, then rolling. Tuck ends under the rolls and place in an 8-inch-by-8-inch baking pan, lightly coating the pan with oil if necessary.
Continue until all dumplings are in the pan.
Melt butter on low heat, add vanilla and stir. Add sugar and stir slightly – you want a mixture that is neither too sticky or too runny. Spoon mixture over each dumpling.
Pour the 7-Up around the dumplings, not over them. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes.
GERMAN APPLE CAKE
¯ 3 eggs
¯ 1 cup salad oil (can also substituete applesauce for this)
¯ 2 cups flour
¯ 2 cups sugar
¯1 tsp baking soda
¯¢ tsp salt
¯ 2 tsp cinnamon
¯ 1 tsp vanilla
¯ 4 cups finely chopped apples
¯ ¢ cup nuts (optional)
Mix eggs and oil, beat until frothy.
Add sugar, flur, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and vanilla.
Stir in apples and nuts
Frosting: Mix 3 tbsp melted butter, 2 small packages of cream cheese, 1 tsp vanilla and 1¢-2 cups powdered sugar, spread on finished cake.