The Apple of Our Eye
If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, what will an apple smoothie protect you from? Or a whole, fresh baked apple pie? Or a cider or two?
Although harvest season lands in September, many of our apple-growers and cider-makers are open year round. We’ve peeled, sliced, diced, chopped, chomped, baked, cooked, juiced and brewed our way through the versatile fruit to get to the, ahem, core of everything apples in The County.
We hope you like them apples!
Article by George Amaro & Karen Orme
While grapes are the current apple of The County’s eye, orchards have been here since the early settlers. The apples provided the settlers with fresh fruit in the fall, and they used them in many different ways including in cider. During the 20th Century – particularly during the County’s canning heyday – apples were also processed into pie filling, cider vinegar, and plain juice.
Today, you can find apples in every way, shape and form in The County. You can pick your own or can buy them at farm stands or grocery stores. Or taste their deliciousness in yummy desserts or try them in soups and salads at restaurants. You can sip them in smoothies, slushies, and of course, fresh, local cider.
The region is home to eight cideries. An official cider trail, PEC Cider Route, is launching soon. Follow it on Instagram @pecciderroute, hashtag #pecciderroute.
Apple Falls Cider Company creates ciders from apples grown and hand-picked at Campbell’s Orchards, including Honeycrisps, Northern Spys, and Golden Russets to name a few.
Premier is their signature beverage: a “very simple, traditional, clean and easy drinking cider … with green apple tartness and notes of lemon.”
The cidery is open for tastings and purchases on weekends. Call or text to confirm hours, and/or book tastings: 613-449-4987.
Clafeld’s cider maker, Amy Baldwin, creates naturally infused ciders with dried flowers and herbs. Their flagship product is a “straight-up” cider called Smashed Apple. A few other favourites are Elderflower (made with dried elderflowers), Hey Lady, a rose cider run over Baco Noir grape skins, and Oh Beehave, which features local honey.
The award-winning cidery uses apples only from their orchards – or their neighbours’ – with some of the trees dating to 1975. They grow 14 different varieties, which are harvested by hand and pressed and processed on site.
Clafeld is currently offering tastings on their patio overlooking Lake Ontario and Waupoos Estates Winery.
The new kid on the cider block opened its doors in early July 2020 with its 2019 Cuvée Madeleine Cider, and promptly sold out by August!
But fret not, because you can drop by and sample, or purchase their latest release, Éirinn go Brách Cider. The 2019 vintage is described as a “traditional, semi-dry sparkling cider.” It is created with pressed Northern Spy apples, fermented in French Oak Barrels until dry, and then bottle conditioned with no fining or filtration.
Check their website and social media feeds for updated hours.
The late Grant Howes, known as the “grandfather of cider in Ontario,” founded the County Cider Company over 25 years ago. Today, it’s one of The County’s most popular tourist stops. They offer distinctively delicious ciders, as well as wood-fired pizza and a stunning location. The cider house sits high above a vineyard, overlooking Lake Ontario.
The company’s signature creation is its Waupoos Premium Cider, made from cider-specific apples cultivated in their orchards. These varieties include Binet Rouge, Brown Snout, Kingston Black, Yarlinton Mill, Michelin, Dabinett and others.
County Cider is currently offering outdoor tastings. Their retail store will remain open seven days a week through October and then weekends in November. Look for these new releases coming soon: Elderflower Sour and Harvest Spic, plus the first of their Legacy Series of ciders in 750ml bottles.
As the weather cools and other businesses head indoors, Crimson Cider Company is heading in the opposite direction. They’re embracing the outdoors and expanding their patio to offer guests the pleasure of sipping hot, mulled cider around a fire pit. Watch for it in late September/October.
The relatively new cidery is located in the original stone house that dates back to the 1850s, which fits in perfectly with their keeping-it-real-County philosophy. All of their small batch, craft ciders feature pure, local ingredients as much as possible.
While the eponymously named Crimson Cider is their flagship beverage, they offer seasonal favourites such as Mint to Be, a cucumber and mint-infused variation. Others include Bee Mine, featuring local honey, and Oh So Sappy, made with Roblin’s maple syrup. Follow them on social media for updates and new releases: @crimsoncidercompany.
Using apples and pears harvested in their farm orchard, Fieldbird Cider offers both still and sparkling ciders, all of which rest in oak at some point in the fermentation process. Among its repertoire: Buzzing Chatter, a blend of Ambrosia and Northern Spy apples, is a Riesling-like sipper, and Sing-Song Cider, made in the traditional method of sparkling wines. The cider master and owner Ryan Monkman pens the poetically written tasting notes on the bottle labels.
The cidery is offering physically-distanced outdoor tastings for groups of up to 6. Book your tasting at FieldBird.ca or on their Facebook & Instagram pages.
If you already know what you want, drive up to their pick-up window any time between 11 and 5, Thursday to Saturday.
If you’re looking for a unique tasting experience, then head to Loch Mór Cider Company on Friday evenings or Sunday mornings. That’s when pommelier, Sara Boyd, will take you on an hour-long stroll through the apple orchard – glass in hand, of course!
One of only three pommeliers in Canada, Sara will chat about cider making, the various apple varieties, their history, and how they’re grown. You may even get to sample a few. At this time, tours, which can be booked online, are limited to single social bubbles.
Another unique – and decadent – tasting alternative at Loch Mór are chocolate and cider pairing flights. Various ciders are served with handcrafted, artisan, dark chocolates from the award-winning Angela Roest at Centre & Main in Warkworth. Available Thursday – Sunday. Reserve in advance.
While Stock & Row has been around for over a year, they just planted their first orchard this spring in PEC. Slow & Low is the craft cidery’s flagship cider – crisp, fresh and dry. Cold Tea features Ontario apples subtly infused with black raspberry tea.
Until they build a physical presence in The County, you can sample their wares by ordering online at stockandrow.com. They hope to open in Spring, 2021.
Cider Sips at Wineries
Hit the cider trail one day, then follow PEC’s wine route the next, where you’ll discover several wineries offering signature cider vintages among their wine offerings. Both beverages begin as fruit juice and share a similar fermenting process. Because apples contain less natural sugar than grapes, cider typically has a lower alcohol content than wine.
The Old Third has a huge fan following for its traditional method sparkling cider produced from local, Golden Russet apples. Hinterland Wine Company, known for its sparkling wines, does a lovely Cherry Cider. Farmhouse Cider from The Grange of Prince Edward Vineyard & Estate Winery, is a Normandy-style cider, still and dry, is made with a blend of nine varieties of apples.
Pick Your Own Apples + Shop
Here are a few more ways to enjoy apples. In addition to many farm stands that sell the fruit from other local growers, there are a few must-visit apple-centric markets.
A visit to Campbell’s Orchards is a must at any time of the year, but especially so as the temperatures drop, and apples – all 23 different varieties of them – ripen for a pick-your-own outing. This season, picking is in small guided groups. On weekends, book a seat on the Campbell Express wagon-ride through the orchards. Bag-your-own-apples is also available at the fruit and vegetable market, along with caramel or candy apples, baked apple fritters and pies, apple butter, cider, and more.
From September to the end of October, the bounty of Creasy’s Apple Dabble Farm’s 45-acre orchard fills its picturesque market setting in Waupoos. Over two dozen varieties of apples fill bins, including Honeycrisp, McIntosh, IDA Reds, Gala, and three different kinds of crab apple. Holly Creasy-Tyne, who works at the market, says the secret to storing apples is to keep them in the fridge to slow down the ripening process. Creasy-Tyne’s grandfather began by selling apples on his front lawn. Her father then expanded the business. Empire is among her favourites. “It’s like biting into a memory,” she says, taking her back to a day as a little girl in the orchard with her dad who picked an Empire fresh from the tree for her. “When I bit into it, it was so crisp and juicy, and tasted so good.”
Maw’s Lakeview Orchard has two locations for grabbing pints, or bushels, of apples. Enjoy the scenic drive to its family-owned orchard farm in Cressy, or pop by its Waupoos market stand for a sampling of apples and homemade jams. The farm produces over 500,000 pounds of apples each season.
Learn About Apples
Sign up for a fall farm-to-table workshop at Littlejohn Farm, and you’ll likely find yourself hands-on with apples, whether it be helping to harvest the onsite orchard that produces eight different varieties, or baking them into a pie or a galette. The agri-tourism and sustainability learning centre offers several workshop topics and learning sessions for groups and corporate team building.
Apple On The Menu
Renowned for their use of farm-to-table seasonal ingredients, autumn’s the time when County chefs give apples extra culinary love on their restaurant menus.
Apple Cheddar soup is a fall-into-winter favourite in The Barley Room Pub and Amelia’s Garden at The Waring House. Chef Travis Mindle also incorporates apples in salads and slaws, and uses apple cider in his dressings. Pastry Chef Scott Jones is also a huge apple fan, baking the fruit into crisps, pies and other dessert items.
PEC’s favourite culinary daughter, Enid Grace, has fond memories of growing up close to Campbell’s Orchards where she’d bike over for apple picking and fresh cider. Apples are still among her favourite fruit ingredients. Torta di mele, a traditional Italian apple cake, and a Tyrolean apple strudel, a northern Italy specialty, are set to make appearances on the menu at Enid Grace Culinary & Piccolina Italian Bar. She’s also preparing an apple and hazelnut torta as her dessert course for the upcoming Canoe in The County, a special reception and dinner that kicks off this year’s reimagined Countylicious.
Savoury and Sweet Apples
The only thing better than apple pie as a comfort-food dessert, is one baked by Moonlight Kitchen. Chef Suzanne Lafrance and her husband André Giroux, both former restauranteurs, sell their home-baked goodies, from tourtières to fruit pies, at the Wellington Farmer’s Market. Or call in an order for pick-up or local delivery. Lafrance uses a mix of five to seven locally sourced apples in each galette-style apple pie for optimal texture, taste, and cooking. For example, Honeycrisp, Zestar!, and Ginger Gold retain their crispness, while McIntosh and Paula Red “melt” more, releasing their juices. Special orders welcome.
’Tis the season for apples at My Pies, a sweet little shop in Wellington baking up a storm of savoury and sweet pies. Piemaker Jessica and husband Chris Loane launched the bakery this summer, quickly gaining a loyal following for their use of local, seasonal ingredients packed into mini individual serving and regular size pies. Call ahead to pre-order large quantities of pies.
Apple Pie is one of Slickers County Ice Cream’s top-selling favourites. And justifiably so. Known for its fresh, local ingredients and unique flavours, Slickers’ artisans make and bake fresh, delicious crust pies filled with apples, browned butter and cinnamon, topped with sweet butter and brown-sugar crumble, then smash them into its signature vanilla ice cream. And here’s a scoop … new this fall, Caramel Apple featuring a homemade caramel swirl, and Candied Caramel Apple with candied maple syrup and brown sugar pieces in every lick. Yum!
Canadian Vinegar Cellars pairs two of The County’s claim-to-fame ingredients – wine and local fruit. Its Apple Pie Vinegar is a perennial best seller, blending County-grown Marechal Foch grapes and apples aged six years in wooden casks. Preservative-free, the vinegar is drinkable as an aperitif on ice, made into a tea, used as a sauce or dip, or drizzled on desserts.
Drink This Apple
Given the health benefits of apples, it’s no surprise they’re often a staple superfood ingredient in wellness drinks. Wellington is home to two health-conscious eateries incorporating lots of apple-based nutrition on their menu. The Good Place does a delicious Apple Pie Smoothie that brings together apples, bananas, yogurt, cinnamon and granola. Apples are also part of the café and specialty grocer’s fresh-pressed green juice. Drink your breakfast (lunch or dinner) at organic and hyper local-focused Hello Bonjour café. Dine-in on, or grab-and-go, an Apple Oatmeal Breakfast Smoothie which adds organic apples and gluten-free oats to its vanilla protein shake. Finished with a dusting of organic cinnamon, it’s a fabulous full meal replacement.
Some fun facts about Ontario’s favourite fruit.
- Apples are believed to have originated in Kazakhstan. They made their way to Canada in the early 17th Century. The first trees were planted in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley around 1633.
- If you ate one of the 7,500 varieties grown around the world every day, it would take you more than 20 years to try them all!
- According to the Ontario Apple Growers, there are 15 main varieties of apples grown across nearly 16,000 acres in the province. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada lists 40 varieties grown across the country.
- The top five varieties in Ontario (based on acreage planted) are McIntosh, Gala, Honeycrisp, Red Delicious, and Empire.
- The McIntosh is the national apple of Canada. It was discovered in Dundas County near Brockville by its namesake, Ontario farmer John McIntosh in 1811.
- In 2017, apples accounted for 41.5 per cent of the total marketed production of Canadian fruit when ranked by weight (over 345,000 tonnes in total).
- Every Canadian eats, on average, 86 apples per year.
- It takes four apples to make a glass of pure apple juice. It takes about 36 apples to make one gallon of apple cider.
- So, do apples really keep the doctor away? Maybe. The average apple has 5% of your recommended daily vitamin C, and 170mg of potassium, which keeps your heart healthy.
- Apples emit ethylene gas that accelerates ripening of other fruit in close proximity. To ripen avocados, tomatoes, etc., faster, just place them in a paper bag with an apple.
- Can’t get enough apples? Check out Carol Martin’s book, The Apple: A History of Canada’s Perfect Fruit.