Quarry Hill Orchards

When you have tasted as many apples as I have it becomes harder and harder to find something new. The majority of apple orchards I come across have varieties I have already had. It takes a little more effort to find something new to me. When I was planning a family trip to the beautiful Cuyahoga Valley National Park (outside of Cleveland, Ohio, I spent some time searching for orchards that I might pass along the way. I looked at list upon list of apples until I came across a roster that I could sink my teeth into. I went from breathtaking waterfalls surrounded by a beautiful canvas of autumn leaves to bins of apples tht were just as breathtaking. I arrived at Quarry Hills Orchards in Berlin Heights, Ohio.

Quarry Hill Orchards Apple Bins 2

As I pulled into the parking lot I was greeted by the sights of many bins of apples with simple, yet attractive signage. This to me is a sign that these people care enough to put time into the little things. As I got out of the van, I quickly spotted apples that I had come to try – Hampshire and Suncrisp. I also saw the state apple of Ohio, Melrose, Pink Lady (which I don’t find much in the Midwest), and some Granny Smith with some beautiful red blush on them. Inside the market I found the ever popular Honeycrisp, but sitting right next to it was the Crimson Crisp apple, another on my to-try list. Honeycrisp fans looking for something a little more tart will love the Crimson. In addition to apples they had pears, including Asian pears, squash, cauliflower, etc – your typical fall veggies. The market also contained jams and jellies, popcorn, again the typical market fare. However, they also had a couple of unique things like Boiled Cider, which is cider that has been boiled down to the consistency of syrup, so can be used on pancakes.

Hampshire Apples

Suncrisp Apples

Speaking of cider, they had their top secret blend of apples made into cider. As a true cider fan, I was skeptical when I heard that it was UV pasteurized. I have heard about this process, but may have only had cider that has been treated this way once or twice and it was rather forgetable. Not this time. This cider was the best I have had all season. Great flavor, texture, the acid/sweet balance was in perfect portion. My family loved it just as much as I did.

Quarry Hill Orchards Apple Bins 1

What really made this place as does any great orchard, is the people that run it. Everyone I met was warm and friendly, wanting to chat, and made sure I got to sample their wares. I had a blast just talking aples with Ben Gammie, who returned to the family business just last year after spending some time out west. You could tell that Ben and the staff were enjoying what they are doing – that their passion is there and they are not just going through the motions. I have been to orchards where you can tell their passion is gone and it’s really a sad sight. Quarry Hills orchards is an orchard on the move and I am looking forward to keeping touch and seeing what they have for the future – particularity the EverCrisp apples that they just planted in 2014.

Pitmaston Pine Apple

in Fruit & Vegetables

Pitmaston Pine Apple

At first glance it may seem that I don’t know how to spell pineapple. I am not here today to talk about pineapples, but a variety of apple – the Pitmaston Pine Apple. I love these heirloom varieties with these crazy fun names. I like my apples to have these kinds of names over all the four letter apples now appearing in stores – Gala, Fuji, Kiku, Jazz, Opal, etc. A name means so much more when it has more than marketing behind it.

Pitmaston Pine Apple is a very old variety. It dates back to the 1780s (Trees of Antiquity). The name Pitmaston comes from a nursey called Williams of Pitmaston.

Pitmaston Pine Apple

My Experience with this Apple (Rating Scale 1-10)

Aspect Score
Crispiness 8
Tartness 6
Apple Flavor 7
Sweetness 6
Juiciness 6
Where I Bought Them Tree-Mendus (Eau Claire MI)

Overall Feeling:
First off for the record I do not dedicate any pineapple flavor at all in this apple. I think maybe the name is more for the color. They do have a green-yellow hue like a pineapple does. Despite not living up to the pineapple name the flavor is rather good. This apple is sweet/tart. I am a big fan of the skin on russeted apples, so I enjoy the skin on this one. It’s juicy, but not as much as many of the modern varieties you find in the stores. I would buy these again, no doubt.

These apples are hard to find. They process two characteristics that commercial orchards do not want, small in size, and the russeting of the skin. This is shame, as this apple tastes better than most you will find at the store. Until we as consumers can show that we care more about flavor than size and appearance, these kinds of apples will only be kept alive by passionate apple growers and apple connoisseurs.

Here is a short video that I found on YouTube talking about the apple:

Where to Find Pitmaston Pine Apples
I got mine from Tree Mendus Farm in Eau Claire, Michigan. If you want to plant your own tree you can buy them from Trees of Antiquity.
Other sources include:
Salt Spring Apple Company (Salt Spring Island, BC)
Ela Family Farms (Hotchkiss, CO)
Montgomery Place Orchards (Red Hook, NY)

Can You Buy Bison Meat at Costco?

in Bison Meat Buying Guide

Ground Bison Costco

Welcome to a continuing series on examining whether or not it is worth your money to buy a Costco membership. I am examining whether it would really save my family money to shop there. If I find that it does, then I will get a membership. I have been focusing on the price of meat. I talked about beef prices and chicken prices in previous posts. Now I want to look at one of my favorite types of meat – bison. To answer the big question first, does Costco carry bison meat? Secondly, why would I want to buy it?

Can You Buy Bison at Costco?
Yes they do! However the only thing I found on my last trip to Costco was ground bison. That’s ok – a bison burger is a tasty dinner (so are bison hot dogs!). Bison meat is leaner than cow meat and has more protein, so it’s a win-win. Some say it’s even a bit sweeter. I don’t find that it is has a gamey flavor that puts people off to meats outside of the chicken, pork, and beef that Americans eat a lot of. I think most people if given bison and told it was beef, probably wouldn’t bat an eyelash – thinking they just got some really good beef!

How Much Does Ground Bison Cost at Costco?
I found it going for $7.19 per pound. Not too bad. The price may sound high when compared to ground beef which usually ranges from $2.99 to $5.99 per pound depending on the type of meat. Bison is more expensive. There are three reasons why that is (according to Great Range Brand Bison)

“1) There is less of it, i.e. supply and demand.
2) The breeding stock is more expensive.
3) The meat is more expensive to produce.”

In my experience I have found that the price of ground bison in my most places to be around $9.99/lb. A lot of the time I find it in the frozen section. Unless you can find a cheaper local source, then in the big grocery stores, Costco is most likely going to be your best value. Mark one down for Costco!

Where Does the Ground Bison Come From?
At my store in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the ground bison featured was from Kiva Sun - a Native American owned company. It comes in a 20 ounces package for $8.99 which works out to $7.19 per pound. According to their website the following is true about their animals:

Antibotic free
Never treated with hormones
Grass fed
Finished on non-GMO diet
Respected at all times

They are committed to respecting the bison and see the meat as a gift from it. I believe that when you treat an animal that is being raised for food the proper way, it’s not only going to benefit the animal’s life and it’s environment but also it makes for a better product for the consumer. I feel more comfortable eating bison meat. They are smaller companies producing the meat that show more care than the large beef companies that have huge operations where it is all about producing the cheapest product as fast as they can. Not to say that isn’t people out there raising bison in an less than respected fashion, but I think your odds of getting good meat are better when you buy bison. I am able to look up a company like Kiva Sun, see what they are all about. Most of the time when you buy ground beef it’s harder to trace the source of the meat.

How to Use Gouda in Macaroni & Cheese

in Cheese Pasta

Gouda Red Wax

Cheddar and pasta. They are like best friends. Has there ever been a combination of two ingredients that I have eaten together more in my life? While cheddar is always the easy go to for mac & cheese are there other options out there, just as worthy of your time – say Gouda maybe? (Learn more about Gouda and how it’s made). This dutch cheese is a beautiful melter that will be an excellent addition to your mac & cheese. It has a certain creaminess that you just don’t find in cheddar cheese. Let me show you how to use it.

Red Wax Gouda

Choosing the Right Gouda
First, you want to choose something that is going to have some flavor. A really young Gouda is great paired up with some crackers but often too mild for mac & cheese. Look for a red wax Gouda that has been aged. It should have a light tan color. I wouldn’t pick something too old either, you want a cheese that is going to melt nicely. If it shreds nicely it should work out just fine. Most of the time you will easily spot the red wax Gouda and that takes all the worries away. If you really want to up the flavor ante, go for a smoked Gouda. Most stores carry them. The smokiness won’t be as pronounced in the final dish as the cheese itself, so it should provide a nice flavor note without overwhelming your taste buds. I would still do light on the smoked first just to be sure you like it.

As it related to price, Gouda and cheddar are pretty comparable. You should be able to find Gouda for around $3.99 to $5.99 per pound. Of course there are more expensive Goudas but anything in the given price range should be just fine to produce a quality mac & cheese.

Gouda versus Cheddar

100% Gouda versus 50/50 Gouda/Cheddar Mix
I decided to run a little experiment. I made two batches of mac & cheese. One using 100% red wax gouda and the other using a 50/50 mix of gouda and sharp cheddar cheese. Both of the cheeses I shredded myself. You really don’t find shredded Gouda in a bag and even if you did, I would avoid the already shredded cheese. You will find mold inhibitors and corn starch (most likely GMO) often added to shredded cheese – there is no reason to run the risk of those ingredients being harmful just to save you some time. A simple box grater or even your food processor gets the job done. That way you are not stuck with just using what’s offering in the bags.

For both recipes I made a simple roux with 1/2 stick of butter melted, then added 3 tablespoons flour and 1/4 teaspoon mustard powder. Then added 2 cups of milk, and when it boiled, added 8 ounces of cheeses (1 batch of 8 ounce of Gouda and one batch of 4 oz sharp cheddar mixed with 4 oz of Gouda). The 100% Gouda mac & cheese took longer to melt, I had to stir it more to evenly melt the cheese. It produced a rich, creamy mac & cheese that I just wanted to gobble up on the spot! The 50/50 mix was good but not as flavorful as the 100% Gouda. My kids still prefer the 50/50 mix over just straight cheddar.

Gouda and Mix Mac Cheese

Reheating Problems
Later on I tested how each mac & cheese did being re-heated in the microwave. The 100% Gouda clumped up really badly. It lost any creamy texture it had. Flavor was still there. The mix performed better, still with some clumps since it also has the Gouda in it. If you want a mac & cheese that is going to perform well reheated then Gouda is not the best choice. It’s best to use it when you are going to eat the meal right away.

Next time your making macaroni and cheese without the box really go outside the box and go Gouda! You will be glad that you did.

Gouda Macaroni & Cheese

  • 1 lb dried pasta (elbows, penne, cavatappi)
  • 8 ounces shredded Gouda cheese
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • ¼ ground mustard
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • salt and black pepper to taste

  1. Bring 1 gallon of water that has been salted to a boil. Then add pasta. Cook until al dente.
  2. Melt the butter in large saucepan. Add the flour, mustard, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. Cook until all the flour has mixed in and the mixture takes on a little brown color.
  3. Add milk. Bring to a boil. Stir constantly for 1 minute.
  4. Slowly add in the cheese. Mix until smooth.
  5. Pour over pasta. Serve immediately for best results. Or you can bake it in a 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes to get a nice brown crust on top.


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