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.
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.
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.
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.