A trip to the orchard

Learn which apple varieties make the tastiest dishes.
The Moelkers grow 21 different varieties of apples in their orchard. Photo by iStock

While apple picking is a fun fall activity, for many of us, knowing what to do with our bounty after a day in the orchard is a whole other thing. Apples come in so many different varieties, how do we know which are best for snacking, baking or making some delicious apple cider?

Tom and Bonnie Moelker, owners of Moelker Orchards & Farm Market, 9265 Kenowa Ave. SW, agreed to share their top apple suggestions with us to ensure however you choose to enjoy a basket of apples this fall, you’ll have a yummy outcome.

The Moelkers grow 21 different varieties of apples in their orchard and suggest
Honeycrisp, Fuji, Gala, Cameo and Jonagold for snacking, noting, “all are crunchy and juicy and keep well.”

If you are ready to don an apron and try your hand at an apple pie, applesauce or another apple-filled treat, Northern Spy, Idared, Jonagold, Cortland or McIntosh are all worth your consideration.

“Deciding what apple to use for baking/sauce also depends on how much you like your apple to cook down,” Bonnie Moelker said. “Smooth or chunky applesauce? Pies that have slices in them or cook down more?” She suggests combining two varieties as a great way “to enhance flavor,” too.

Finally, if you want to really invest some time, brewing your own apple cider can be a rewarding activity. You’ll want to stick with Gala, Jonagold, Golden Delicious or Jonathon for the best results. Moelker suggests combining three to four apple varieties for “complex and wonderful tasting cider,” noting, “(You) need tart and sweet flavors to make it delicious.”

Apples do have a long life if you store them properly, too, so make sure to keep them in cold storage and keep them away from carrots, which can make them soften faster (who knew?).

At Moelker Orchards you can enjoy an afternoon of apple picking throughout the fall. “We offer U-pick apples from mid-September to mid-October,” Moelker said. “We have seven varieties available for U-pick, which are ready at different times during our U-pick season (Gala, McIntosh, Empire, Jonagold, Idared, Fuji and Honeycrisp). See our U-pick schedule on our website.”

The orchard also offers a U-pick pumpkin patch in October, wagon rides (including a scavenger hunt) and storytime as part of its fall festivities.

If you don’t want to spend the time plucking your own apples, you can visit the on-site farm market for apples, pears, apple cider, jarred goods, locally made cheeses, maple syrup, candles and honey, and the Old Bell Bakery for fresh doughnuts, muffins, cookies, fudge, frozen fruit pies, fruit crisps and apple dumplings.

The Moelkers are expecting a good apple season this year, saying that “aside from frost damage to early varieties, the crop looks to be good.”

Moelker Orchards is open from August through Christmas.

A bountiful gift

Moelker Orchards & Farm Market makes custom gift baskets during the holidays that are great for business and personal gift-giving needs. And you can have apples shipped to friends and family. “We have an online store where people can order many items offered in our store,” Bonnie Moelker said.

The orchard also makes doughnuts for special events, including weddings.

This story can be found in the September/October 2021 issue of Grand Rapids Magazine. To get more stories like this delivered to your mailbox, subscribe here

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