By Kalea Hall
Betty Crozier turns 100 on Nov. 9. But the petite woman with vision loss from macular degeneration still reaches up to pick the best apple she can off the tree.
“Well, it’s fun,” Crozier said.
Crozier has picked apples at Huffman Fruit Farm in Salem for more than a decade.
“My grandson told me where the apples were and I grabbed them,” she said. “They were so nice. It was easy to pick. We found some really full trees.”
Crozier’s picks were Golden Delicious and Idared.
“I like them a little bit tart,” she said.
October is apple month.
Apple orchards, such as Huffman’s, have barns, bins and baskets filled with the fruit. Their trees are ready to be picked by apple pickers such as Crozier.
“The crop was very large last year, so a lot of the trees seem to be light this year,” said John Huffman of Huffman Fruit Farm.
Though the crop is light, the quality of the Mahoning Valley’s apples is still noticeable in the taste.
There’s “good sugar content” because of all the sun and heat the area had this summer, Huffman said.
The light crop hasn’t stopped Haus Orchard and Cider Mill in Canfield from pumping out gallons and half-gallons of freshly squeezed cider.
Haus uses its own apples from the 14 acres of orchards it has, and it takes in apples from other orchards.
“We try to use the best apples we can,” said Cheryl Haus, who co-owns the farm with her husband, Matt.
Workers at Haus press 800 or more pounds of apples every day to make the cider.
Once the apples come in from the orchard, they go through a washer and then a grinder.
The finely chopped apples are pumped out onto a nylon cloth laid across a plastic sheet. Once the cloth is filled, another plastic sheet and nylon cloth are placed for another layer of ground apples.
“They will layer that until they get about 10,” Haus said.
The layers of apples are pushed with 50,000 pounds of pressure to squeeze all the cider out.
After the mix is just right, it heads to get pasteurized and then goes to the cooling tank.
From there, the cider is bottled and goes to the Haus market and several markets in the area. It’s also a main ingredient in Haus doughnuts.
“You have a lot of cider, you have to use it,” Haus said.
Apples may not be the state’s largest crop, but it is an important one.
Last year, the state produced 50.5 million pounds of apples compared with 44 million pounds produced in 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
More apples are consumed than grown in Ohio, so those grown here stay here, said Bill Dodd, president of the Ohio Fruit Growers Marketing Association.
“They don’t get any better than this time of year,” Dodd said.
Apple season doesn’t end when the month ends. Apple pickers, eaters and cooks can still find apples in stores and at local markets.
For a list of the local orchards in the Valley, go to: www.ohioapples.com/.