The short and to the point version — Add together a record snowfall, an early Spring warm-up, followed by a late season heavy frost, rain, then more rain, then the warmest July on record, and what do you get? Answer, (good news first) — generally sweeter apples and at least some availability of about 30 apple varieties, including the new “Pixie Crunch” and some apples whose origins trace back to Kazakstan. Answer continued (now the bad news) — DLC will have smaller quantities of apples, difficult-to-predict ripening schedules (when will the heat end!?), and very few chances for pick-your-own. Pick-your-own will be limited to two weekends this year. The first weekend will be September 24th and 25th, and the second pick-your own weekend will be October 22nd and 23rd. Note that these dates could be moved up a bit based on weather — the abnormally hot weather.
The other good news is that we will have fresh cider available every weekend, beginning the Saturday of Labor Day weekend. We will also have our first apples of the Season available for sale on Labor Day weekend. These include:
- Red Gravenstein (a personal favorite for pies, also prized for applesauce)
- Zestar! (sweet and crunchy, like a good Honeycrisp)
- Pixie Crunch (the perfect “lunch box” apple, loved by kids and adults)
- Maiden Blush (a beautiful heritage apple, yellow with a pink blush on one side)
- Pittsmaston Pineapple (crunchy and acidic)
- Dandee Red (softer than most, but packed with flavor)
- Chieftain (crunchy, with a spicy sweetness)
- Summer Rambo (very tart and crunchy)
The Long-winded version — 2016 presented major challenges for apple growing here at Distillery Lane Ciderworks. While our dormant season (winter) pruning got off to a good start after the holidays, “Snowzilla” soon followed and dumped 33+ inches of snow on us. Try to picture moving a ladder and hydraulic pruner from tree-to-tree in 30” of snow. I couldn’t picture it either, so instead, we opted to stay inside and methodically finished off all of the Christmas cookies, saving for the very end the delicious, gluten free, low-sugar, zucchini snacks. Then, we moved on to the stale tins of popcorn, the frozen leftover Thanksgiving dinner treats, and even Aunt Gigi’s fruitcake. By the time the snow melted in mid-February, I’d gained 12 pounds but the pantry was finally cleaned out.
We continued with our pruning in February and March, interrupted for only a few weeks by gale force winds roaring down South Mountain and freezing everyone and everything (except for our Bernese Mountain dog Kingston). The freezing winds were followed by an unusual warm-up, which soon brought out the apple blossoms. Too soon! Because on April 10 and 11, the temperature here hit 24 degrees, a level way too cold for the trees that were in full or partial bloom. The blossoms wilted, along with my hopes for a banner year that would surpass our record harvest of 2015. Alas, I hoped for a good fruit set despite substantial blossom loss, but it was not to be. The good news is we did get fruit set for every variety, and most of the late-season hard cider varieties escaped with little damage, but our early blooming and early ripening varieties suffered some significant losses. So, if you’ve come to love a particular variety at DLC, you may want to visit soon after they become available, because they won’t last long. We’ll do our best to update the DLC Facebook page each week with what’s available for the coming weekend. And, you can count on us for fresh cider every weekend until Christmas!
Pick-your-own will be limited to two weekends this year. The first weekend will be September 24th and 25th, and the second pick-your own weekend will be October 22nd and 23rd. Note that these dates could be moved up a bit based on weather — the record-setting hot weather we’ve experienced in July and now in August is accelerating the ripening of some fruit. Who knows when these hot temps will end!
So here are the additional fresh fruit varieties you will see here throughout the Fall, in rough order of ripening: (Again, check the Facebook page for availability each weekend!)
- Rhode Island Greening
- Grimes Golden
- Ashmead’s Kernel
- Golden Russet
- Roxbury Russet
- Calville Blanc
- Arkansas Black