While summer's near-vulgar profusion of delicious produce from the garden has mostly let up, there's still plenty of time to eat fresh, local apples. Whether used for bumming out sugar-addled trick-or-treaters or crafting a sweet, steaming pie, there's nothing so perfectly fall as apples.
Farmers' markets are awash in the tart treats, for one easy way to keep your apple-buying local. Or hit the road to visit area orchards, where the fruits are grown and harvested, and the cider pressed on site.
At Soergel Orchards in Wexford, purchase just-picked varieties such as Cortland, Empire, Gala, Golden Delicious, Jonagold, Jonathan, Macintosh and Red Delicious. For Rome, Fuji and Northern Spy varieties you'll have to wait until later in the season, but they're on the way.
Don't be afraid to try a type you've never crunched before: "We can mix and match all kinds," says Katie Morrison, one of the Soergel grandchildren. "If they're not sure, we can cut a sample. I live on an apple farm and I steer people away from Red Delicious." Nothing against the classic fruit, but there are just so many more apples out there worth trying.
Currently being harvested at Trax Farms in Finleyville are Red and Golden Delicious, Jonagold, Empire, Macintosh and Mutsu.
"It's a very mild, green apple. People like it in Waldorf salad," says produce department member Sue Hanson. The Mutsu apple is a Japanese cross-variety.
Trax will have apples until after the first of the new year, Hanson says. Red and Golden Delicious hang on late into the year, and the final harvest is the stamen, a winesap variety. Winesap apples are fancy and dessert-like, and best chomped raw.
Both Soergel and Trax also have fall fests on their calendars in the weeks ahead, with pumpkins, hayrides and all manner of fall hoo-raw.
Either apple-purveyor would be an excellent source for materials to wow the judges at the upcoming third annual Pittsburgh Regional Pro-Am Apple Pie Baking Competition. That Nov. 8 bake-off is run by Slow Foods and rules specify that only local apples be used in the from-scratch pies.
Soergel Orchards. www.soergels.com or 724-935-1743
Trax Farms. www.traxfarms.com or 412-835-3246
Slow Food Pittsburgh Apple Festival. www.slowfoodpgh.com.