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In’Cider Information on Minnesota’s Apple Season


Photo by Dave Hansen

It’s mid-September now, and there’s a certain something in the air—maybe it’s because apple season is nigh. I grabbed a bag of SweeTangos at the farmers market last weekend, and they were so juicy and so crisp that I hip, hip, hoorayed. To accompany my three cheers for this year’s apple crop, I put together this Minnesota apple roundup for TC Taste this week.



Choose Your Apple

Apples are seasonal. Each variety has a peak season and specific attributes. While some apples are great for eating plain (Honeycrisp, Zestar!, SweeTango, Haralson), others are better suited for baking or making sauce (Northern Spy, Prairie Spy, Duchess). If you’re concerned about chemicals, some apples are more naturally disease resistant, which means that growers can use fewer chemicals on them in the orchard (Dayton, Pristine, Redfree, William’s Pride, Liberty).  If you want your harvest to last, some varieties can be stored for a long time (Prairie Spy, Keepsake, Honeygold, Sweet Sixteen, Honeycrisp).

Selecting your apple can be tricky with all that information to sort out, so I’ve got the major Minnesota-grown varieties listed here by season, in alphabetical order, along with their general attributes.

Early Season

  • Beacon (sweet, juicy, good eating apple)
  • Centennial Crabapple (small, juicy, great for kids)
  • Dayton (naturally disease resistant, tart, crisp)
  • Discovery (floral, sweet)
  • Duchess (good for pies)
  • Estivale (sometimes called LaCrescent, sweet, tart)
  • Gingergold (sweet, crunchy)
  • Jersey Mac (sweet, tart, good for applesauce)
  • Lodi (very early, tart, decent pie apple)
  • Paula Red (sweet, tart, bright white flesh)
  • Pristine (disease resistant, crisp, delicate)
  • Redfree (disease resistant, sweet, crisp)
  • Sansa (Gala/Akane cross, crunchy, juicy)
  • Summer Red (similar to Haralson, crisp, tart, juicy)
  • State Fair (tart, crunchy)
  • SweeTango (a personal favorite, crisp, tangy, slightly sweet)
  • Tyedeman’s Red (juicy, sweet, tart, good for apple sauce)
  • Viking (mild, soft, thin-skinned)
  • Wellington (tart, early pie apple)
  • William’s Pride (disease resistant, slightly spicy, bold)
  • Zestar! (a personal favorite, large, crunchy, sweet-tart)


  • Chestnut Crabapple (nutty, smaller, good for sauce)
  • Cortland (bright white flesh, doesn’t brown as quickly, great for fruit salad)
  • Gala (sweet, crisp, yellowish flesh)
  • Honeycrisp (a personal favorite, well balanced, sweet, tangy, crisp, very popular)
  • McIntosh (very tart, juicy, very popular)
  • Red Baron (mild, sweet, juicy)
  • Sweet Sixteen (a personal favorite, sticky sweet, crisp, juicy, yellow flesh)
  • Wealthy (tart, medium sized)

Late Season

  • Braeburn (sweet, tart, classic)
  • Fireside (sweet, large, good for baking)
  • Frostbite (very sweet, smaller, juicy)
  • Honeygold (yellow skin, good for cooking, sweet)
  • Haralson (firm, good pie apple, sweet)
  • Keepsake (firm, crisp, yellowish flesh, can store for six months)
  • Liberty (disease resistant, tart, crisp)
  • Northern Spy (tart, juicy, great for pies and sauce)
  • Pinata (orange in color, slightly spicy)
  • Prairie Spy (large, dense, good for baking, long storage time)
  • Red Delicious (very popular, firm, dark red, sweet)
  • Regent (well balanced, good for eating and cooking)
  • SnowSweet (a personal favorite, sweet, slightly tart, white flesh is slow to brown)

Fine Your Apple

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has a list of 109 apple orchards on their website. You can search by zip code to find an orchard close to you.

If you’re looking for a referral, some of the most popular you-pick orchards include:

All kinds of farmers' markets have an apple vendor or two—my go-to apple stand is Doug Bolstorff’s Cedar Grove Orchard stand at the downtown St Paul Farmers Market. They have good apples, decent prices, and friendly service. I also like the Sweetland Orchard stand where they sell amazing apple cider donuts. For 2013, Sweetland will be at the Bloomington, Fulton, and Kingfield farmers' markets.

Don’t have time to hit the farmers' market, a farm stand, or the orchard? No problem. Co-ops have you covered with collections of local apples from local organic orchards.

Make Apple Crisp

I eat at least one apple a day this time of year—I just can’t help myself. Meanwhile, my husband goes bonkers for apple crisp. He has a pretty simple and utterly lip-smacking recipe for crisp that he inherited from his mom.

Lip-Smacking Delicious Apple Crisp

For the filling:
4 cups of largely diced medium baking apples
1 tsp. ground cinnamon

For the topping:
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
2/3 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. butter, melted (one stick)
3/4 tsp. nutmeg
3/4 tsp. cinnamon

Heat oven to 350 degrees F (177 C). Butter a 9-inch (23 cm) square (or 2-quart) baking dish.

Make the filling:
Core apples then cut into 3/4-inch (7 cm) pieces. Add apples to a large bowl and toss with cinnamon.

Make the topping:
To make the crisp topping, combine flour, oats, and sugar in a medium bowl. Add the melted butter and combine. Sprinkle and press down the topping over the apple filling.

Bake for 35-45 minutes or until the apples are tender and the topping has turned light golden brown.

Hit Up an Apple Party

Just can’t get enough of this apple stuff? It’s time to party. The 65th Annual Applefest is taking place in La Crescent Minnesota this weekend, Sept. 19-21.  There’s a run/walk, music, a poker tournament, golf outing, beanbag tournament, and a kiddie parade. 

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Minnesota Monthly's Taste Blog answers your restaurant and dining questions, dishes on latest discoveries, reflects on breaking news, and generally brings the plate to the page with a skilled crew of experts: Learn more about the Taste bloggers.

Have a food-related question? Email rhutton@mnmo.com

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