It's apple season, but it barely got below freezing in Central Kentucky last winter, and a spring frost has left the fall apple crop smaller and less attractive.
Although the apples might not be pretty, they will be tasty, area experts say.
"This season has not been a good one for apple growers," University of Kentucky horticulturist John Strang said, "but growers will have apples and they will taste good."
Many area orchards have a variety of apples. You might want to visit one this weekend and buy a bushel or two. The Kentucky State Horticultural Society lists orchards at Bit.ly/OKChgn.
Here are some places that have apples. Some provided their favorite family recipes for you to enjoy.
Reed Valley Orchard
Dana and Trudie Reed grow more than 50 varieties at their Reed Valley Orchard in Paris. Some of their popular varieties are Gala, McIntosh, Honeycrisp, Winesap, Arkansas Black and Pink Lady.
The Reeds sell jams, jellies, apple butter, pumpkin butter, local honey, sorghum, dried apples and mums at the farm store. They are having the annual Country Festival & Back Forty Nature Walk on Oct. 6, where you may purchase apples and eat fried apple pies.
Reed Valley Orchard is at 239 Lail Lane in Bourbon County. Call (859) 987-6480 or go to Reedvalleyorchard.com.
"My mother fried apples almost every day of her life, and this was her recipe," Trudie Reed said.
2 tablespoons canola oil
8 to 12 medium apples (peeled and sliced into ¼-inch slices)
½ cup honey or sorghum (more or less to taste)
Pour cooking oil into medium non-stick skillet. Add apple slices. Cover and cook over low-medium heat until tender, about 15 minutes. Add honey or sorghum and let simmer until blended. Serve with hot buttered biscuits. If you don't have honey or sorghum you may use 1 cup of sugar.
Trudie Reed also provided this recipe for apple brownies.
1 stick butter or margarine
1 egg, beaten
1 cup sugar
3 medium apples, diced small
½ cup chopped nuts
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
In a large mixing bowl, cream butter. Add egg and sugar. Stir in chopped apples and nuts. Add dry ingredients. Mix. Pour into greased baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.
Ayres Family Orchard
Larry Ayres and his family grow more than 40 varieties of apples on their farm overlooking the Kentucky River near Owenton. They have an orchard store where you may buy cider, as well as other fruits and berries.
Ayres Family Orchard is 9 miles south of Owenton and 18 miles north of Frankfort on U.S. 127. Call (502) 514-1594 or go to Ayresapples.com.
One of the favorite Ayres family recipes is for apple butter made in the slow cooker.
"It is easier that way, and results are always good," Ayres said. "We like McIntosh and Cortland apples for that. They cook up nicely and have a spicy flavor of their own."
Crock-Pot apple butter
1 peck Ida Red, Cortland or McIntosh apples
3 cups sugar
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Pinch of salt
In a slow-cooker, cook apples to the consistency of sauce. Add sugars, vinegar, cinnamon and salt. Cover. Cook over high heat until boiling. Uncover and cook for 6 hours, stirring occasionally. Pour into clean, hot jars to within ½ -inch of top. Seal. Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Fresh apple cake
1 cup salad oil
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups self-rising flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts
4 cups chopped or grated apples.
In large mixing bowl, combine eggs and oil; beat until foamy. Add sugar; beat until light and thick. Combine flour and cinnamon and stir into sugar mixture. Add vanilla, nuts and apples; blend well by hand. Pour into greased 13- by 9-inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes.
"We don't have a great crop but we do have apples," Susie Boyd said. The orchard is at 1396 Pinckard Pike in Woodford County. Call (859) 873-3097 or go to Boydorchards.com. The farm has lots of festival activities through October.
After the season ends, Boyd uses leftover apples to make apple butternut squash soup. "I make tons of it in different containers to have all winter," she said.
Apple butternut squash soup
1 butternut squash
Peel and peel chop apples, onion and squash. Place into a pot and cover with about 1 inch water. Let the mixture cook down and add chicken bouillon. Cook until apples and vegetables are soft. Pour into a blender and purée. Add rosemary or other spices if desired.
"I like it plain because you really get the flavors," Boyd said.Evans Orchard and Cider Mill
Evans Orchard has festivals throughout the season that celebrate apples and pumpkins. The café serves fried apples, apple dumplings and apple cider doughnuts.
Evans also has a play yard for youngsters. The Harvest Festival runs through Oct. 31.
The orchard is at 180 Stone Road in Scott County. Call (502) 863-2255 or go to Evansorchard.com.
Sharon Thompson: (859) 231-3321. Twitter: @FlavorsofKY. Blog: Flavorsofkentucky.bloginky.com