Expert Interview Series: Kristin Ellis Extolls the Virtues of Ontario's Apple Pie Trail

Kristin Ellis is a marketing professional who promotes the Apple Pie Trail. She recently had a chance to educate us about the attractions, sights, adventures, and (of course) foods that can be found all along the trail. What and...

Apple pie

Kristin Ellis is a marketing professional who promotes the Apple Pie Trail. She recently had a chance to educate us about the attractions, sights, adventures, and (of course) foods that can be found all along the trail.

What and where is the Apple Pie Trail?

It's a Culinary Adventure Trail situated 90 minutes north of Toronto along the shores of Georgian Bay. We have 40 trail stops (or "family") to visit, and apple pie is just the beginning!

What kinds of shops, eateries, and attractions can be found along the Apple Pie Trail?

We have bakeries (of course), cafes, restaurants, pie shops, a cooking facility, a 100 Mile Store, farmer's markets, artisan shops with jewelry and art, museums, vineyards, cideries, and even a brewery that makes apple dog biscuits with their spent grain.

Are there any "adventures" or other types of activities that might appeal to the active vacationer?

We have six spring/summer/fall adventures and two winter adventures. Included are hiking, paddling, cycling, wine tasting, a boat cruise, waterfalls, snowshoeing, and a Heli Wine Tour.

What might visitors find at the seasonal farmers' markets that are held along the Apple Pie Trail?

Typically, you'll find local fruits & veggies, local honey, bread, and grains - and we all love the falafel stand at the Collingwood Market. One farmer's market at the southern end of the trail includes an antique car show and live music.

So what's so special about the apples found along the Apple Pie Trail, anyway?

Our location is perfect for growing apples. Production is concentrated along the southern shore of Georgian Bay where protection by the large, deep body of water reduces the chances of late spring and early autumn frosts. Beside the shore, the towering Niagara Escarpment that forms the Blue Mountains (and is the slope that makes this Canada's busiest ski area) confines warm lake air to small areas, creating micro-climates ideally suited to apple growing. The soil conditions are ideal for viniculture in Niagara at the southern end of the Escarpment - and are equally supportive of apple growing in the Georgian Bay region.

Plus, we happen to have the only grower in Canada with the rights to the Red Prince, Canada's only winter apple. This is why we call the Trail "year-long," as this apple ripens while in storage and comes to market in December and January - allowing us to continue eating and cooking with apples till spring.

The website displays 19 different varieties of apples found along the Apple Pie Trail. What are a few of your favorites?

Like everyone else, I love the Honey Crisp because it's just so crisp and sweet. This comes to market mid- to late September.

I also love the Ambrosia. It's a bit smaller and perfect for my kids' lunches.

Since I was little, I have loved the Russet. It looks a bit like a pear, and it is a very old apple and has a rough skin. It's likely my absolute favorite.

Other than the apples themselves, what makes the apple pies prepared in the Apple Pie Trail region so special and delicious?

The bakers are brilliant! We are just lucky to have talented chefs and bakers in our midst. For example, the bakers at Thornbury Bakery make the most amazing apple pie using just the Red Prince; they slice it like crepes and I don't believe add any sugar. Maybe it's just old fashioned recipes being passed down.

Could you tell us about any unusual or lesser-known ways that apples can be prepared, baked, or cooked?

Aside from pies, I find it most curious how the chefs are adding apples to so many dinner recipes. At Azzurra in Collingwood, they use caramelized apple in a gnocchi with brussels sprouts. At Currie's Market, they've made an apple salsa and apple ice pop.

And the vineyards are getting clever with their apple dessert wines; they are constantly sold out. They have excellent wine pairing tours that pair an old cheddar with the sweet Baked Apple or Ida Red Frozen to the Core dessert wine. It's like an apple pie in a glass.

Lastly, I love how our trail stops are adding apples to things like honey. You can buy Apple Cinnamon Creamed Honey in Clarksburg. Overall, it's not the usual stuff you see, and it's encouraging all of us to just experiment in the kitchen. When in doubt, just add an apple; and most of the time, you'll find that your food tastes better!

Looking for apple pie recipes or other ways to prepare apples? Check out our selection of cookbooks today!