That first bite of an Indiana apple is a rite of passage each fall. Come to think of it, so are the first slice of homemade apple pie and the first sip of cider. To help you make the most of the season, we’ve rounded up 10 ideas for eating and drinking Indiana apples this fall.

1 Sip cider.

Many say that Musgrave Orchard’s apple cider is among the best around, and well worth the hour drive south to see where it’s made and grab a gallon or two that has been pressed the same day. Musgrave is off State Road 37, just north of Bloomington.

Details: 8798 N. Old State Road 37, Bloomington; 812-339- 5006

2 Pluck them from a tree.

U-pick apples are ready now through October, and you don’t have to travel far to fill a bushel yourself. Within a 30-minute drive of downtown Indy, U-pick options include Anderson Orchard outside Mooresville, Tuttle Orchards near Greenfield and Anderson Orchard Pleasant View. From Honeycrisp to Golden Delicious, Gala to Jonathan, the orchards offer a variety to choose from.

Details: Anderson Orchard, 369 E. Greencastle Rd., Mooresville; 317-831-4181; Tuttle Orchards, 5717 N. 300 W., Greenfield; 317-326-2278; Anderson Orchard Pleasant View, 10721 N. 850 W., Fairland; 317-861- 4025;

3 Have an applejack on the rocks.

Huber’s Orchard and Winery in southern Indiana grows more apples than any other fruit, and one of the many ways to enjoy the harvest is applejack, a distilled spirit made with Jonathan and Winesap varieties. It’s purely apples – no grain – and the spirit is aged in charred American oak barrels for at least four years before it’s bottled.

Ted Huber, the distiller and seventh-generation owner of this family business, started distilling at age 15 and applejack was his first task. Now, it’s the hottest-selling spirit from Starlight Distillery, the arm of Huber’s that also makes apple brandy. Available at select Indy-area liquor stores and at Huber’s.

Details: 19816 Huber Rd., Starlight; 812-923-9463;

4 Eat an apple cupcake.

Holy Cow Cupcakes in Carmel gathers apples from the nearby farmers’ market to make this seasonal sweet: apple cake topped with apple-cider buttercream and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. Owner-baker Karen Sutton zeroes in on tart apple varieties for this flavor.

Details: 61 W. City Center Dr., Carmel; 317-571-1500;

5 Dunk an apple in caramel.

Making the coating is as easy as melting down a bag of individually wrapped caramels and two tablespoons of water. Prep the apples by removing the stems, then pierce each apple’s stem end with a wooden craft stick. Dunk each apple in the melted caramel, and place on wax paper to cool. Get a little fancy by rolling the apples in chopped nuts or drizzling them with melted chocolate.

Tuttle Orchards even has a Carmel Apple Festival on Sept. 10. Among other activities, there is a caramel apple-hunt on the farm.

Details: Tuttle Orchards, 5717 N. 300 W., Greenfield; 317-326- 2278;

6 Chill out with a cider slushie.

Yep, you read that right. Head to Simply Sweet Shoppe in Carmel for a slushie made with local apple cider. On days when it’s still warm, this treat hits the spot.

Details: 30 N. Rangeline Rd., Carmel; 317-818-9866;

7 Pair apples and cheese.

This is one fantastic food pairing, but often overlooked. Replace the grapes on your cheese board with apples, and you’ll be thrilled with how the crispness of the apples counters the richness of the cheese. Blue cheese with Granny Smith is a classic pairing, but also try brie with Gala, cheddar with Honeycrisp and gouda with Granny Smith.

8 Try apple butter on warm biscuits or muffins.

It seems every orchard makes its own version of apple butter, which really isn’t butter at all. It’s a way to preserve apples by cooking them low and slow until they have caramelized and are spreadable. If making it from scratch isn’t an option, pick up a few jars from an orchard to have on hand when you are entertaining or are in need of a last minute gift.

9 Discover a variety that’s new to you.

Go to orchards and farmers’ markets to find apples that are a bit more adventuresome. The Apple Works Orchard, for example, offers Goldrush, a tart variety that can be used for baking, and Orin, a Japanese apple that has a hint of pineapple flavor. Both can be hard to find elsewhere.

Details: 8157 S. 250 W., Trafalgar; 317-878-9317;

10 Find a baking recipe and make it your signature.

Edible Indy’s publisher Cathy Bayse is happy to share her recipe for apple cake, which was passed down from her mom. It is quick and easy to prepare, and serves as a coffee cake or dessert cake – it’s wonderful topped with caramel sauce or ice cream.

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