We went apple picking this weekend! Granted, it was a bit hot for apple picking on Saturday (80+ degrees!), but we still had a great time and came home with a lot of apples.
After a little research and checking around, we decided to go to Smolak Farms in North Andover, Mass. I've heard good and bad things about this farm over the years, but I wanted to go and form my own opinion. Plus, Smolak allows dogs (as long as they're on a leash), so we jumped at the opportunity to take Gunner with us.
We piled into the car around 9 a.m. and made the 40-minute drive to the farm, with a quick stop at Starbucks of course.
When we arrived, there were already about four rows of cars in the parking lot. We parked and walked across the street, purchased a large bag ($30 worth of apples), took a map, and got to picking.
The apples were organized by type, and the fronts of the rows were marked with the kinds (we also had the map to follow). We both agreed that the back ends of the rows should have been marked too -- it's easy to get disoriented back there.
There were McIntosh, Macspur, Red Delicious, Cortland, Macoun, Granny Smith, Mutsu, and Golden Delicious apples to choose from. One of the things I look for in a PYO (pick-your-own) farm is a variety of apples. Nothing disappoints me more than showing up at a farm and only seeing McIntosh -- my least favorite apple.
In this case, I was happy to see Macs among the apples available though because I needed them for an applesauce recipe. Macs soften and melt easily, which makes them perfect for applesauce (and that's probably why I don't like eating them -- no mushy fruit for this girl.)
I also needed Granny Smiths for the applesauce for the opposite reason. Granny Smiths maintain their composure, adding nice chunks to homemade applesauce.
Other than that, we went on a picking spree. I gathered up lots of Cortlands, my favorites and great apples for baking with, and we picked some Red Delicious and a few Mutsu apples to try. These were described as having a lovely, sweet honeyed flavor.
Somehow we managed to fill the bag! We dropped it off at the car and walked over to the store. I got us a couple of bottles of water and some apple cider doughnuts. I keep trying them everywhere, but none are as good as the ones I made a few times last year.
We strolled through the pumpkin patch...
...and then back to the parking lot...
...and set off toward home.
We spent a lovely morning on the farm and had a lot of fun together. I recommend heading to Smolak early if you want to pick apples. Roughly 300 cars (ballpark figure and it may even be a bit conservative) pulled in after us. I can understand the complaints that it gets crowded there, but we planned ahead, got our timing right, and missed all of that.
You may have seen me mention before that we're in the midst of trying to sell Jeff's condo and searching for a new house together. On Sunday we had our second open house, and I figured it couldn't hurt to have some cinnamon-scented applesauce bubbling away in the slow cooker while potential buyers wandered through. Unfortunately, the fragrance didn't really start permeating until about an hour after the open house ended. But that's okay because we got to enjoy the smell and the warm, sweet applesauce.
Chunky Applesauce (adapted from Art of the Slow Cooker)
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
16 cups water
8 large McIntosh apples
4 medium Granny Smith apples
2 tablespoons of sugar (plus up to two more to add after cooking)
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon (plus up to 1/4 teaspoon more to add after cooking)
Combine the vinegar and water in a large bowl.
Peel the apples, and cut the flesh away from the core.
Place the apple pieces in the water.
Once all of the apples are peeled and cored, cut the apple pieces into 1- to 2-inch chunks and place them in the slow cooker.
Stir in 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon.
Cook on high for 3 hours or on low for 6 hours.
Remove lid, and stir the apples. They will melt into a thick, creamy sauce. Add the additional sugar and cinnamon to taste.
The applesauce can be eaten warm (recommended!) or cold and will last up to 5 days stored in the refrigerator.
What are your favorite things to make with apples? Where do you like to go apple picking?
Jeff made me promise to make apple cider doughnuts if we went apple picking, so those will be coming soon, I hope.