Apple Picking

September 26, 2013

what do you do with all of your apple picking bounty?

By Raleigh-Elizabeth. Pretty apple picking engagement session (why didn’t I think of that?) from Something Turquoise.

For anyone who grew up in Cleveland, Patterson Fruit Farm is a fixture of Fall. The local epicenter of apple picking, every Autumn warranted an annual trek into the chilly fall air at Patterson’s so you could fill your arms and bags to the brim with fresh apples. McIntosh, Honeycrisp, Cameos, and Winesaps lined up single-file through their orchards just waiting for swinging children, families with ladders, and happy hands in woolen mittens. Fall means apple picking, especially at Patterson’s.

Patterson’s is a pick-your-own apple farm and apple market that makes anyone who has ever had the great fortune to visit immediately recall the smell of their famous apple fritters filling the air with sugar and spice the minute the weather starts to cool. I’ve yet to meet a Clevelander who hasn’t spent time at Patterson’s, and the day I do, I will drive this person straight to the farm and stand in line with them to treat them to a warm apple fritter. Patterson’s is just that kind of place.

No matter where you grew up, chances are high that you have your own Patterson’s, too: A place where you always went apple picking. A place that told you, in its annual regularity, that the year was really in full swing and that Fall was truly, finally upon us.

It always seems to me that in Autumn, we begin preparing ourselves for nostalgia. We reminisce about our first days of school as the children head back for theirs, we let our hearts get warmed by the simple act of pulling out our favorite fuzzy slippers, we ready our tables for our feasts of thanks. All of Fall feels like one big prelude to the season of joy and giving that follows it, and for me, there is no moment so full of tradition and sentiment as the day we all pile into an orchard to fill our arms with apples.

Only, my eyes are always a little bigger than my stomach. In fact, they’re always bigger than my whole kitchen. Apples galore!

How is it possible to pick so many apples in such little time? Has anyone ever figured this out? Surely there’s some rule of wisdom that says you shouldn’t be picking more apples per hour than one can possibly eat in the same amount of time, but if such wisdom exists, I have never heard of it nor adhered to it. I remember getting to the market at Patterson’s every single year to pay for our overload of apples and we would decide to grab a baked good for the ride home. You would think that after all the apples I’d consumed in the process of picking, there would be no humanly possible way I could stuff one of their famous apple fritters into my stomach, but every year, of course, I managed to. And no matter where Fall finds me, I always want more.

To this day, apple fritters remain one of my favorite things, and they’re a terrific way to use any apples you have from apple picking. In fact, there are good ideas aplenty for how to put all those apples to use.

My favorite non-fritter (or pie, which I believe is perfect year-round) use for apples has to be apple cake. It’s a great breakfast food, snack, and dessert, and when it comes to tasting like fall, it puts the pumpkin spice latte to shame. (Sorry, Starbucks!) This apple spice cake is topped with a dark and sticky brown sugar merengue that could not be more perfect. Because you bake the merengue with the cake, a light pudding layer forms between the hearty cake bottom and the merengue top, which serves double-duty by keeping the cake moist and delicious. It’s the kind of cake you make and people call you ten years later looking for the recipe. It’s that good.

Also really good are apple cider donuts, which, thanks to Patterson’s, my friend Laura cannot live without. This recipe is incredibly close to those we had growing up, although there’s something about having to wait in line for a donut along with a dozen other apple pickers that makes it taste almost marginally more delicious. Waiting for these donuts to cook is a close second.

I also like apple, brie, and sprout sandwiches, apple and squash soup, and apple pancakes… all good way to use up the leftover apples still lingering around your kitchen days after an apple picking party. As to an apple picking party, it’s getting time to have one again and make our yearly trek into the orchards, where we will load our arms with apples so that we, too, can fill our homes with bounty and our hearts with tradition before the chill of cooler days sets in.

Tell me: Do you look forward to apple picking, too? What do you do with all of your apples? Are you smart and pick only what you can eat with a standard human size stomach? Or are you like us, overflowing your home with apple abundance and wondering what on earth to do with it?

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{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Emily Musso September 26, 2013 at 8:59 am

Ooooh! We just moved from Cleveland and I am missing apple picking! We were there for 9 years but on the far west side so although I have been to patterson’s, and loved it, we found our own favorite–Apple Hill, in Amherst. It has the best bulk shop and I stock up on sprinkles for the year every time I go. Just been on the hunt for picking spots here in Denver but not having much luck.

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2 Raleigh-Elizabeth September 26, 2013 at 10:22 am

I’ve heard of Apple Hill! Everyone always said great things! Denver folks need to weigh in with a great apple picking place. Suggestions?

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3 Miggy September 26, 2013 at 3:29 pm

I grew up in Denver and while I loved it, I never heard of apple picking and never knew of anyone who went apple picking during my time there. Perhaps it’s a thing there now, but I wasn’t then…so good luck!

When my husband and I moved to NY as newlyweds 8 years ago that’s when I first heard of apple picking and it quickly became one of my favorite traditions. (We love a good apple pie and when we couldn’t decide between a crumb or crust topping we wisely choose both, and now that has become another tradition.) After NY we lived in Cincinnati and still loved apple picking, although we didn’t know many other people who had that same tradition. Now we live in Texas and every year so far I’ve missed apple picking season because it’s over the beginning of August. Boo! You just can’t pick apples in the heat of an August Texas sun…not the same. Anyway, I think it might be something done more on the eastern side of the country. I could be wrong, but I had a friend whose father owned an apple orchard in Utah and when she told him about apple picking and how it was a common thing to do in NY, he was apparently dumb-founded that people would want to come pick their own apples. Ha! But perhaps that’s changed.

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4 Raleigh-Elizabeth September 27, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Crazy! I’m glad it’s a tradition at least in some places – apple picking is so much fun. Left coasters, weigh in. Is apple picking not so big there?

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5 Connie September 26, 2013 at 9:09 am

We love going apple picking, but we end up being pretty tame about it. It’s just my husband and I, so we only end up picking enough to fill one paper grocery bag, which ends up becoming: one baked item (a pie or a dozen turnovers?), a savory standby (like a chutney for porkchops), an experimental item (we attempted apple salsa this year), and a few leftover for snacking.

Whenever we go apple picking, I end up thinking of the 80′s move “Baby Boom” with Diane Keaton when she picks all those baskets of apples with her daughter. :)

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6 Raleigh-Elizabeth September 26, 2013 at 10:41 am

Apple salsa?!?

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7 Connie September 26, 2013 at 11:58 am

Don’t get excited. :) I think I recall my husband even muttering, “Sweetie…I’m sorry I wasted some of our precious orchard apples on this…” :) Mad Scientist Chefs don’t always get serendipity in the kitchen. Sometimes, it’s just plain icky!

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8 Raleigh-Elizabeth September 26, 2013 at 12:01 pm

hahahhaha. so i should stick with apple chutney is what you’re saying…

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9 Lisette Wolter-McKinley September 26, 2013 at 9:31 am

It is true, in Autumn we prepare ourselves for nostalgia. I loved this line!

Washington has many great apple picking places too.

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10 Raleigh-Elizabeth September 26, 2013 at 11:21 am

I’m glad you enjoyed it!

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11 Sarah September 26, 2013 at 10:12 am

I am in the process of writing a very similar post. I wish I could solve that apple-picking conundrum. I think I picked half a bushel in about 10 minutes! I’m making applesauce galore.

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12 Raleigh-Elizabeth September 26, 2013 at 11:22 am

applesauce is always delicious. especially when you have potato pancakes to go with it!

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13 Janet September 26, 2013 at 10:17 am

Just went to Kimmel Orchard in Nebraska City, Nebraska last weekend! Not sure what to do with all the apples — pie and apple crisp are definitely on my baking to-do list!

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14 Raleigh-Elizabeth September 26, 2013 at 11:22 am

yum!

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15 Lauren S. September 26, 2013 at 10:20 am

I could not leave this space without pausing to say what a beautifully written post. It brought memories flooding back while simultaneously evoking all the emotions I didn’t even know existed when it came to apple picking as a child. I’ve tried to recreate these experiences as a grown up, away from my family in a new place, only to have each experience fall flat. Thank you for making me realize why. Other people’s families can never recreate those previous childhood traditions I hold do dear to my heart.

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16 Raleigh-Elizabeth September 26, 2013 at 11:23 am

*blush* And I think our adult traditions are what we make of them… finally having a family of my own, I feel like they’re not falling as flat anymore. But I know exactly what you mean.

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17 Apple of My Eye September 26, 2013 at 10:35 am

Great post. How apple-dipping in cheese fondue! And oh how those extra tart winesaps are just perfect for candy apples on a stick.

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18 Raleigh-Elizabeth September 26, 2013 at 11:23 am

aren’t they!

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19 Elisabeth September 26, 2013 at 10:47 am

Homemade applesauce is my favorite! We make it the more old fashioned way, using an applesauce sieve and pestle (using just elbow grease)- it’s easy because you don’t have to peel the apples or even get rid of the core. And it is sooo delicious!

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20 Raleigh-Elizabeth September 26, 2013 at 11:24 am

oooooooh. that sounds so fun and delicious!

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21 Dani September 26, 2013 at 11:26 am

I always pick way too many. Like probably 30-40 pounds. Lots of apple sauce and now baby food. Oh and I ate 1.5 fritters and a donut about an hour ago. I now feel sick.

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22 Raleigh-Elizabeth September 26, 2013 at 11:55 am

apple fritters forever.

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23 Stacy September 26, 2013 at 11:49 am

I loved going to Patterson’s when I was younger. We live too far now to make the trek (about 50 miles or so) so we stay closer to home. But we still love apple picking and we love making homemade applesauce.

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24 Raleigh-Elizabeth September 26, 2013 at 11:57 am

compared to my hundreds and hundreds of miles, that seems so close. i hope you’re enjoying another pretty midwestern fall, wherever you are!

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25 Rebecca September 26, 2013 at 12:06 pm

There is a little-known but wonderful antique apple orchard in the SF Bay Area, in Hayward. Garin Regional Park (http://www.ebparks.org/parks/garin) hosts an apple festival in September, and a few weeks later the public can pick the harvest from the orchard, for $5 for a 5 gallon bucket. There are 180 varieties of heirloom apples in the orchard. Unfortunately, the harvest has already happened for this year :/

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26 Beth September 26, 2013 at 12:13 pm

I grew up in Cleveland and live in the southeastern US now. I miss apple season in Ohio! Apples here are a pale imitation of fall harvest apples there. While we went to Patterson’s (and in fact, my parents for many years had them ship me a box of apples each fall down here), our family actually preferred Mr. Eddie’s, a smaller operation also on the east side. It’s still there and a wonderful spot.

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27 Raleigh-Elizabeth September 26, 2013 at 1:48 pm

We live in coastal NC, and the apples here are similarly paltry. I can’t believe I don’t know about Mr. Eddie’s, though – I grew up in Shaker! It would have been a lot closer!

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28 Katie September 26, 2013 at 1:31 pm

This was so timely! I just got back from picking apples with my 3 kids and my friend and her two kids. It was a little crazy, but they loved it! And one of them was begging for apple cake all the way home. Now off to decide what to do first. Thinking an apple crisp is calling my name!

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29 Raleigh-Elizabeth September 26, 2013 at 1:48 pm

You’re having us over for crisp, right? Because I would love to eat some and we haven’t done our annual trek yet!

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30 Jess. September 26, 2013 at 3:41 pm

You are the sweetest thing. That description of Autumn just filled my heart up; I guess I’ve always thought of it that way, but I’ve never *thought* of it that way. You’re lovely.

It doesn’t take very many apples, but this is a fall recipe we always get excited about. Dinner to be preceded by a reading of Maurice Sendak’s “Chicken Soup with Rice:”
http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Mulligatawny-Soup-I/Detail.aspx?event8=1&prop24=SR_Title&e11=mulligatawny&e8=Quick%20Search&event10=1&e7=Home%20Page

Spooky Once, Spooky Twice . . . xox

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31 Raleigh-Elizabeth September 27, 2013 at 2:04 pm

blush blush blush blush blush. and I LOVE both Chicken Soup with Rice and mulligatawny. yum yum yum.

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32 Jess. October 25, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Ha! All my favorite bloggers are on the same page:
http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2013/10/apple-slab-pie/#comment-4738001
And . . . we had Mulligatawny for supper last night. All’s right with the world. xox

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33 LeafyNell September 26, 2013 at 8:26 pm

My favorite job of all time was working at an apple orchard behind the counter. Everyone is happy at an apple orchard! No dissatisfied customers. It was there I learned that apples keep best in the fridge when they’re in a tightly closed plastic bag with a few drops of water. I also learned that pumpkins “breathe” through their base so if you prop an uncut pumpkin on a little pencil, air can circulate at the base keeping the pumpkin fresh a lot longer!

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34 Raleigh-Elizabeth September 27, 2013 at 2:03 pm

I just learned so much that will help us (and our pumpkins and apples) survive Fall. THANK YOU!

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35 Rachel September 28, 2013 at 2:04 pm

Apples are so near and dear to my heart! Just a little note… Central California has amazing apples! See Canyon near Avila Beach. And then in Michigan there are soo many orchards all over. This is where I learned of cider donuts! And now in England we were fortunate enough to rent property with an apple orchard and they are delish here as well.

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36 Vanessa September 28, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Apple picking is what fall is all about for us! It’s become a family tradition. I make several pies with our collection which everyone loves. The most popular though is the home made applesauce. I makes the house smell delicious as it cooks and I make it at least once a week. The kids have it graham crackers for snack and we add it to our Sunday oatmeal. The recipe I use is here: http://www.maxxsilly.com/2009/10/apples-not-gwenyths-kid.html

This year I am eyeing some new recipes like apple and squash casserole and I might try apple cider donuts.

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