Some people say summer ends with Labor Day. Others claim it’s the Fall Equinox. In my house, autumn begins with an apple picking.
This time of year, when the light is bright and the air is crisp, there is something in me that itches to get out in the country. Places with no streetlights. Places with more tractors than people. Call it my inner farm girl, but I tell you, there is nothing more satisfying than taking in the harvest.
OK OK OK…“the harvest” was barely a bushel and it came with wine tasting and there were no combines or overalls involved…but gosh darnit, it felt great!
As a city dweller, apple picking is something of an excursion. It takes two hours to get to a decent orchard but man is it worth the trip! If you have never enjoyed what it feels like to grow your own food or to pluck it from the Earth, I suggest you start with apples. Apple orchards are pretty easy to find all over North America, and they make for a wonderful adventure. Depending on the type of apple, the arrival time will be staggered throughout the Fall, so you a re pretty much guaranteed to walk away with something great. And there is something wonderfully symbolic about apples. So beautiful. So wholesome. Fresh. Clean.
A visit to the apple orchard has become something of an annual tradition. I like to go with friends and pack a picnic. This year we went just down the road from my favorite Blueberry Farm, DeGrandcahmps, to McIntosh Orchards and Winery, in South Haven Michigan. Did you ever find someplace off the beaten path that was so special that you didn’t want to tell anyone for fear the secret would get out and ruin your special discovery? McIntosh is like that. I’m tempted to keep a lid on it, but the family that runs this place is so special and their goods are so wonderful, I feel like it’s a disservice to keep it to myself. Honestly, my standards are high. This place exceeded all expectations. If you or anyone you know lives within an hour of Chicago, I highly suggest you forward this post or this link asap. Kids and adults will enjoy themselves silly and they will thank you for it later.
McIntosh Orchard isn’t just an apple orchard, no no no, it’s a cider mill and winery. They carry lot’s of semi-dry fruit wines…blueberry, apple, peach, pear, plum…all excellent and around $10 a bottle. A bargain. As someone who saves their sommelier skills for Diet Coke tasting, I cannot claim to be an expert, however, I know a good thing when I see it: this is Good Stuff. They also sell a lovely collection of gift items, including these lovely milk bottle candles. One of those items that I saw and said “Why didn’t I think of that?!”…so easy to make, but the smell of these candles….oh how I wish the internet could convey smell! These candles where so delicious. And can you read their names? That one up front in called Barn Dance, and yes, it really does smell like a barn dance! Like fresh pine and a wood burning stove with a hint of citrus and musk.
Just a little further down the Blue Star Highway is my ALL TIME FAVORITE ANTIQUE PLACE: Sunset Antiques. It is unfair to call it antiques, really, more like a well-edited collection of eccentric rif raf, or what the call “junque” (somehow saying “junk” in semi-fake-French makes it more legit). Most of it is outdoors, shaded by a gigantic elm tree.Well over an acre. They carry everything from old restaurant signs to astronaut suits to taxidermy moose heads to wooden doors…all of it dirt cheap. I’m still kicking myself for not buying that Hurdy Gurdy!
Back to life, back to reality.
I see a lot of apple baking in my future!