A visit to your local orchard can result in a bucket of apples and a bushel of fun.
The crisp air and abundant sunshine make autumn the ideal time to head to a local apple orchard and take advantage of the fall harvest. A family trip to an orchard or farm can teach kids about the harvest, including the differences among apple varieties, how to tell when an apple is ready to be picked and how good it tastes fresh off the tree.
Many orchards have heirloom varieties that can’t be found in your local supermarket. Getting the scoop on varieties local to your area can be an important tool in educating kids about the benefits of buying locally grown produce.
Besides offering the freshest apples available, local orchards often provide extra fun beyond apple picking. At many locations you can indulge in fresh, hot apple cider or bite into a warm apple cinnamon doughnut. Some also have apple products to buy, such as baked goods and apple butter.
Apples are among the most popular kid-friendly fruits. Washed and eaten alone or incorporated into a delicious recipe, apples usually pass the picky-eater test. Imagine how much more your kids will enjoy apples when they get to pick them themselves. A journey to an apple orchard is a great trip for the whole family. Get ready for a day full of fun and learning. While there’s nothing like the taste of a fresh picked apple, here are a few of our favorite recipes.
Apple Muffins with Oatmeal Streusel
Fresh-from-the-orchard apples get a wakeup call when blended into muffins.
The addition of oatmeal streusel makes these muffins almost too good for breakfast!
Makes 18 servings
Prep time: 20 minutes • Cook time: 20-24 minutes
For the muffins
1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup oil
1 Tablespoon vanilla
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 peeled, cored, diced apples (about 3)
For streusel topping
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup packed brown sugar
¾ cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon lemon zest
½ cup butter
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line muffin pan with paper liners.
2. Cream together sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla.
3. In a separate bowl, sift flour, salt, baking soda and ground cinnamon.
4. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture and mix until combined. The batter will be very thick; don’t overmix. Add the diced apples.
5. Fill paper liners ¾ full.
6. In a separate bowl, combine streusel topping, cutting butter in with a fork or pastry blender. Top each muffin with a tablespoon of streusel topping.
7. Bake for 20-24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clear.
Cream Cheese Apple Tart
If you’re bored with plain, old apple pie, you will love its close “cousin,” the tart.
Makes 6 servings
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes
For the crust
3 Tablespoons butter, softened
2 ½ Tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
6 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
For the filling
1 (3-ounce) package light cream cheese, softened
2 Tablespoons egg, beaten
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup thinly sliced and peeled tart apple
2 teaspoons sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Cream butter and sugar together in a small bowl. Add vanilla and stir in flour.
3. Press onto the bottom and up the sides of a 6-inch springform pan sprayed with cooking spray.
4. For the filling, beat the cream cheese, egg and vanilla in a small bowl. Pour over crust.
5. In a separate bowl, combine the apple, sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle over filling.
6. Place springform pan on a baking sheet. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until apples are tender.
7. Cool on a wire rack. Remove sides of pan. Garnish with vanilla ice cream, if desired.
It doesn’t get much easier than oven-baked apples. This delicious, kid-friendly dessert is a great way to highlight your orchard-fresh apples in a very simple manner. Once the apples are removed from the oven, top them with vanilla ice cream for an extra-special touch.
Makes 4 servings
Prep time: 10 minutes
Bake time: 15 minutes
4 tart apples, such as Fuji or Jonagold
¼ cup brown sugar
4 Tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Scoop out the core from the top of the apple, leaving a well. Do not cut all the way through.
3. Stuff each apple with 1 tablespoon brown sugar and 1 tablespoon butter.
4. Place in a shallow baking dish and sprinkle with cinnamon.
5. Bake for 15 minutes, until apples are tender.
Classic Waldorf Salad
Waldorf Salad is an American classic. The simple blend of walnuts, fruit and a creamy dressing makes it a perfect potluck salad or picnic dish.
Makes 4 servings • Prep time: 20 minutes
2 apples, cored and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
½ cup walnut pieces
½ cup seedless grapes, halved (optional)
4 Tablespoons mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons yogurt
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1. Add sliced apples, celery, walnut pieces and grapes (optional) to a medium-sized salad bowl.
2. Mix dressing in a small bowl.
3. Add dressing to the fruit-and-nut mixture and toss well.
4. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.
There are fall photo ops galore at an apple orchard. Remember to take along your camera so you can capture your kids picking the perfect apple or taking their first bite. You’ll want to capture every special minute of this fun-filled day.
Here are some of the most popular apples and the best way to use them.
• Red Delicious: Dark-red skin and sweet in flavor, this is a great apple to slice up and eat as a snack.
• Golden Delicious: Yellow-green in color, yellow when ripe. A Golden Delicious apple is sweet with a slightly tart note and is perfect to eat all by itself.
• Fuji: The Fuji apple is green with red tones and is a sweet apple. This is another great one for eating by itself or with slices of Monterey Jack cheese.
• Granny Smith: Green, crisp and tart, the Granny Smith apple is a favorite for apple pies or sliced and paired with cheddar cheese.
• Gala: The Gala is yellow with patches of reddish-orange color. Perfect for fresh eating, the Gala is another apple with a sweet and slightly tart flavor.
• Jonagold: More sour than sweet, this apple makes a tasty addition to your apple pie.
• Heirloom varieties: You may discover new types to try or favorite local treats such as Gravenstein, Rome, McIntosh and more.
No More Brown Apples
Apples have a tendency to turn brown when sliced open and exposed to the air. In order to keep apples from turning brown, toss them in a bit of lemon juice. The acid in the lemon juice counteracts the enzyme in the flesh of the apple and helps keep your apples looking fresh.
By Kristen Doyle
Photography by Bridgett Hurley and Kristen Doyle