It's my favorite time of year again.
Crisp air, colorful leaves falling from the trees, and the season's best pommes ready for the picking. If you love autumn as much as I do, why not go full Rockwell and host an apple picking party? Just think: picnics on Pendleton wool blankets, nubby sweaters and leg warmers, thermoses full of hot, spiced cider—maybe even a little fine Kentucky bourbon in there too. It's like a Tommy Hilfiger ad, starring rosy-cheeked YOU!
"I'm in," you say. Where do you begin? It's easy. First, choose an orchard. Fortunately, most North Americans live within a relatively short drive from an orchard. To find the one nearest you, check out pickyourown.org
. If I were you, I'd select an organic or biodynamic orchard, because if you're going full Rockwell, of course you would.
Next, invite a handful of your closest buds. If you have to drive far, it'd be nice if you could carpool to save gas. And try to make sure each person can bring one or two items, so you minimize the workload for any one person.
What to bring? All the usual picnic suspects:
- blankets (the more, the better)
- a tarp (to put under the blankets)
- extra sweaters and jackets in case the weather goes south
- a sealable baggie of moist washcloths (or a tub of wipes)
- a picnic basket with plates, mugs, cloth napkins and silverware, as well as a small cutting board and a sharp paring knife (stick a wine cork on the end of the blade and wrap it in a tea towel to prevent an unfortunate incident)
- a bevy of apple-complementary snacks
- hooch to mix with apple cider, such as bourbon or brandy, or spicy cinnamon schnapps, if you're feeling festive
- a designated driver if you plan to hit the sauce
Last, get everyone to the orchard, and pick away. Aim for the outer branches that get the most sun for the sweetest apples. When you're all picked out, assemble everyone on the blankets for lunch.
I think the best way to eat apples is in a ploughman's-type platter with a loaf of crusty bread, some country pâté (or a nice curried chicken salad, if you prefer), a few cheeses
(this is the time to break out the sharp and stinky ones), and a variety of pickled things. The orchard will likely have a variety of apple-y treats like freshly-pressed cider and perhaps even pies, so you'll have those bases covered.
Another awesome way to enjoy fresh-picked apples is with dips. Why not bust out your Great Aunt Myrtle's zippy pimento cheese spread recipe
? Don’t have a Great Aunt Myrtle? I've got you covered: Mix together 1/2 pound each aged white cheddar and extra-sharp cheddar (finely grated), 2/3 cup of mayo and a 7-ounce jar of pimentos (drained and chopped). Add a pinch of cayenne and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper. Mash it all together really well with a fork until it's pretty smooth, spoon it into a little crock and chill for two hours.
Here's another tasty and easy dip: Mix plain yogurt with brown sugar and a sprinkle of cinnamon. That's it. Apple's best friend. Or be extra fabulous and bring a jar of fancy dulce de leche
and a few pinches of flaky Maldon sea salt or French sel gris
(wrap it in a little folded paper tied with brown string for full effect).
If the weather does go south, relocate the party to someone's house and let the good times roll!