Like most adventures, it all started with a book.
Haven and I read Bring Me Some Apples and I’ll Make You a Pie: A Story About Edna Lewis on a Saturday and I loved the descriptions of each season; the fresh fruits Edna picked and all the plans she had for each.
“It’s back to school just as the apples start to ripen. They crunch with every bite and taste as sweet as honeycomb.
‘There’s so much to do with good apples!’ says Edna. ‘With bushels of apples in the cellar, we’ll have apple butter and apple cider and applesauce all winter long. But today I’ll make apple crisp, sweet and tart at the same time.’ ”
I started thinking about the first time I had apple butter as a little girl; the complex taste of tart apple mingled with sweet cinnamon and the velvety texture, how I’d love to try canning some of my own; how delicious it would taste on a warm drop biscuit on a cold gray winter morning.
Sunday morning, Joe and I were waking Haven before the sun was up to go pick apples in Hendersonville, North Carolina.
We visited Justus Orchard for the first time last August on our way home from the Smoky Mountains. The Justus family who runs the orchard are quite possibly the sweetest folks you’ll meet! It doesn’t matter how busy the apple house and bakery is, they greet you with a smile and tell you how glad they are you could make it out — and they mean it. Last year the weather did a number on their u-pick orchard but they told us how thankful they were for their guests and were looking forward to 2016.
When Joe and I discussed taking Haven apple picking again, there was no question we’d make the drive back to Hendersonville for another visit to their orchard.
Our Sunday visit this year did not disappoint! The folks were so kind, the bakery was stocked up on apple cider donuts (HEAVEN, y’all! Grab a dozen for your car ride home!) and the orchard was full of fruit, flowers, and bees.
I love that this orchard is pet friendly! Our dog Riley made the 3 hour trip with us and she loved every second of it. She played with the orchard’s resident dog Max and then was spoiled with a cart ride through the rows of apple trees.
The Ambrosia apples have been the most popular this season and just after our visit we read they were temporarily out!
Our best picking was the Mutsu apples. Not many people had ventured down those rows yet and we filled a basket quickly.
This gal here had an apple in her hand the entire time!
We dropped by the bakery for apple cider donuts after we finished picking a bushel and I wish I had a photo to share but there wasn’t time. It was gone before I could take off my camera lens cap! Please take my suggestion and buy a dozen for the road. You won’t regret it!
We also grabbed an additional bushel from the apple house. You’ll find several varieties already bagged, along with bushel and peck pricing, and orchard maps at the entrance. They also have a wall filled with honey, syrups, jellies, and the greatest invention ever: the apple peeler (which cores, peels, and slices an apple in like, 10 seconds. That was my Clueless Cher voice there, could you tell?)
Take a look at the Justus Orchard website for current information on the farm, bakery, and their history! It’s a beautiful drive and Hendersonville is a scenic area with lots to do if you want to make a weekend trip out of it. The next time you’re in North Carolina, you have to make a stop here to meet these sweet people and pick some apples (and get donuts for the road, I can’t stress this enough!)
We came home with two bushels of apples and I had no idea how much that actually was until we started preserving them. We had apple slices 8 trays deep on the dehydrator and it didn’t look like we’d started yet! I filled a 6 quart crock pot to make apple butter and yet it still appeared we hadn’t put a dent in one bushel!
I’ve made several jars of apple sauce and am starting another round of apple butter this weekend but yesterday I decided to make this simple apple crisp recipe I found in the book that inspired our visit to Justus Orchard!
“This story lovingly traces the childhood roots of an award-winning pioneer who never forgot the lessons she learned in Freetown: to use fresh, local ingredients whenever possible, and to celebrate regional American cooking.”
“Don’t ask me no questions,
an’ I won’t tell you no lies.
But bring me some apples,
an’ I’ll make you some pies.
And if you ask questions
’bout my havin’ the flour,
I’ll forget to use ‘lasses,
an’ the pie’ll be sour.”
“You can never have too much summer.”
I started by peeling 3 pounds of apples with my apple peeler- it’s a lifesaver!
(See all my Halloween decorations in the background? I’m one of those people who puts out Halloween stuff on September 1st.)
I poured a 1/4 cup orange juice over the apples slices then sprinkled in a 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and 2 tablespoons sugar and made sure to mix it well before placing them in my 9-inch round buttered baking pan.
Then you’ll mix all your topping ingredients (see recipe below) in a food processor or you can do it by hand. This is where my step-by-step pictures run out, y’all! (Step by step, day by day… Does anyone else remember that TGIF show from the 90’s Step By Step? Netflix should have that show!)
My daughter loved reading the book, going on the adventure to pick the apples, and it was her turn to help make something with those apples she picked herself. She’d spent days watching us peel and can and dehydrate so I let her get messy this time!
Once you’ve mixed the topping ingredients and spread it over your apple slices in the dish, you’ll pop it in a preheated 375 degree oven for 40 minutes!
The best part about an apple crisp is that you can eat it warm or cold, with or without ice cream. Any recipe that goes with or without ice cream is a recipe worth keeping in my opinion!
Apple Crisp Recipe
(serves 6 to 8)
- 6 cups apples (about 2 or 3 lbs) peeled, cored, and sliced
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 cup orange juice
For the topping:
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 5 tablespoons butter plus more for greasing the pan
- 3/4 cup rolled oats
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly butter an 8-inch square or 9-inch round baking pan.
- Mix together 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and 2 tablespoons sugar. Toss the apple slices with the orange juice to coat, sprinkle on the cinnamon sugar, and mix well. Then spread the apples in the buttered pan.
- Place topping ingredients in a food processor and pulse a few times, until ingredients are just combined. Do not puree. (You can also mix ingredients by hand. Just soften butter slightly, toss together dry ingredients, and work butter in with fingertips, a pastry blender, or a fork.)
- Spread topping over apples and bake about 40 minutes, until topping is browned and apples are tender. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.
Note: For best results, use tart apples, such as Macintosh or Stayman Winesap (Edna’s favorite), for this recipe.