September 8 marked the day that I officially smelled Autumn coming! It’s that crispy dry nip in the air that gives me an extra pep in my step…which means, apple picking season is just around the corner! Apple picking and “leaf peeping” (yes, that’s a thing here!) are a New England MUST so I’ve dedicated a whole blog post to just apple picking in Connecticut!…(more on leaf peeping later…)
What is apple picking? It is as simple as it sounds…orchards open up their apple tree farms to visitors who wish to pick fresh apples directly from the tree. Rows are organized by apple tree types (there are so many!) and pickers stock their baskets and pay by the pound. Typically, there’s a gift shop selling fresh treats such as apple pie (my obvious fave!), apple sauce, apple butter, apple cider, apple bread and you truly haven’t lived until you’ve had cider donuts (a New England tradition)!
So what type of apples are offered in Connecticut? Here’s an exhaustive list…ready?
- Baldwin– Ready to pick in mid-October; pale greesnish-yellow flushed with purplish-brown; juicy, with a trace of sweetness; stores extremely well.
- Cortland- Ready to pick in mid-October; paper-white flesh, juicy, crisp, tart, good drying; good for eating, baking, drying, freezing and on salads – note: when cooked they hold their shape and are firmer than MacIntosh.
- Crispin (Mutsu) – Ready to pick in mid-October; gold with red highlights; good for eating and cooking
- Empire – Ready to pick in late September; mildly tart and sweet, has juicy firm white flesh; high quality dessert apple good for culinary uses
- Fuji – Ready to pick in October; red blush with green and yellow stripes; crisp, firm, juicy flesh; an excellent keeper; developed in Japan in 1939
- Gala – Ready to pick in mid-August; red-orange, with yellow stripes; a sweet apple
- Golden Delicious – Ready to pick in mid-October; firm, crisp, sweet, juicy; good for eating and baking
- Honeycrisp – Ready to pick in late September; very crisp and sweet; good for eating
- Ida Red – Ready to pick in late September; bright golden red; their tangy taste mellows at maturity; excellent for all culinary uses (just avoid the Ida Green…jk…get it?)
- Jersey Mac – Ready to pick in mid-August; tangy, juicy, crunchy; good for eating and baking
- Jona Gold – Ready to pick in September; bright red with gold; crisp and juica, Jona Golds are good fresh, in salads, and for both cooking and baking
- Liberty – Ready to pick in early October; red blush, an all-purpose apple
- Macoun – Ready to pick in mid/ late September; super crisp, juicy, mild sweet flavor; good for eating
- Northern Spy – Ready to pick in late October; large red and green skin, spicy tart flavor; a favorite for apple pies
- Paula Red – Ready to pick in mid-August; crisp, juicy, sweetly tart; good for eating and baking
- Pippin – Ripens in September; green with yellow highlights; tangy, sweet flavor; best for cooking and baking
- Red Delicious – Ready to pick in mid-October; crisp, juicy, mildly sweet, sweet cider; good for eating and juicing
- Rome – Ready to pick in mid-October; slightly tart; excellent baking apples
- Spartan – Ready to pick in early October; red and green skin; juicy, tart – sweet taste is good for snacks and salads
- Spencer – Ready to pick in mid-October; firm and crisp with a very sweet flavor; good for eating
Who knew there were so many different kinds of apples?
Connecticut has heaps of apple orchards that can be reached most easily by car but with the availability of taxis and Uber, a train ride from NYC followed by a quick car ride is also an option for those who want a simple taste of New England by day trip.
Fairfield County is the most western county of Connecticut that shares a border with New York. It’s also the largest county in Connecticut and is home to several orchards:
Beardsley’s Cider Mill & Orchard, LLC – Pick-Your-Own (PYO) apples
Open: Sept.-Oct for apples. Watch as apples are pressed into cider. Farm store features farm-baked products, cider donuts, maple syrup, local honey, fruit butter, jams & jellies. The farm store is open mid Sept.-Dec. 24.
Blue Jay Orchards – PYO Apples, pumpkins, Honey from hives on the farm, Cider mill (fresh apple cider made on the premises). Crops are usually available in August, September, October, November. Open: August to Thanksgiving 7 days a week from 10 am to 5:30 pm Pick Your Own Hours are 7 days a week from 10am to 5:00 pm After Thanksgiving thru December 24th open Thursday thru Sunday 10 to 5:30. Pick your own apples is from late August to early
Silverman’s Farm – PYO peaches, apples and plums, seasonal cider, snacks and refreshment stand, petting zoo, farm animals, and occasional hayrides (check their website for details). Crops are usually available in July, August, September. Open: Seven Days a Week Weather Permitting.
Other Connecticut apple picking farms include:
- Bishop’s Orchards, Guilford
- Rogers Orchards, Southington
- Lyman Orchards, Middlefield
- Rose’s Berry Farm, Glastonbury
- Rose Orchards, Branford
- Drazen Orchards, Cheshire
- Johnny Appleseed’s, Ellington
- March Farms, Bethlehem
- Scotts Orchard and Nursery, Glastonbury
For those who can’t make it to Connecticut for apple picking, have your own Autumn apple feast with these recipes:
Hot Cinnamon Apple Toddy
- 1 1/2 parts bourbon
- 1 1/2 parts Hiram Walker Original Cinn or cinnamon syrup*
- 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp agave nectar
- Fill with hot apple cider
Pour the bourbon, Cinnamon, and lemon juice into an Irish coffee glass or mug. Stir well. Fill with hot apple cider. Garnish with a green apple slice dipped in hot caramel or a cinnamon stick.
Prosecco Apple Fizz
- Dry Prosecco
- Apple cider
- Cinnamon simple syrup
- Apple chips
- Silpat mat
- Fine mesh sieve
Preheat your oven to 300°F. Make some apple chips. Slice apples (no need to peel)very thinly with a mandolin (use the ﬁnest setting). Place on silpat-lined baking sheet and bake until crisp, about 15-20 minutes.
Make some fresh-pressed apple juice: Rough chop three apples (be sure to throw away the core). Macintosh is best. Put the pieces into a blender. Blend until smooth, then pass through a ﬁne sieve—you now have your own apple juice.
Make some cinnamon simple syrup: Boil equal parts sugar and water until sugar dissolves, then let it reduce by about a third. Add a cinnamon stick, let cool and pour into a pitcher (you can store this at room temp for a few days).
Combine 3 parts prosecco to 1 part cider or juice, top off with a little simple syrup and an apple chip. Serve these in a fancy champagne ﬂute.
Or try this first place winning apple pie recipe from the Wachusett, CT 2013 apple pie contest or find the latest winning recipe here.
For the crust:
4 c. unsifted flour, spooned lightly into cup
1 3/4 c. shortening
1 Tbsp. sugar
2. tsp. coarse salt
1 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1/2. c. water
For the filling:
8 large Golden, Delicious apples peeled, cored & cut up
3/4 c. white sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
¼ c. brown sugar
2. Tbsp. butter cut into pieces
2. Tbsp. Flour
1 egg yolk
2. Tbsp sour cream
1 Tbsp water
Prepare the crust:
Mix the first three ingredients in a large bowl, using a fork. Add the shortening and “cut-in” with the fork until mixture is crumbly. In a small bowl, gently whisk together vinegar, egg, and water. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and stir with fork until just combined. Divide dough into four portions, quickly form into discs, wrap in plastic or waxed paper and chill for at least 30 minutes.
Prepare the filling:
Peel, core and slice the apples into a large bowl and set aside. In a small bowl, mix together white sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and flour and set aside.
Assemble the pie:
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll out the dough: Generously flour flat surface and both sides of the dough. Rollout to ¼ in thick. Place in pie pan. Pour apples into pan. Add butter pieces, spread out on top of apples. Pour sugar mixture over apples. Roll out top crust and place over apples. Trim edges so there is about ½ in dough hanging over edge of pan. Fold dough under and pinch to seal. Cut several slits in the top crust to vent steam while cooking. Mix egg yolk, sour cream and water in a small bowl and paint over top crust.
Place in pre-heated 350 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes until crust looks golden brown.
Remove from oven and place on cooling racks. Enjoy