Saturday, September 10, 2011

Apple Picking

Even though we are still enjoying the fruits of summer in early September, by Labor Day our thoughts turn to apples. We like early Macs and "early" really is the name of this game when the MacIntosh apples are the most crisp and tart.

Lindsey's Orchard on Sugar Hill Road in Clifton Park has been our apple picking spot of choice since 1980 when my sister recommended it to us. Over the years we have checked out other locations, but have stuck by Lindsey's for two reasons. First, while they suggest areas for picking, we are free to roam the orchard. Some orchards are far more rigid about where you pick, even roping off certain trees. Second, even though Lindsey's has a lovely country store and apple shop on Route 9, the orchard is very low key. Apples are weighed and a few items are available for purchase in the back of a small barn on the property.

For most of the past 30 years, we have picked apples at Lindsey's with our parents or sisters decades ago, babies and toddlers, and then teenagers. Although Clifton Park has changed dramatically in those years, this farm seems the same to us every time we go.

This year, Thomas and Marlie visited on the day we had in mind for picking. While they only planned to get a few apples to carry back with them to New Jersey, they were up for the activity.

Bill and I used to pick a full bushel, but now with just the two of us at home, a half bushel is plenty. With paper in hand, Bill scanned the orchard for the colored streamers of the varieties that we wanted to try.

On this Saturday, apples ripe for picking included Paula Reds, JonaMacs, MacIntosh, Rhode Island Greening, Gala, and Wolf River varieties. Plenty of options for the four of us!

I didn't remember Wolf River apples and wanted to taste test one of these. The apples were so huge that we decided they would only do for baking. Still, we needed to see what they were like, picked one, and each took bites from different sides. All of us determined that Wolf River apples were short on flavor.

We wandered to the Cortland trees, designated by long yellow streamers. These had good flavor, were comfortably large and skins a little tough--perfect for baking. I filled the bottom of my bag with Cortlands, visualizing apple pies and coffee cakes.

Finally, we wandered over to the Macs--perfect! Smaller and tart, with crisp skin, these are the apples to take for lunches or just to munch in the evening when we need a little snack.

I didn't have any difficulty finding plenty of apples at eye level, but Thomas went up the ladder to pick those that Marlie spotted up high, tossing them down carefully so as not to bruise any.

We weighed and purchased our apples while Marlie perused the local products that the Lindsey's has to offer. She ended up buying a jar of honey made at Stone Quarry Farm in nearby Halfmoon.

We decided to visit Riverview Orchards on Riverview Road in Rexford as well. Riverview has a shop with many products, activities for kids such as a hay maze, and a large window overlooking the cider doughnut making process.

Although Lindsey's also sells doughnuts, we had saved our appetites for Riverview. Fresh from the fryer, these still-warm doughnuts are just a little crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Thomas declared them to be among the best cider doughnuts he had ever had.

While we had by-passed Bowman Orchards on Sugar Hill Road on our way from Lindsey's to Riverview, we were interested to find that the cider that Riverview sells is from Bowman's. Not only did I like this collaboration between neighboring farms, but I was pleased to be supporting another local farm with our purchases. (Don't miss Bowman's if you are in the mood for ice cream. They have a scoop shop of their own homemade, as well as pick-your-own apples and berries, and a nice store in the barn behind a lovely historic brick home.)

We spent a bit of time in Riverview's shop. Marlie studied the bee colony and found the queen bee, Bill perused the Palatine cheeses, and Thomas and I took a direct route to the doughnuts.

In the end Marlie bought a bottle of Arbor Hill Chocolate Cabernet Sauvignon Wine Sauce made in the Finger Lakes and a cut of Wisconsin Horseradish Gourmet Cheese. Thomas and I got cider and doughnuts, and I picked up my annual jar of Riverview Peach Preserves.

This weekend the orchards were seeing a steady business but were not overwhelmed with families. We were able to sit on the front porch at Riverview and have our snack while the doughnuts were still warm.

Next weekend (September 17/18) is the Clifton Park Farm Fest. Then every farm in the area will be hopping. If you have never attended Farm Fest, it's definitely a must-do. Check it out at and click on Farm Fest 2011.

For now, we would head back to Albany, where I would juggle everything in my refrigerator to accomodate the half-bushel of apples we had just picked. We might be back in October to pick Northern Spy apples (the best for baking in my opinion), and maybe some Fujis for eating. And by then, I'd probably have a hankering for more doughnuts!