Sunday, October 3, 2010

A day at the farm

As the fall season comes upon us, there seems to be an abundance of community activities and events going on. From street festivals to Oktoberfest, it is hard to pick and chose which event you will dedicate your few, precious weekend hours to.
Among the usual weekend duties of grocery shopping, football watching, and laundry, Brian and I have been trying to make an effort to explore the outlying areas of this amazing city we live in. While it was probably more my choice, we decided this weekend's event would be apple picking! I was surprised at the number of orchards within a hour drive of DC. It was hard to chose which would be most "fruitful", but I decided on visiting Homestead Farm in Poolesville MD. It was about 45 minutes from our apartment and the drive into Maryland was beautiful. I am always amazed at how this area can transform from a busy city to beautiful country side along the Potomac River in a matter of a few miles.
Luckily we arrived at Homestead early and there was plenty of parking and barrels that are used to store your pickings. (We would find out later that the barrels are a hot commodity in the afternoon when the farm was filled with people!)

The farm was great. Tons of pumpkins, orange and yellow mums, fall harvest vegetables and apples! Apparently, the farm is open all year with strawberry and peach picking months. Along with the hay rides, a country kitchen serving hot apple cider and carmel apples, and perfectly round pumpkins, the farm was complete with goats to pet and feed, which seemed to be very popular among the many kids visiting.

The apples ready to pick this weekend included sun crisp and fuji. I was really hoping for the pink lady apples (my favorite kind), but they looked like they needed another week or so.
The weather couldn't have been better at a cool 65 degrees and sun shining brightly. We resisted the desire to take a bite out of every perfect apple we picked and ended up with a large load of apples after about an hour of picking (20 lbs to be exact!) .

After paying for our pickings and picking up a few other veggies, we ended our visit to Homestead Farm.
It was such a fun trip (at least for me it was) and I hope to go back next year to try the strawberries and peaches.

Of course the cook in me was dying to get home and get the first apple pie baking! I am sure we picked more apples than we are capable of consuming, but I plan to make some pies, breads and possibly even apple sauce. The pies and breads can freeze and be perfect for Thanksgiving!
The pie came together quite nicely and was easier than I remembered.
I used a simple pie crust recipe that is buttery and flaky. I was able to assemble the crust in the food processor and it comes together in a matter of minutes. The recipe I used is Ina Garten's Perfect Pie Crust.

I've never used a recipe for the pie filling and stuck to that method today. I like apple pies that leave the natural apple sweetness without drowning the apples in a sauce or syrup. So I chopped up the fuji apples and sprinkled the apples with cinnamon (1 tablespoon), sugar (1/4 cup) and flour (1/2 cup).
The apples mixture got thrown in the pie crust and topped with another crust. An egg wash was brushed on the top to create, what I call, a "Martha Stewart Bakery ready" brown crust.

After spending an hour in a 400 degree oven, the apartment was filled with a wonderful smell of apples and cinnamon with a hint of the buttery crust.

Seriously....does it get any better than having fresh apple pie baking in your oven?
No. I don't think so.
Well, what does get better than having the smell of apple pie filling your home, is taking the pie out of the oven and having the perfect brown crust with a hint of bubbling apple filling peaking out form the slits.

I think I got this one right! Well...I hope so. We have yet to slice it and taste it. Unfortunately, we lack the vanilla ice cream that is a must with any apple pie, but I think a test slice is in my near future.

I also attempted a honey apple bread which is still sitting in the oven. I had to compromise on some of the ingredients that many standard apple bread recipes call for, so I am not sure what the final result will be for this one.
Despite making an apple pie and apple honey bread, I only used 6 apples. So sitting on our kitchen counter are about 30 more apples. So tomorrow I will be sending my dear husband to pick up more flour and disposable pie pans! I think many apple pies are in our future! A few will freeze for Thanksgiving and others will be taken to work and gifted to friends.

I don't think it is possible to think about fall without thinking about apples. There is something nostalgic about biting into an apple picked from a tree. Growing up, we lived next to a neighbor that had a large apple tree and they would let us pick and eat apples whenever the apples were ready. So not only does biting into a fresh apple remind me of the summer afternoons of staying out late with the neighborhood kids eating apples until we were sick, but a fresh picked apple, with the rough texture and odd shape, remind me that fall is upon us, the leaves will start to changing into a beautiful orange and yellow color, I will be turning another year older and the end of another year will be upon us soon. But until then, I am going to march right back to my kitchen and decide what to do with 20 lbs of delicious apples we have acquired! Happy Fall!

 Click here for more pictures of our day at the farm.

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