Nothing quite says fall like biting into a fresh, aromatic apple. While the grocery store offers only a handful of varieties, there are dozens of different types of apples grown in Wisconsin. You and your kids will find exotic names like Northern Sky and Fireside at farmers' market stands. Organize a taste test with several varieties to show them how one type of fruit can be different colors, taste sweet or tart, and feel firm or tender. Better yet, spend the afternoon at an apple orchard to pick your own. A day frolicking among the apple trees will make everyone feel like a kid.
The first apple orchards were planted in Wisconsin around 1840. They were here even before dairy farms. We might have been appleheads instead of cheeseheads if Holsteins hadn't taken over. Apple trees are capable of producing fruit when they are 200 years old, so some of those original trees could still be bearing apples. Different apple varieties are ready to pick at different times in the late summer and fall. According to Tom Griffiths of Door Creek Orchard, the best time to pick is in September and the first few weeks of October.
If your family does go apple picking, you will need a plan for what to do with all the fruit. Making applesauce is a good way to use lots of apples and easy enough for kids to participate. Applesauce freezes well, too, so your family can enjoy the taste of local apples into the winter months.
(Recipe from www.elise.com)
- 3 to 4 lbs. peeled, cored, and quartered apples
- 4 strips lemon peel (use a vegetable peeler to strip 4 lengths)
- juice of one lemon
- 3 inches of cinnamon stick
- 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
- up to 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Put all ingredients into a large pot. Cover. Bring to boil. Lower heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat. Remove cinnamon sticks and lemon peels. Mash with potato masher. Lasts up to one year in a cold freezer.
Pick-your-own orchards near Madison
Door Creek Orchard: 3252 Vilas Rd., Cottage Grove, 608-838-4762
10 am-6 pm Mon.-Fri., 9 am-5 pm Sat.-Sun. through Oct. 31, weekend hours in November
Eplegaarden: 2227 Fitchburg Rd., Fitchburg, 608-845-5966
9 am-7 pm Tues., 9 am-5 pm Wed.-Sat., 11 am-5 pm Sun., through Oct. 31; 9 am-noon Tues., Thurs., & Sat. in November