On Saturday we hopped in the van and headed to Woodstock, IL for some apple picking. Apple picking has become a family tradition for us now and each year we seem to bring home more and more apples. This year was no exception. After all the fun we have each year, and all the great things we can make with the apples we pick, we always can find new recipes and uses for the apples.
We have been having trouble finding orchards that don't make a carnival out of picking apples, while charging an arm and a leg for the carnival activities. The last few years we've gone to orchards that charged upwards of $4 or $5 for the kids to go and play at a special playground, ride in a tractor pulled "apple wagon" or get into a petting zoo. The worst part was that the orchard would charge for the adults to go into the playground area as well, but children could not go in unattended. Our kids had always had a great time picking apples, simply for the act of picking apples and spending time with their family. We usually bought some apple cider doughnuts and called it a great day. But since going to these orchards that tried to make apple picking an "event," we got tired of telling our kids "no" only to hear them whine about how all the other kids got to go to the playground.
So this year we searched for orchards that were actually about picking apples and found several great options within a two hour drive of home. We decided on Homestead Orchard and after lunch headed out there. We discovered a small family run orchard with many cars parking on the road outside the entrance to the orchard. This was surely a good sign and we pulled in and parked. There were no gimmicks or slides to be found anywhere! And lo and behold, not one whine from the kids.
We were given directions of which trees we could pick from and each of us was given a bag. The girls received 1/4 peck bags while Ian, Brendan and I all got peck bags. We spent about 45 minutes picking and eating apples, then went into the shop to buy them. We bought $40 worth of apples and headed back home. My only complaint would be that they didn't have any apple cider doughnuts, almost as much a part of the tradition as the actual apple picking. Zoe was the only one to mention it, so I promised her an ice cream sandwich when we got home and she brightened up considerably.
It was a great day, and now I'm gearing up for pie, cake, muffin and applesauce making.
I made my first batch of applesauce today and thought I'd share my recipe with you all. We all love it, and it is very easy!
Enough apples to fill up your crock pot (I used 20 small apples)
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Peel, core, and quarter apples. Place in crockpot. Pour in water. Add sugar and cinnamon. Stir apples to mix in sugar and cinnamon. Here is what my crockpot looked like after this step:
Turn crockpot to low. After two hours stir. Your apples should look something like this:
After two more hours (4 hours in crockpot) stir again. Here's what my apples looked like at this stage:
An hour and a half later (at the 5 1/2 hour mark), stir apples and begin breaking them up against the side of the crockpot. They should break apart very easily.
If you like chunky applesauce, stop here. If you like a slightly smoother texture like I do, you can take about 1 1/2 cups of the applesauce and put it in a blender. Blend until smooth like baby food. Pour back into the applesauce in the crock pot and stir together. When it is done it will look something like this:
This is absolutely delicious warm, and the way my nine year old son likes it best. you could easily make this without sugar if you want to make it healthier, and cooking it on high would be fine, but it should only take about three hours total. This applesauce freezes great! My batch made about 6 cups of applesauce. I plan on making at least one more batch in the next few weeks so that we will have plenty of applesauce for the upcoming holidays and whenever else we want to have some.