October 18, 2012 / Issue #26

Apple Picking – A New England Tradition

Picking apples

Photo Credit: JJ Toothman

It may sound cliche, but apple picking is a must do New England outing in the fall.

Have you been apple picking before? Of course you have. In fact, we bet you’ve been enough times that you are probably thinking, “OFC, are you kidding me? Apple picking is the best you can come up with for us this weekend?”  Listen, you can probably count the number of warm Sundays left in this year on one hand and once they are gone folks, it will be a long time (7 months!?!) before they return.

Don’t waste the majesty that is a fall New England Sunday sitting on the couch all day.  And the Pats’ season, if it’s anything like their past decade, won’t be ending until sometime around the first Sunday of February, so you will have plenty of opportunities to make chili and wear your snuggy later this winter. Get outside and enjoy yourself this weekend, orchard-style.

Setting The Stage

We like surprises. Getting them, giving them, they’re all good. (well, not all of them) So why not set the stage during breakfast for a surprise adventure.

Parent: Who wants to go on a surprise adventure?
Kids: We do!!!!
Parent: Great. I’ll give clues to see if you can guess what we are going to do today.
Kids: Clue! Give us a clue!
Parent: OK. Here’s your first clue…..We have to take a car ride to get there…Can you guess what it is?
Kids: Wally World, Dad!?!
Parent: No..they’re closed but I’ll give you another clue when we are all packed up and in the car.

Picking A Spot

There are a metric-fruit-ton of apple orchards in Massachusetts. Of course, some are better than others, but for your purposes, select something not too far from home, and to make it more fun for kids, look for a farm that has real trees rather than dwarf trees, so they can do some climbing.

What’s that? You want to know our favorite orchard? You’re one of those types, eh? Fine. Kimball Fruit Farm in Pepperill, MA is the best in our books. They practice IPM (Integrated Pest Management), which means they spray the fruit as little and as early in the season as possible. They are a third generation farm run by Carl and Marie Hill. We’ve had the opportunity to get to know Carl and he is great guy and a great farmer. Not only does he grow great produce and care deeply about his employees but he is always trying new varieties of fruits and vegetables. He introduced us to the best eating-out-of-your-hand apple in New England. Say it with us….”Honey Crisp!”. If you’ve had them before, you’re are probably already trying to figure out how to amuse the kids in the car for that drive to Pepperill. (‘Is it ethically corrupt to put on Toy Story at 9am if we are in the car going to an apple orchard?’) If you haven’t had one before, keep your eyes peeled at farmers markets and grab a few – you will be an instant convert.

Potential Clues To Mete Out During The Drive

  • You’ll have to climb
  • We’re bringing some of them home with us
  • They like it if you bite them
  • If you put enough of them together, we call them, “A Peck”
  • We’re going to do something with them when we get home
  • Do the words, “A la mode” mean anything to you?
Sitting on hill full of apple trees

Photo Credit: JJ Toothman

At The Orchard

Sure you’ll probably end up carrying them and it would be easier to just get one big bag (a peck), but splurge for the separate bags so each kid gets one. You can definitely grab some Macs, but make the effort to get a few other varieties so you and your kids can sample the differences (which are big) between some of the best New England has to offer. Here are a few we love:

  • Russet: This is probably more like what an apple was like before we started breeding them. Smaller and hardier with a rough skin, they are a good starting point to showcase the differences between the other apples on this list.
  • Ginger Gold: Big, gold and tart. It’s a relatively new variety, and it’s a solid raw eating apple.
  • Honeycrisp: Seriously, the best raw apple available. Just get some already. If you don’t trust us, at least trust Trevor.
  • Macoun: If you say this is your favorite apple, you probably lived through the Great Depression in New England. These are a great old school New England variety – think of it like an heirloom Mac. It’s normally pronounced like ‘Mac’ + ‘oun’(rhymes with ‘noun’) or ‘Macoon’(sounds like ‘racoon’), but some crotchety New England-type characters say it like this: ‘Mac-Ow-an’…We’ll leave it up to you, just don’t embarrass us. If you opt for ‘Mac-Ow-an’ you’d better be prepared to display your whittling skills on the front porch later.
  • Pink Lady: A sweet, juicy apple that is an admirable option if there are no Honey Crisps available.
  • Granny Smith: Get these for the pie.

Heading For Home

You had your fun, now hit the road. If everything went according to plan, you might have a picnic at a nearby park or grab a bite at a local restaurant. Either way, make sure those kids aren’t in the car and hungry for too long or it could get ugly. Especially because they know there’s pie to be made when you get home.

Photo Credit: Benny Mazur

Photo Credit: Benny Mazur


Apple pie. It’s good. Here’s a solid recipe with pie crust not made with lard. However, if you want to go whole hog, so to speak, try a recipe with lard in the crust. That’s how grandma made it and if there’s one thing she knew(besides how to pronounce ‘Macoun’), it was how to make an apple pie. And don’t forget the slice of room temperature cheddar.