It’s become tradition the last four years that it’s not truly fall until a trip to Long Island happens – four friends escaping the city for a day of fall fun. There’s brunch, cider donuts, tastings at North Fork wineries, and a corn maze. This year though, the trip came early enough that there was a new option – apple picking.
I can’t recall ever having been, though I’ve long had a fondness for apple season (likely due to it coinciding with my birth month, which I believe every kid automatically loves). I’ll admit, from the setup, I wasn’t sure how fun it would be for us adults. We arrived at Harbes Farm and were surrounded by strollers and children, one who thought it was funny and cute somehow to reach up and grab my rear as we waited in the super long ride to be taken around and into the orchard.
The line managed to move relatively quickly. We were set loose into our permissible rows (only certain rows are opened at a given time in an attempt to ensure the orchard is not completely ravaged). Thankfully, they opened an additional row while we were there as the rows up to that point were bare, with almost all of the apples decorating the floor.
We ended up with roughly 16 apples. So many apples to put to use! The first thing on my “to make” list was a no-brainer: apple butter. Growing up, this was an annual thing in our house. Homemade is in fact way better than anything you can buy in the store. My parents would make a batch, freeze it into smaller containers, which we’d then thaw and use over time. It lasts quite well and it’s perfect with fresh buttermilk biscuits.
- 6 pounds of tart apples
- 4 cups of cider or apple juice (plus extra, in case – see below*)
- 3 cups sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
I don’t have an apple corer, so I started by peeling and cutting the apples into slices. The original recipe I used (same my parents have used) intended to make the apple butter extremely smooth. I prefer it a bit chunky, highlighting the fresh flavor of the apples, so I prefer this rendition. Cook the apples in the juice (I used apple juice) until they are soft. This will take around 30 minutes.
Then boil for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. At this point, you’ll need to stir in the sugar and the spices.
Cook and stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Reduce to a gentle boil, stirring freqently until you reach the desired thickness. The recipe claims this should be around an hour, but I found this to be much less as I halved the recipe.
The apple butter will thicken once it cools, so take the pot off of the heat and watch as it cools. *If it thickens too much, use additional apple juice to thin it out, adding and stirring in gradually. Allow to fully cool before you can or preserve (I freeze mine in small containers, which I then heat up when I wish to consume).
Group & action shot courtesy of Joey Pasion.