Last week we had a little mid week adventure. The Michigan Apple Committee emailed me and asked if I would like to be part of a bloggers tour for Michigan Apples. You must know how much I love apples for baking in the fall by now, so I said yes! I boldly asked if I could bring Earl with me, (why not make it a mid-week date!?) and they kindly said yes. The day was bright and sunny, windy, but not too cold. We grabbed a cup of coffee and drove the two hours to Grand Rapids for the tour.
We started at Sietsema Orchard
for a farm to table lunch served up by Saburba of Ada, Michigan.
It included all sorts of dishes that incorporated apples, including a veggie burger with slices of cheese and apple on focaccia, sausage with apples, a delicious slice of something like apple crisp but firmer and more like a cookie and a fabulous potato salad with tiny blue and gold potatoes. We enjoyed it all in the brisk autumn air at a table set up under a pergola before we got to tour the orchard.
The only blurry photo I was able to get of all of us at the table. My only regret was that there was very little time to really meet and get to know any of the other bloggers. It was a jam packed tour and it didn't leave a lot for time for introductions.
It's a lot of fun seeing the behind the scenes reality of the orchard. Sietsema's Orchard makes not only regular cider, but hard cider. You can see the crates of apples and the vats and oak casks involved in the photo below. They have one type of hard cider that is made with heirloom apples and part of the proceeds benefit a local hospital. The orchard itself is homey and pretty. They offer farm to table dinners to the public and they seem to sell out quickly, so if you are in the area I would suggest you make reservations well in advance. If the food we ate was any indication, it would be a really great meal.
Our next stop was Younquist Farms in Kent City, Michigan, where we learned about growing apples and got a first hand look at the harvest. It was so beautiful there, and amazing to see crate after crate of freshly picked apples ready to go to the plant to be processed. We also learned a lot about apple growing, and Earl and I think we might want to add a very small stand of apple trees to the garden in the near future.
Then it was off to Jack Brown Produce, Inc. in Sparta. Jack Brown is a packing house and it was so interesting to see behind the scenes. The crates you see below are apples that are placed in huge storage areas to be stored throughout the year. Ever wonder how the apples you buy in March are as fresh and firm as the ones you buy in October? These storage areas are sealed and the oxygen is replaced with nitrogen to basically put the apples to sleep. I was also surprised at how many steps there are to packaging, everything from floating the apples out of the crates (because they have to be unbruised and undamaged through all of this!) to washing, sorting, waxing and bagging.
But lets get real here. Most of us don't want to hear the statistics, like Michigan is #3 in apple production in the U.S., we don't need the details of how they are grown and processed. Fascinating as it is, we are more focused on one thing. Eating them!
And of course, one of my favorite ways to eat apples is in apple pie!
I made 10 this weekend. And no, I didn't eat a single pie, not a bite.
But I'll share with you. Tomorrow, my recipe for apple pie :>)
What is your favorite autumn use for apples?
I was compensated for this post in the form of gas reimbursement and a bag of apples. No profit was made and all opinions are my own, as usual ;>)