Here at the Lake George Examiner, when we flip the calendar page from August to September and autumn leaves begin to cover the walk, our thoughts turn to Macintosh, Cortland and Empire. We keep a basket of apples in the office year-round, but the best, the very best, are those we pick ourselves each fall. The mountains rising from the Lake George shore make for stunning scenery, but they leave little room for planting orchards. Finding a u-pick apple orchard for crisp, fresh-off-the-tree fruit entails a road trip to neighboring Washington County.
If you are looking for the full “apple orchard scene” with hayrides, cider donuts, corn mazes, gift shops, scarecrows, goats, etc., you’ll find all that, and more, at Hicks Orchard in Granville or Saratoga Apple in Schuylerville. If you prefer a farm experience without crowds, head towards Vermont.
The Apple Hill Orchard, on County Route 21 in Whitehall —if you pass a “Welcome to Vermont” sign, turn around, you’ve gone too far — is operated by John and Julie Barber with mother/mother-in-law Linda Barber. Their orchard has rows and rows of apple-laden trees overlooking a panorama of farmlands and mountains.
Julie tells us the 2017 crop is spectacular — “This year we have an abundance, it’s wonderful!” The orchard opened for u-pick Sept. 9 and will remain open seven days a week, 9 a.m. to 6p.m., through October. The Macintosh apples are ripe, and the Empires should be ready towards the end of the month.
From Lake George Village, it is a 45-minute drive that will take you past brilliant fall foliage along Route 149 and Route 4 through Whitehall. The orchard is three-tenths of a mile down County Route 21. There’s nothing fancy there, just pull into the parking lot, and some really friendly people will sell you empty half-bushel bags and arm you with a pole picker to help bring in the crop.
The prices are lower than you’ll find at larger orchards, and if you hit it right, Apple Hill may have some pumpkins for sale along with those half-bushel bags. If you don’t have the time or inclination to romp around an orchard picking your own apples, they do have bags of pre-picked available.
Perhaps the best way to eat freshly picked apples is to just bite into them and have a napkin handy for the juice running down your chin. The second best way is to make our favorite fall snack, apple brownies. They have all the dense moistness of chocolate brownies without the guilt because, hey, it’s fruit.
Lake George Examiner Apple Brownies
You will need:
- 1 cup vegetable oil (We use canola)
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
Mix these together and stir in:
- 3 cups chopped apples (5 to 8, depending on size. Peel and core before chopping)
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- Pinch of nutmeg
Spread batter in a lightly-greased 9” by 13” pan.
Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes.