Tuesday, November 1, 2011

An apple a day

Apple signs at Mercier's Orchard, Blue Ridge, Georgia. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
 Our lovely North Georgia mountains, the foothills of the Appalachians that stretch up the Eastern seaboard, are blessed with stunning fall color and the apple harvest. We take a family trip one weekend each autumn to Blue Ridge, an idyllic town with apple barns nearby.

Blue Ridge train station. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Mercier sign. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Our favorite apple barn, and the largest, is Mercier's Orchard, in business since 1943. In fact, Mrs. Adele Mercier, now in her 90s, can be seen in the tasting room at the apple barn, still overseeing the business she and her husband built together. Mercier's has been savvy in the agri-tourism business, offering u-pick tours, rides through the orchard, and expansion into other fruits - cherries are expected around Memorial Day 2012, followed by strawberries and blueberries. Inside the apple barn, visitors can sample and purchase apple cider, buy apple-stuffed breads and fried pies from the bakery, and choose from many varieties of apples, including heirlooms. On our annual pilgrimage, we loaded up with Mutsus (we insist on calling them moot-soos, but have been told that the correct pronunciation is mutt-soo), also known as Crispins; Cameos; Granny Smiths; and my favorite, Macintosh, warmly reddish on the outside, pearly whiter-than-white on the inside, and unlike beautiful-but-bland Red Delicious, crispy and juicy sweet.

Limbertwig sign. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

This year, I came home with an heirloom variety, too, Limbertwigs, that I used in making an apple crisp. I discovered through the miracle of Google that there are many varieties called Limbertwig, and I'm not sure which one I bought. My review of the Limbertwig: an ok eating apple, similar to a Granny Smith, but not as tart or sweet. A fine apple for eating out of hand, but better for baking - it holds its shape in pies and crisps.

Basket of Limbertwig apples from Mercier Orchards. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

In fact, I made an apple crisp when we got home from Blue Ridge, a recipe that I'll share tomorrow, the first of a month full of apple recipes. Meanwhile, here are a few pictures from the glorious weekend in Blue Ridge and the North Georgia mountains.

We spent a few hours at Mercier's, on the you-pick tour where you could sample all you want, in addition to filling up your bag with juicy, ripe apples:

Apples at Mercier Orchards. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

In downtown Blue Ridge, under a true-blue dream of a sky, we ate lunch at the Beanery - I had a delicious chicken salad. It was a glorious day for a walk, taking in the sights of this small town in the North Georgia mountains.
The Beanery in downtown Blue Ridge. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Church in downtown Blue Ridge. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Blue Ridge Art Museum and the Statue of Liberty, petite, land-locked version. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
 The next morning, we headed north, crossing into Tennessee, searching for the most awesome corn maze. We found it. This one featured maps and stations throughout -clues were based on Bible or sports knowledge.

Build it and they will come. Corn maze. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Inside the corn maze. Lucy Mercer/ A Cook and Her Books

After an hour negotiating the corn labyrinth, Lil' Bit took a ride in the cutest kiddie train ever. Each cow car was made from a recycled drum and was sponsored by a local business. The girls also took turns milking "a cow." This is by far the most complacent cow ever to be milked.

Cow train. Lucy Mercer/ A Cook and Her Books

Cow train pulled by tractor. Lucy Mercer/ A Cook and Her Books
Complacent cows make for quality milk. Lucy Mercer/ A Cook and Her Books

More apple recipes:

Apple crisp
French thin-crust apple tart
Classic apple dumplings
Short-cut apple dumplings
Apple blondie

Three recipes that use apples:

Morning Glory Muffins
Kid-friendly sushi

 In the comments, please tell me your favorite apple varieties! Have you tried a new apple variety - I've seen Pinata apples, Jazz apples? Are heirloom varieties among your favorites?

Text and images copyright 2011, Lucy Mercer.


linda @spiceboxtravels said...

Lucy, for a moment I read that at "Mercer orchards." I grew up near fruit orchards and my childhood favorite is the Mutsu. Hard to get around here. I am excited for all of your apple recipes.

Chris said...

Love Merciers! Have you tried the moonshine taffy? Woohoo! I brought the pies to my teachers and they were happy campers.

Did you find the kitchen store in Blue Ridge? It sucks me (and my wallet) in every time!

lucy@acookandherbooks said...

Chris, thanks for reading! How did I miss the moonshine taffy? Must go back. The shops in Blue Ridge are absolutely charming, especially the kitchen store!