Every year, thanks to our friends Jordan and Mary Anne (and now Marley) we go apple picking, followed by days of baking and eating apple treats. This year, a little short on time, we decided to take a chance and visit a different orchard. It was closer to home (about 5 minutes away) and seemed to be less busy.
Carluke Orchards is located on Shaver Road, just outside of Ancaster. It is a regular stop for cookies from their market and a ride on a swing on our way home from buying fresh chicken. But this time we stopped in for the main attraction - The orchard.
We started out by picking our half bushel of Northern Spy and Ida Red apples, both are good for pies and apple sauce. This took no time at all, since the apples are big. Next we went on a hay ride around the farm.
This is where we met Cherie, our guide. I quickly started asking questions about the land, and what they grow, which includes apples, pears, pumpkins, wheat and soybeans. Then I asked if they sprayed their apples (I am finding it hard to find places that don't). Her answer was yes. However, she said they they do it very minimally and only when absolutely needed.
Cherie said they have a few preventative measures to help minimize the amount they need to spray. First they spray the trees with a natural mineral oil. This is used to suffocate insects and pests, but they can only do it in the spring, before the tree has any blossoms or fruit. When the trees are in bloom, they're full of lady bugs and the honey bees that are essential for pest control and most importantly, pollination.
They also prune their trees more often than others. She said this opens up the canopy and allows more air circulation making it less of a haven for pests and disease. Then they do sample pest counts in various areas of the orchard and if the amount reaches a threshold, they'll spray, but only in the areas that pass that threshold.
So, yes they spray their apples. But we can't find anyone who doesn't in our area. The best we can do is to keep asking the question so they know that someone cares. A little pressure is good.
After your trip to the orchard you can go into their little store/bakery where they sell honey that is produced on their farm, jams, jellies, pickles, and of course, cider. There is a bakery counter with cookies, muffins, breads and other yummy treats (Jesse bought the most delicious loaf I've eaten in a while, potato scallion bread, yum!).
So if you are up for a lovely fall adventure, head over to Carluke Orchards, or find an orchard local to you. Hurry before they're completely done. You definitely won't regret it.
Mellamade Apple Pie
For The Crust
• 5 1/2 cups all purpose flour (this time I used 3 cups white and 2 1/2 whole wheat)
• 2 tsp salt
• cut in 1 lb of non-hydrogenated lard
• in a one cup measuring cup mix 1 egg, 1 tbs vinegar and top up to one cup with cold water
Mix in only enough of the wet mixture for the dough to stick together (if it is too sticky, put it in the fridge for a while).
For the Filling
• peel, core and slice apples
• mix in some lemon juice, cinnamon, vanilla and honey (Neumann's Honey)
Assemble Pies, top with an egg wash.
Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, then another 40-50 minutes at 350 degrees.
Serve with Vanilla Icecream!