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New England’s orchards: It’s a family affair – apple picking and recipies

By Linda Beaulieu

Some of my fondest childhood memories involve Sunday drives into the country with my parents. In the summer, there was sweet corn to be bought and there were wild blueberries to be picked. If I was a good girl that week, there would be pony rides at a local farm.

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(Editor’s note – recipes and Rhode Island apple orchards list are at the end of this article.)

By Linda Beaulieu

Some of my fondest childhood memories involve Sunday drives into the country with my parents. In the summer, there was sweet corn to be bought and there were wild blueberries to be pickedCookbook cover photo-min. If I was a good girl that week, there would be pony rides at a local farm. In the fall, it was all about the apples that we picked in fragrant orchards, apples that my mother would transform into delicious baked goodies.

In today’s hectic high-tech world, it would do all of us a great deal of good to put our smartphones away and take a ride out into the Rhode Island countryside where there are dozens of orchards, farms, and farm stands waiting to be experienced. That’s what I discovered when I was asked to write my new book, The New England Orchards Cookbook.

In the six months I had to write this book, I explored all six New England states, motoring south into Connecticut, then north into Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Even in my home state of Rhode Island, I found myself driving down rural roads I had never before traveled, and I got to see firsthand the many orchards I had heard about, from Appleland Orchards in Smithfield to the Young Family Farm in Little Compton. I also got to sample some of the best apple cider doughnuts on earth.

Everywhere I went, I met the nicest people, orchard owners and farmers, and one word came up again and again – family. New England’s beautiful orchards and farms are run by families, and their primary customers are other families in search of locally produced fruit at the peak of each season.

Almost every pick-your-own orchard has dwarf fruit trees with low-hanging branches that make for easy picking by children. If you are purchasing “drops,” children will feel like they are being very helpful as they gather up the fruit that has dropped from the trees and is on the ground. Drops are usually sold at a lower price because they might be bruised, but this fruit can still be used in many recipes. Check first with the orchard staff to see if they are selling their drops to the public. Some apple orchards use their drops to make cider.

Many orchards do make cider, but that often takes place behind the scenes. It’s best to visit a genuine cider mill to watch the old-fashioned methods of turning apples into sweet cider. B.F. Clyde’s Cider Mill in nearby Old Mystic, Connecticut, is the oldest steam-powered cider mill in the United States.

Perhaps the best part of a day spent visiting local orchards and farms is getting home with all the ingredients needed to make delicious home-baked goodies, such as the Apple Crisp from Sweet Berry Farm in Middletown, or the Peach-Blueberry Upside Down Cake from the Rhode Island Fruit Growers, an association of 40 local farmers dedicated to growing the highest quality fresh fruits.

With all that said, I hope you get to go exploring the orchards of Rhode Island and beyond. Visit orchards near and far. Start making memories your children will someday cherish.

Linda Beaulieu, of Lincoln, is an award-winning food and travel writer who received the prestigious James Beard Award for magazine writing for a National Culinary Review article on Native American food. In addition to The New England Orchards Cookbook, she is the author of The Providence & Rhode Island Cookbook and the Providence and Rhode Island Chef ’s Table.

Apple Cider Muffins
Appleland Orchards, Smithfield 

  • 4 cups flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 cup chopped apples

Preheat oven to 400°F. Prepare a muffin tin with paper liners or grease and flour. In a large bowl, combine the flour and baking powder. In another bowl, beat the eggs and add the vanilla, cinnamon, sugar, oil, and cider. Mix well and then add to the flour mixture. Fold in the walnuts, raisins, and chopped apples. Pour an equal amount of batter into each part of the muffin tin. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a muffin tests done with a toothpick. Makes 12 large muffins.

Apple Crisp
Sweet Berry Farm, Middletown 

  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 8 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
  • Juice and zest from 1 large lemon

For the topping:

  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • Oats, if desired
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 stick cold butter, cut into cubes

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a baking pan or casserole dish (9 x 12-inch or the equivalent). In a

large bowl, sift the dry ingredients together. Toss the apples and lemon into the bowl with the dry ingredients. Mix well. Place the apple mixture into the prepared baking dish. In another bowl, gently mix together all the topping ingredients. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the apple mixture. Bake in the 350°F oven for 30–40 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream, if desired. Makes 8–10 servings.

Apple picking list

In her new book, The New England Orchards Cookbook, Rhode Island author Linda Beaulieu visited the local orchards listed below and got apple and berry recipes from them, which appear in the cookbook. She writes “The first North American apple variety was developed in Rhode Island by William Blackstone in the 1600s. The Rhode Island Greening apple—crisp, juicy, and quite tart—is the official state fruit. That apple originated around 1650.” Now is your family’s chance to get out into the pick-your-own orchards!

Appleland Orchard
135 Smith Avenue
Smithfield, RI 02828

Barden Family Orchard
56 Elmdale Road
North Scituate, RI 02857

Dame Farm And Orchard
91B Brown Avenue
Johnston, RI 02919

Elwood Orchard
58 Snake Hill Road
North Scituate, RI 02857

Goodwin Brothers Farm Stand
458 Greenville Road
North Smithfield, RI 02896

Harmony Farms
359 Saw Mill Road
North Scituate, RI 02857

Hill Orchards
86 Winsor Avenue
Johnston, RI 02919

Jaswell’s Farm
50 Swan Road
Smithfield, RI 02917

Knight Farm
1 Snake Hill Road
North Scituate, RI 02857

Narrow Lane Orchard
213 Narrow Lane
North Kingstown. RI 02852

Phantom Farms
2920 Diamond Hill Road
Cumberland, RI 02864

Pippin Orchards
751 Pippin Orchard Road
Cranston, RI 02921

Rocky Brook Orchard
997 Wapping Road
Middletown, RI 02842

Steere Orchard
150 Austin Avenue
Smithfield, RI 02828

White Oak Farm
74 White Oak Lane
North Scituate, RI 02857