An outing to pick Jersey Fresh apples at one of the Garden State’s pick-your-own farms is a magnificent way to soak up the splendor of late summer and early autumn days with their comfortable temperatures and beautiful golden light. The added bonus is toting home a bounty of sweet, tart, and crunchy goodness. Add your freshly harvested apples to homemade pies, cobblers, and applesauce; or pop them into lunch sacks.
If you’re venturing out to gather apples, keep these tips in mind. Look for apples free of marks and bruises and fruit that feels firm, not soft. Be gentle when picking and handling the apples so they don’t bruise. Be sure not to miss the prepared baked goods, apple cider, local honey and fruit jams and preserves often available in the farm’s market. When you get home, transfer your fruit to plastic bags and store it in the fridge. Be sure to wash the apples well before eating or using them in your favorite recipe. To prevent sliced or diced apples from turning brown, squeeze a little lemon juice over them.
No time to venture out and pick your own? Don’t fret. About 30 varieties of Jersey Fresh apples will also be available at supermarkets, farmers markets, and roadside stands around the state. And while they’re all delicious on their own (no pun intended), they can also be added to salads, or cooked up in applesauce or baked goods. Try a mix of several varieties to create your signature dish.
Apple lovers are beyond thrilled to find fresh apple cider available at some NJ farm markets and roadside stands. Freshly pressed apple cider is aromatic with a crisp, sparkling sweetness that tastes like fall in a glass (or mug). Even the deep golden color is fall-like. Apple cider is delicious icy cold, warmed with spices or at any temperature in between. Fresh apple cider happens to pair perfectly with another delectable bit of apple-y wonder found at NJ farm markets: cider donuts.
It’s been said that, the magic of a great apple cider is in the craftsperson making it. The fruit must be picked at its peak of flavor and pressed before flavor begins to decline. Combining the perfect blend of apples renders a cider with a flavor that balances sweetness, tartness, and aroma.
And here’s a quick cheat sheet to remind you of what’s what when it comes to apple tasting.
Sweet: Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, Delicious, and Macoun.
Sweet with a touch of tart: Jonagold, Macintosh, and Empire.
Slightly tart: Cortland, Stayman/Stayman Winesap, and Jonathan.
Green and quite tart: Granny Smith
Freeze well: Cortland, Golden Delicious, Empire, and Jonagold.
Click here to find Jersey Fresh farm produce in your county. Noted below are just two of many farms that offer pick-your-own events.
Johnson’s Corner Farm
133 Church Road
Apple picking starts in early September. Fall Festival weekends are popular events featuring live music, a corn maze, moon bounce, hayrides, and a food tent. The Harvest Gift Shop, Animal Farm, and Discovery Barnyard will keep the family entertained on a beautiful fall day. Don’t miss the wonderful farm market and mouthwatering apple cider donuts. Check their Facebook page for calendar updates.
Battleview Orchards Farm and Country Store
91 Wemrock Road
How fitting that Battleview Orchards has been owned and operated for four generations by a family named Applegate? Since 1908, New Jerseyans have flocked to the farm. Fresh pressed cider and apple cider donuts are available at The Country Store along with freshly baked pies, breads, and other baked goods. Call ahead or check their Facebook page to see if picking is available.