Saturday, September 26, 2015

Julian Apple Picking | Pear & Apple Crisp



I always wait until fall is in full swing before it occurs to me to go apple-picking, and that - if you know anything about apple-picking - is already too late. So I was grateful to a friend who suggested it nice and early this year, and we made plans to have our families meet up the hour's drive away out in Julian, California.


July and August always get credit for being the most "summery" of months, but September is like hell on Earth here in SoCal to me. You might get snow flurries out in Julian in October, but standing in the sun in September makes you feel like you're a vampire who got caught outside her coffin at sunrise: it actually hurts, even just for a moment.


But nevermind all that when there's fruit to be picked! Last year we went to Volcan Valley Apple Farm and it has a nice winery on the premises - and I do highly recommend them if apples and wine is your thing - but we decided to try something new this year and check out the apple and pear orchard just down the road called Apple Starr Orchard.


The kids loved the access to the fruit-pickers for the fruit out of reach of their little arms, and I loved the fresh pears.


Who knew that Julian grew such delicious pears? They were the best we'd ever tasted. And the apples were sour, but sweet too.


We had a lovely bounty to bring home.


However, we have Verizon cell service and this pocket of land where the orchard is located gave me NO cell service... and the friends we were meeting fled the heat as soon as their bags were filled, and headed back to Poway. Other friends stopped at Volcan Orchards and never made it down the road to Apple Starr. And I couldn't communicate with any of them without cell service. So we were forced - forced, I say! - to head into the adjacent Menghini Winery for refuge.


The kids took a break from harvesting fruit as if I had been some kind of hardcore slave-driver.


 I considered my wine options while taking a look around.
 

We rated the wine as just okay... which is to say that I still really liked it because I was so happy to be sipping fermented fruit juice in the shade of their tasting room. There was some live folksy-type music playing out back that drifted in though the open door whether you liked it or not, and personally I would also rate that as a negative. You might love it though. If you have terrible taste in music.


We enjoyed nosing around the steel tanks. A bit of viniculture for you.


We also hit Julian Hard Cider which was a genuine hit - they had amazing food, a delicious assortment of ciders (plus beer on tap, plus a wine-tasting room soon to come), and also a kids' play room. You could really spend a few hours just HERE with the kids and everyone would have a really good time.


We did move on though, mostly to satisfy the craving for the best apple pie on the planet: the one made by Julian Pie Company. The slice below has cinnamon ice cream on top and is just nirvana-inducing.


Has some fool tried to tell you that you can get a good apple pie anywhere in Julian? Don't believe them. We've suffered through lots of sub-par slices for you and I couldn't agree more with the words of the following review - and I cut off all the reviews below #3 (because you don't even need to know who they are, just eat at Julian Pie Co.) Also: I think the words written about "Mom's Pies" are too kind... the crust isn't nearly good enough to salvage that thing.


So we brought home our bounty and I separated the pears and the apples first, thinking I would make different things with them.


I didn't! I just made my favorite (and my family's favorite) Apple Crisp with both apples and pears.


All you have to do is peel (or not, but I like mine peeled) and slice a couple of small apples and a couple of pears.


Mix together the following in a large bowl:

1.5 Cups oats
1.5 Cups flour
1.5 Cups brown sugar
1.5 teaspoons cinnamon
then add in 1 Cup of melted butter; more if your apples are particularly dry.


Put half of the mixture in a small baking pan, add the slices of apples (and pears if using). This baking pan is not the standard size, and actually fits into my little counter top Breville Smart Oven. It's convenient if you're using your standard oven to make dinner or roast/bake anything slow... you can then throw this together while dinner cooks.


Add the other half of the crumble mixture over top the slices and put into the oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Perfect to pop into the oven before dinner so that you have it nice and piping hot when it's time for dessert! You needn't cook it while drinking wine like I did, but I can't really think of a better way to cook.


And here is the finished product. Definitely double the recipe and put it into a larger, more traditional baking pan if you can... believe it or not, leftovers of this heated up in the microwave taste as good as the minute it comes out of the oven. I hadn't tried it with pears before, and have to say that the pears stole the show: this is one dish that loves a sweet and juicy fruit, so if you use only apples, make them sweet, and make sure they're juicy.


And since we're on the topic of apple recipes, I thought I'd throw this in. You can never have too many recipes for all those apples you picked. This one is from Georgia Pelligrini and hers is way cuter: it's a French Apple Tart. Also check out this amazing French Pear Tart from Dorie Greenspan. Are you sensing a theme here? Tarts are the way to go for your apple and pear bounty.

Thanks for looking, and happy picking and baking!
xo


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