Sunday, October 11, 2009

Apple Biking

Mmmm, apple scraps are yummy!
Maggie is making apple pie, and I'm writing while enjoying the left over apples.

Yes, it is autumn, and we just came back from picking apples and seeing the New England foliage change, while on a bicycle ride.

We rode along the Nashua River Trail with two new friends, Megan & Kyle. We started at the train station in Ayer and rode north with a brunch stop in Groton Center.

After brunch we continued on the trail to Sand Hill Road (marked by another small parking lot) where we exited the trail in order to reach our destination of Autumn Hills Orchard on Chicopee Row.

View Nashua River Trail to Orchards in a larger map

The roads to the orchard are back roads, with little traffic on a Sunday afternoon. Chicopee Row was a bit busier. It is mostly uphill to the orchard, steep at the end. This was handy later.

The orchard is on a hill with the red barn at the bottom. This is a view of the barn from the top. Between the apple trees, you can see our bikes leaned against the barn.

Rows of Macouns, Empires, Courtlands, Mutzus, Golden Delicious, Sun Crisp, Spencers, Kendals, and surely more! And gorgeous views!

Reaching for the highest Mutzus.

The folks at the orchard were extremely nice, and bicycle friendly. They sent us a very nice email when I asked if they were open and if bikes were welcome. They had some cyclists visit earlier this year, who picked too much to carry home, and so the orchard organized an apple delivery.

Now this is why I was glad the trail was mostly downhill from here. One bag, ten pounds, we had four bags. That's a lot of weight on our 3-speeds.

We left the orchard about 90 minutes before the train departed Ayer, and we had about 30 minutes to spare.

After a short train ride home, it was time to make apple pie.

Rolling out the crust.

From Apple Bikes
The apple corer, slicer & peeler. A valuable tool when you have 40 pounds of apples. Of course we were too tired to do more than two pies tonight. But in a few days we'll be floating in apple sauce!

And now for how.

Quite easy, I'd say.

We took the train from Porter Sq to Ayer. Check the MBTA schedule for the Fitchburg/South Acton commuter rail line. Make sure you know the time the train leaves Ayer to go home, you don't want to miss the train. There is a cafe on main street if you have time to kill. It helps to have a back up plan, like the next train time and cash for dinner.

Getting the bikes on the train isn't too difficult, so long as you can lift the bike up and down the four steps onto the train. The conductor will tell you where to put your bike, but it is usually in the handicap space near each entrance. When carrying 20 pounds of apples, make two trips.

Where to go, well my map above shows
Autumn Hills Orchard a round trip of about 17 miles. The map also shows another orchard in New Hampshire if you want to ride further, Brookdale Farms, round trip would be about 32 miles.

If you'd like to stop in Groton exit the bike path at the parking lot with a blue building labeled "Buckingham." The town center is one block away via Station St.

Potentially more important than the above is how to make Apple Pie, here's Maggie & her recipe.

Hi there. I come from a family of pie makers. My parents raised four kids who can make pie. When I would bring friends home from college I would nap while my Mom showed them how to make pie. I've been doing it since I could wield a pastry cutter. If I make pie for my dad, he says "This is really good, almost as good as your Mom's. You just need a little more practice."

I like to make my own crust, but if you're uncomfortable with that, just buy a frozen one at the store. If you want to give homemade crust a try, just be flexible, and don't get too wound up in having a beautiful pie. It will taste good even if it all falls apart into a crumbly mess.

1 cup white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup shortening
5-6 ish tbsp ice water*

Mix flours and salt. Cut in shortening and butter using pastry cutter (or two knives, a fork, your hands, or a food processor) until the crumbly bits are the size of split peas. Sprinkle ice water over the mixture and stir with a fork to combine. It will still look quite crumbly, but it will stick together if you pinch it. Pour half of the mixture onto a floured surface (I use a piece of canvas). Smoosh it together into a disk. Roll it out out until it is approx. 11 inches across. Transfer to 9" pie plate. Roll out other half of dough and set aside while you make the filling.

*I was feeling fancy tonight, so I mixed 1/4 cup ice water with one egg and a splash of lemon juice. Ice water works just fine too.

6-8 apples peeled and sliced
1/4 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
generous sprinkle of cinnamon
sprinkle of nutmeg

Toss ingredients together and pour into prepared crust. Top with second crust. Trim and pinch edges. Cut several vent holes in the top. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 and bake for 30 minutes more. Pie is ready when crust is golden and filling is bubbly. Enjoy!

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