This story was first published in Sept. 2017 and was updated in Sept. 2018, just in time for fall.
I returned from a week in Dallas to fall weather in Charlotte. My windows are open and my sweaters are itching to come down from the attic. This happens to be my favorite season.
Fall also means apples, apple pie and cider.
There are many farms and orchards within an easy drive of Charlotte, some with pick-your-own option and others that bring in apples from other orchards. If you’ve already been apple picking, check out the apple recipes below from local and regional chefs.
Here are three farms that offer apples by way of picking or grabbing from the barrel:
2951 Chimney Rock Rd., Hendersonville, NC 28792
Come for the apples, stay for the apple cider donuts, apple turnovers and cider slushies. There are picnic tables, rocking chairs and plenty of spaces for blankets. The picturesque view of the orchard, mountains and small pond is perfect for photo ops.
Hours: Open daily through November 2018, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.
Apples through late October: Pick-your-own Honey Crisp, Red Rome, Winesap, Cameo, Granny Smith, Mutsu and others. You can also get pre-picked apples, fresh from the trees, inside the store.
Activities: Get lost in the 5-acre corn maze, ride the cow train and jump on the bouncing pillow.
1025 Orchard Rd., Spruce Pine, NC 28777
The Orchard at Altapass is a nonprofit organization that specializes in heritage apples.
“We try to stick with apple types that are 60 to 100 years old,” said Katie Medford, 2017 store manager. “Part of our mission is to maintain the southern Appalachian culture.”
Look for a farm-to-table grill on the premises for meal options.
2018 season hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday; Closed Monday and Tuesday through October
Apples through late October: Pick-your-own-apples are unavailable during the 2018 season due to late spring frosts and freezes (apple varieties have previously included the Grimes Golden, Rome Beauty, Stayman Winesap, King Luscious and Red Delicious). Apples are still available for purchase in the Orchard Store, though — browse Jonagold, Stamen Winesap and Gold. Get apples packaged in the store for $10 per peck (about 8 dry quarts) or $6 per half-peck.
Activities: Storytelling hay rides are $5 per person. Listen to live music or hike The Eric L. Gressel Memorial Trails.
The Shed at Cooley Farm, 3097 Highway 11 West, Chesnee, SC 29323
Strawberry Hill USA has been around since the early 1900s growing peaches. Over the years, they diversified with strawberries and blackberries. Get spooky with their Flashlight Night in the Maze.
Hours: 8 a.m.-8 p.m. daily during the season (the Shed is open through Nov. 2, 2018).
Apples through February: Apples are brought in from Hendersonville farms, where the temperature is more conducive for growing apples from HoneyCrisp to Fuji. Call for specific varieties available, (864) 461-7225.
Activities: Walk the corn maze ($7-$8) or bring a flashlight for the night maze ($9-$10). Take a one-hour Wagon Ride Adventure ($9). A pie-sized pumpkin is included in the price. See the hours/dates for the activities here.
Got apples, now what?
Try one of these apple recipes from local and regional chefs:
Apple Bacon Quiche Filling
Susan Murray, author of “Our Family Table: Recipes & Lessons from a Life Abroad,” is also the innkeeper and chef at Carolina Bed & Breakfast in Asheville.
-2 cups diced apple (It’s best to use apples that will hold their shape. Consider mixing Granny Smith and Honey Crisps)
-2 tablespoons maple syrup
-1 tablespoon unsalted butter
-15 slices bacon, cooked until crisp
-1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Gruyere cheese
-Melt butter in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add the diced apple and sauté until they are starting to soften, 2-3 minutes Add the maple syrup and continue cooking until the apples are glazed and the liquid is gone, about two minutes—stir occasionally.
-Chop or crumble 10 slices of bacon and add to the apples in the pan. Stir well.
Sprinkle 3/4 cup of the grated cheese in the pie crust and top with the apple-bacon mixture.
Finish with remaining cheese. Makes enough for one Basic Quiche.
Heidi’s Apple and Pistachio Tart
Charlotte culinary expert Heidi Billotto teaches a variety of area cooking classes all featuring local products and writes about local food, chefs and restaurants across the Carolinas on her blog at HeidiBillottoFood.com. This apple pie recipe was originally included in her post on local North Carolina apples. Read more here.
– Dough for one nine-inch pie
FOR THE PISTACHIO CREAM:
– 1/2 cup powdered sugar
– 4 Tbsp. butter, softened
– 1 1/3 cup ground pistachios
– 2 eggs
– 3 Tbsp. cream, for glazing
FOR THE HONEY BUTTER:
– 2 Tbsp. honey
– 3 Tbsp. butter
– ¼ cup apple cider
– Roll the dough out on a sheet of parchment paper and then fit into a 9 or 10-inch false-bottom tart pan. Chill the pastry shell in the refrigerator.
– To make the pistachio cream: Combine the sugar and butter and beat until creamy. Gradually add the ground pistachios and the egg.
– Spread the pistachio cream in a smooth layer in the bottom of the pastry shell.
– Cut the apples into thin slices and arrange then in concentric circles on top of the pistachio cream. Bake the tart on a baking sheet in a preheated 400-degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven drizzle with honey butter cool slightly and serve
– For the Honey Butter: In a saucepan combine the honey, butter and the sweet white wine. Stir to mix. Bring the honey mixture to a boil and cook until it has reduced by half.
Find recipes for her Apple and Pistachio Tart, pie crust and other variations of apple pies here.
Pickled 8 Spice Apples
Jesse Roque is owner and executive chef at Never Blue in Hendersonville. Her recipes have been featured in “Chefs of the Mountains: Restaurants and Recipes from Western North Carolina” and “Fine Dining: Tennessee Style.”
-6 sterilized 1-pint jars with lids
-1 1/3 cups distilled white vinegar
-1 cup rice wine vinegar
-1 tablespoon Mirin (rice cooking wine)
-12 whole all-spice berries
-4 cinnamon sticks
-½ teaspoon mustard seed
-½ teaspoon celery seed
-1 teaspoon smoked Maldon Salt (available on Amazon)
-1 two-inch piece lemongrass cut into thin rounds
-2 cloves garlic minced
-1 teaspoon grated ginger
-½ cup honey
-2 cups palm sugar
-1 pinch chili threads or 1 red Thai chili cut into rounds (to taste)
-6 granny smith apples peeled cored and sliced into very thin slices. (I use a food processer with the 4mm blade to slice these)
-In a large sauce pan combine all your ingredients except the apples and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and add apples. Cook for 2-3 minutes stirring frequently.
-Ladle apples into prepared jars and fill with liquid leaving 1-inch head room in the jar. Seal the jar using the water-bath method or steam-canning method. (Adjust your time if necessary for altitude.)
-Store in a cool dark place and allow apples to develop flavor for 4-6 days before eating. Yields 5 to 6 (1-pint) jars.
Photos: Sam Dean Photography