Monday, October 5, 2009

Hicks Orchard, Granville New York, and a Celebrity Sighting

Yesterday my family and I drove to Hicks Orchard in Granville, New York, just a few miles from Vermont’s western border and an hour’s ride from Saratoga Springs. The orchard is celebrating its 104th season! Earlier in the day it was cloudy and cool but by the time we were in the orchard the sun was shining brightly and we were shedding our jackets and sweaters. We had a great time over-filling our bags with Honey Crisp apples. They were more expensive than the other varieties ($25 for a half-bushel) but well worth it. Henry had a great time toddling through the rows of trees and choosing his own apples from the lowest branches. His new teeth were put to the test! Last year, at five months, he was just a tiny little guy, and now he’s part of the action!

Before we started picking, we spent time in the orchard’s shops. The line for the cider donuts window stretched a very long way, so I assume they are terrific. I didn’t have the patience to wait, so I looked around at other options. There was a bouncy-bounce for the little ones. People were making their own scare crows at one station. Children wove their way through a corn maze. There were goats to see, and a live bee hive in the gift shop, its busy inhabitants visible through a pane of glass. The shop offered all things apple, including (for those who prefer not to pick) many varieties of the honored fruit, bagged and ready to go. Honey bees were flying everywhere indoors and out but no one seemed alarmed.

Among other activities, the orchard offered a wine tasting. There was a nice assortment and after the tasting (maybe because of it) I purchased a bottle of “Old Sin” whose label depicts Eve’s hand just about to pluck that famous apple from the branch! I especially liked this bubbly wine made from Macintosh and Golden Russet apples.

We had a celebrity sighting at this orchard, miles away from everything, in the middle of farm country. I noticed a cute Pit Bull decked out in a doggie sweater, pulling on its leash, and recognized the man at the other end of the leash as Rachael Ray’s husband, John. I looked up and saw her Mom and a number of other relatives. (Her husband and mother have been on television with her a number of times, thus the recognition). Then I saw Rachael herself, who seemed to be enjoying her day at the orchard. My daughter and her husband were showing Henry the goats, close to where R.R. and her contingent were gathered. Katie was nearby and said that some of the people recognized R.R. and were behaving in an annoying way, insisting on photos, etc., and I felt bad for her. She grew up in the Lake George area, and I imagine she comes “home” to avoid that kind of recognition. She's famous enough now that there are probably few places she can go and just “be.” I give her credit for continuing what I assume are her long-held family traditions, and doing the things she’s always done when she comes home. In some ways, she lives a life most of us can only dream of, but it certainly comes with a price. Anyway, she looked lovely and it was exciting to see her.

When we got home, Katie and I sliced up eight good-sized apples, and "Granny Syd" made a crust from the Joy of Cooking cookbook. Sydney is an accomplished pie baker, and she confidently tossed the sliced apples with unmeasured quantities of flour, sugar, and apple pie spice. I’d guess it was almost ½ cup of flour, ½ cup of sugar, 2 teaspoons of spice, but whatever they were, it smelled great. She poured the coated apples into the bottom crust. We tried to make a lattice for the top but it kept breaking. Instead, we re-rolled the dough and used mini-cookie cutters in the shapes of apples, acorns, oak leaves, and pumpkins and completely covered the pie with these little shaped bits of dough. We brushed the covered pie with an egg wash, sprinkled it with sugar and put it in a 400-degree F oven for 45 minutes, covering it with foil half-way through to keep the top from browning too much. The pie baked while we had dinner. After dinner we put it on the table. It was very pretty and we just sat and stared at it, waiting and wondering when it would cool off enough to slice! I finally blurted out "Cut the damn pie"! We broke down and cut in to it, and it was delicious! It wasn’t too juicy or loose, probably because of the flour. It cut into nice, neat slices. We served it still almost hot with icy cold Stewart’s Philadelphia Vanilla ice cream (just voted “World’s Best Vanilla”) and it was a winning combination.

It was a great day.

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