Host an Apple-Picking Party
Cream of the Crop
Gather apples from the outer branches, where they tend to be ripest. Look for firm, unbruised fruit. Lift and twist them off the stems; don’t tug.
To find an orchard near you, go to pickyourown.org.
Everything you need to plan a fruitful autumn outing.
Food: At an orchard, there is sure to be plenty of apples, cider, and pies for sale, but you shouldn’t count on much else. Pack an old-fashioned bag-and-thermos lunch, but swap the typical PB & J for something more interesting, like Roasted Sweet Potato and Apple Soup and Cucumber and Goat Cheese Sandwiches. To liven up just-picked fruit, take along some tasty dippers.
Picnic essentials: Bring a blanket and stock a basket with all the basics: plates, forks, spoons, cups for drinks and soup, a cutting board, and a knife (for safety, stick an old wine cork on the tip and wrap it in a towel). To make cleanup easy, pack a roll of paper towels, moist towelettes, and a garbage bag for the trash.
Tote bags: The orchard will offer plastic bags for the long haul home, but bring sturdy canvas ones for a greener option.
Splendor in the Grass
After your gang has harvested the last apple, settle down for a hearty picnic lunch. But before you set out the spread, lay plastic bags or a tarp underneath the blanket in case the ground is damp.
Apples are easy to dress up with toppings and spreads. Cut the fruit into wedges and let everyone pair them with the dip of their choice. Try one or more of these:
- Rich peanut butter (RS pick: Cream Nut Natural Peanut Butter, $6.50 for a 17-ounce jar, koeze.com).
- Gooey caramel sauce (RS pick: the King’s Cupboard Organic Cream Caramel Sauce, $8 for a 7.7-ounce jar, kingscupboard.com).
- A zesty Cheddar spread (combine an 8-ounce bar of cream cheese, 1/2 cup grated Cheddar, and 2 tablespoons chopped pimientos, if desired).
Picnic tip: You can make the soup and refrigerate it up to 2 days in advance; reheat it before transferring to thermoses. To pack the sandwiches, wrap them tightly in wax or parchment paper and store at room temperature up to 4 hours.