Apple farm to table.

The next time you're visiting Santa Cruz in the Fall with the family you might want to venture out to Davenport and go apple picking at Cal Poly's Swanton Pacific Ranch certified organic apple orchard. It's a lovely orchard located located in a quaint community just off Highway 1, which makes for a relatively short but scenic drive along the coast. The you-pick orchard offers several varietals to choose from, including Fuji, Gingergold, Granny Smith, Jonagold, Yellow Newton Pippin, Red Delicious, Royal Gala, Sali Red Delicious and Lodi. All are actually delicious and the orchard provides a handy map so you know where to find them all. There's also a restroom (portable potty) available for when nature calls.

When picking apples, we strongly suggest bringing along one of your professional chef friends, who is then obligated to bake you a delicious pie from all those apples you picked. She opted for the Yellow Newton Pippins for said pie and it was amazing. If you don't happen to have any professional chef friends, it's still a good time for the whole family, and you can pull together a really tasty pie yourself afterwards.

If you don't already have a favorite family recipe, here's a great apple pie recipe stolen from Sam Sifton and the New York Times Cooking website:

All-Purpose Pie Dough Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening, cold
  • ¼ teaspoon of kosher salt
  • Yolk of 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup water, from 3/4 cup ice water.

Preparation:

  1. Using your fingertips or the pulse function of a food processor, blend together the flour, fats and salt until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. There should be pebbles of butter throughout the mixture.
  2. Add egg yolk and vinegar to 1/4 cup ice water and stir to combine. Drizzle 4 tablespoons of this mixture over the dough and gently stir or pulse to combine. Gather a golfball-size bit of dough and squeeze to combine. If it does not hold together, add a little more of the liquid and stir or pulse, then check again. Repeat as necessary.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gather together into a rough ball. You want to be careful not to overwork the flour, but not too careful; the dough should hold together. Divide the ball in half with a knife or a pastry scraper, then divide each portion in half again, and again, to create eight portions. Using the heel of your hand, flatten each portion of dough once or twice to expand the pebbles of butter, then gather the dough together again in one ball. Divide this ball in half.
  4. Flatten each ball into a 5- or 6-inch disc and dust lightly with flour. Wrap the discs in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 60 minutes.

Pie Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 ½ pounds apples, peeled and cored, then cut into wedges (5 large honeycrisps will do it)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Preparation:

  1. Melt butter in a large saute pan set over medium-high heat and add apples to the pan. Stir to coat fruit with butter and cook, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, whisk together the spices, salt and .75 cup sugar, and sprinkle this over the pan, stirring to combine. Lower heat and cook until apples have started to soften, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Sprinkle the flour and cornstarch over the apples and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, another 3 to 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat, add cider vinegar, stir and scrape fruit mixture into a bowl and allow to cool completely. (The fruit mixture will cool faster if spread out on a rimmed baking sheet.)
  2. Place a large baking sheet on the middle rack of oven and preheat to 425. Remove one disc of dough from the refrigerator and, using a pin, roll it out on a lightly floured surface until it is roughly 12 inches in diameter. Fit this crust into a 9-inch pie plate, trimming it to leave a .5-inch overhang. Place this plate, with the dough, in the freezer.
  3. Roll out the remaining dough on a lightly floured surface until it is roughly 10 or 11 inches in diameter.
  4. Remove pie crust from freezer and put the cooled pie filling into it. Cover with remaining dough. Press the edges together, trim the excess, then crimp the edges with the tines of a fork. Using a sharp knife, cut three or four steam vents in the top of the crust. Lightly brush the top of the pie with egg wash and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon of sugar.
  5. Place pie in oven and bake on hot baking sheet for 20 minutes, then reduce temperature to 375. Continue to cook until the interior is bubbling and the crust is golden brown, about 30 to 40 minutes more. Remove and allow to cool on a windowsill or kitchen rack, about two hours.
  6. Get in your belly!

Apple season runs from August through October.

Cal Poly's Swanton Pacific Ranch. 480 Swanton Road, Davenport, CA 95017. Open Friday, Saturday, Sunday 9am-4pm. No dogs allowed. Tel: 831-458-5410. www.spranch.org

Let us know if you have your own favorite apple pie recipe you'd like to share!

Swanton Organic Apple Orchard Entrance just a short drive off scenic Highway 1.

Swanton Organic Apple Orchard Entrance just a short drive off scenic Highway 1.

Lodi apples ripe for pickin'.

Lodi apples ripe for pickin'.

Rows and rows of apples; some golden, all delicious.

Rows and rows of apples; some golden, all delicious.

That's a lot of apples.

That's a lot of apples.

A beautiful day for apple picking in Santa Cruz.

A beautiful day for apple picking in Santa Cruz.

There is nothing better than freshly baked hot apple pie ala mode from just-picked apples from the orchard.

There is nothing better than freshly baked hot apple pie ala mode from just-picked apples from the orchard.

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