About two weeks ago, while looking at my calendar it hit me that summer was pretty much gone. Fall was slowly taking its place and I was looking forward to enjoying my favourite season. As a way of welcoming fall, Jacob and I decided to go apple picking.
I hadn’t gone apple picking in many years so I was pretty excited. I Googled “Apple picking Ottawa” and the first result I got was Mountain Orchards. I looked at the location, comments, noticed they were picking Lobo apples that weekend and so this is where Jacob and I would head-out that Sunday morning.
The road to get there was beautiful. I love the Ontario country; it reminds me a lot of New Brunswick where I grew up. We passed many barns, saw some cows, many freshly cut cornfields, a beautiful landscape. We reached our destination within an hour.
At 10 am, the parking lot (which is actually a field) was half-full already. Kids were running around, dogs were happily following them, parents looked relaxed. While walking towards the little tractor that would get us to the field, I wondered how long this place had been farming apple trees…
Established in 1932, Mountain Orchards grew from a plantation of McIntosh trees to a 25 acre farm with over 10,000 trees, now offering 8 different varieties of apples from the end of August to mid-October. From the traditional Cortland, to the Spartan, you can also pick the large and crisp Lobo (one of my favourites), the Honeycrisp or the Empire. The Silken is available early in the season and the Honey Gold can be picked just at its end.
“We bought the orchard in 1974, knowing nothing about growing apples other than we knew they grew on trees. It was a lot of trial and a lot of error for many years,” explains Shelley Lyall, one of the owners. The Lyall and Hobson families have worked hard since the beginning.
“It seemed like a good idea at the time and being the good hippies we were, the “back to the land” movement was pretty prevalent in those days,” adds Shelley.
Bob Hobson and Phil Lyall grew up together in Manotick, and Shelley joined the group of friends when she was 14 years old. She would marry Phil years later and as she says, the rest is history. “The love of agriculture was more a very big sense of adventure and over the last 40 years we have overcome a challenge or two,” admits Shelley.
Mountain Orchard also offers baked goods such as butter tarts, apple cider and amazingly crispy, incredible, warm apple cider doughnuts. Jacob and I bought six of them when we were done picking and sat at a picnic table enjoying every bite. I would actually go back for the doughnuts alone!
When we got back home, I was very excited and started to bake right away. Here is a recipe we like doing at home – hopefully you will as well.
Spiced Apple Cake – You will need:
1 ½ cups of flour
¼ teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder
A pinch of salt
2 ½ teaspoons of cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon of ground cloves
6 tablespoons of butter, room temperature
½ cup of brown sugar
¼ cup of granulated sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla
2/3 cup of milk
4 lobo apples (or a sweet kind)
In a bowl, mix the flour with baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
In another bowl, beat the butter with the brown and granulated sugar until creamy. Beat in one egg at a time and then beat in the vanilla.
Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients and mix well. Add half the milk. Repeat this step until you have added all the flour and milk.
Spread this batter into a 9-inch pie pan (buttered and floured). Insert pealed and sliced apples into the batter.
Bake at 350F for 30 minutes. Let it cool before serving – make sure to drizzle some salted caramel sauce on top, it makes it even better!
You can find Lyne Robichaud on Sugar Coated Baking, a blog that combines Lyne’s love for baking and cooking and Jacob’s long time passion for photography. Together they test new recipes, adapt some and share those that the couple loves the most. You can find Jacob here.