I am writing this entry as I sit on the sofa with my cat Lucy happily curled up on my lap. As I type away and edit my work I take a break every now and again to sip on my glass of apple wine and check on the homemade apple crisp I have baking in the oven.
I’ve never made an apple crisp before, but I have about 40 apples from my trip to Apple Holler sitting on my kitchen table and I figure now is as good a time as any to learn.
It was my first trip to Apple Holler and like many places, I used to drive past and think, “Gee, that looks like fun,” yet I never made much of an effort to go. But since I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews, Eric and I finally decided to make a full day of it.
We went to the orchard a few weekends ago. Eric and I woke up early that morning surprised to feel an unseasonably warm breeze sifting through my screened window. It happened to be the warmest Saturday of autumn so far.
After a quick check on the forecast – 90 degrees for the high – Eric and I walked across the street to Alterra for two much needed Americanos, and then proceeded to Apple Holler.
We made it there in about a half hour, which was pretty good since Eric has a tendency to drive like an old man. Plus, we were fortunate to get the last parking spot in the half mile stretch of cars parked along the road and in front of the orchard. Once we parked, Eric and I joined the swarms of families making their way to the entrance.
Along the way we passed the Kids Corral Play Area that contained a barnyard full of animals, a corn maze, and a number of harvest-themed activities to entertain the young ones. Some children rode gentle ponies around and around in a circle, while others boarded a wooden choo choo train.
It was then that I perceived that Apple Holler wasn’t just an orchard. Besides the Kids Area, it boasts a home-style restaurant, bakery, gift shop, musical theater, pumpkin patch and hayride, all of which drew in a multitude of eager adults and children to celebrate Apple Holler’s Apple Pickin’ and Scarecrow Family Festival.
While Apple Holler might look a bit disorganized from a distance, it is in fact very structured and calm and easy to navigate. Still, the vast amount of activities and large number of people were rather overwhelming, so Eric and I were soon ready to escape the throngs of families for the spacious 73-acre orchard.
We pre-paid for a half bushel of apples and with map in hand we headed straight down the dusty trail to the lush orchard. (I soon learned that sandals are not the best choice of footwear for this activity.)
Row after row of thousands of dwarf apple trees lined each side of “Apple Lover’s Lane” and stretched on and on around the massive pumpkin patch nestled in the middle.
Each of the 30 varieties were conveniently marked with a white sign and our map indicated which types were in season – Courtland, Rome, Red Delicious, Jonathon, Golden Delicious (my favorite), Ida Red and Northern Spy were all ripe and ready for picking.
The sun was heavily beating down on us and the constant weaving in and out, around and through rows of trees definitely worked up a sweat even though we meandered at a leisurely pace.
As we were instructed when we purchased our half bushel: we would pluck an apple from the tree, sample our selection, and if we found the taste satisfactory we would add more to our bushel; however, if the style of apple wasn't what we were looking for, we’d toss them onto the ground and moved on. That sure beats grocery shopping. I’d love to roam around the store tasting foods before buying them.
At that time we were quite stuffed from gorging ourselves on apples, yet we couldn’t resist the smell of the home-cooked lunch wafting from the restaurant and decided to indulge our inner fatty and stay for lunch.
As we waited for our table, we took advantage of the air-conditioned building and browsed the gift shop and bakery while trying to avoid the crowds of people who also migrated to the gift shop to take shelter from the brutal sun.
The gift shop was filled with a wide variety of items such as Door County premium wines (Eric and I bought a bottle of the spiced apple), giftware, organic lotions and powders, and an abundance of Halloween décor. Additionally, we combed the bakery eying up displays of baked apple pies, pasties, dumplings, apple cinnamon nut bread and cider. By then we were definitely were ready to eat again!
At last, our table was ready. Although the restaurant is open seven days a week, it was still jam-packed with patrons in the late afternoon and the clanging of dishes and chatter of people inside was quite a contrast to the placid orchard outside.
The buffet had everything from apple wood smoked prime rib and turkey to apple stuffing, sweet potato casserole, and corn bread with apple butter. Now we were definitely stuffed!
After a very hearty meal we ended up waddling around exploring the other activities around Apple Holler such as the corn maze and barnyard. The barnyard was home to pygmy goats, sheep, ponies, chickens, turkeys, geese, ducks, and a miniature donkey. Eric put a quarter in one of the vending machines that was attached to the picket fence and was given a handful of green pellets to feed the goats.
Next, we purchased four tickets (two apiece) for the “Crazy Corn Maze.” It was made up of several seven-foot walls constructed from corn stalks that were attached to wire mesh and formed around a dirt pathway. It wasn’t very tricky to navigate through, in fact, the makeshift corn maze was not even one mile long – it doesn't compare to The MAiZE that has about three miles of paths and intricate designs – you won’t get lost in this one. Still, while it wasn’t very crazy, we had fun nonetheless.
Before we decided to call it a day, we stopped to look at a large display of pumpkins surrounded by 6-foot stuffed scarecrows propped up on hay bales, corn stalks and pots of red, purple and yellow chrysanthemums. Pumpkins were abounding in every shape, size and shade of orange (even white). I was really tempted to buy one to carve, but I figured I’d save that for another weekend.
Alas, it was time to head back to Milwaukee. We gathered so many apples! I still have 30 more left to use and I don’t know what to do with them. (If anyone has any apple related recipes that they wish to share please post them in the comments so everyone can enjoy them.)
Our visit to Apple Holler was a great way to celebrate the season. And now that the weather has cooled off and it feels more like fall and less like mid-August, it’s a great time for you to get out there.
Well, the timer just went off, so it’s time to get the crisp from the over. It sure smells delicious!
Apple Pickin’ & Scarecrow Family Festival
5006 S. Sylvania Ave. (about 30 miles south of Milwaukee on I-43)
Sturtevant, WI 53177
Every day in October
Monday through Friday 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
½ bushel bag of apples $24.95
No general admission, but tickets are required for some activities. Tickets are $1 each or $10 for 12 tickets.