Our Apple Harvest Makes for Two Splendid Seasons

Whether they're Galas, Granny Smiths, Yorks, Winesaps, or Ginger Golds, apples are one of Virginia's loveliest and most useful crops and were much enjoyed by the early colonists and pioneers as well as today's families. Crisp, sweet apples-- harvested in the chilly days of October, can be part of your celebrations in November and December.

An October Excursion to a Mountain Orchard

Look for charming pick-your-own orchards within a short drive of our area. The mountain vistas are perfectly stunning and provide a beautiful backdrop for a memorable day, and most orchards have picnic areas for a relaxing break. Closer to home, Westmoreland Berry Farm and Orchard has sweet, small trees filled with Gala, Red and Yellow Delicious, and Jonagold apples. Unfortunately, recent weather events have precluded the pick-your-own fun here, but families can still enjoy a weekend ride to the pumpkin patch, delicious ice cream sundaes, and the friendly farm animals. You may still pick your own apples, but you'll be choosing from their market area instead of the tree.

In the mountains, the apple harvest is a time for festivals and other special events. These festivals are a great place to sample old time recipes for apple butter, apple pie, and other seasonal treats, and they may also have live entertainment such as bluegrass music and square dancing. While you're planning your journey to the orchard, keep in mind that a side trip to one of Virginia's many wineries can provide a sophisticated cap to the day's enjoyments.

A Harvest Feast for November

Adding a sweet delight to the breakfast menu may make getting out of bed on a frosty weekend a more pleasant experience. Gourmands will appreciate Apple Cinnamon Stuffed French Toast, a bed and breakfast favorite. Don't count the calories on this spectacular comfort food.

The Central Rappahannock Regional Library has a cookbook written specifically for apple lovers. Chef Robert Berkley's Apples: A Cookbook offers recipes that vary from the homey and comforting (Oatmeal Pancakes with Jonathon Apples and Pecans) to exotic grilled entrees.

Apple Crafts for December Holidays

Some apple recipes lend themselves perfectly to the gifting frenzy that accompanies the December holidays. This simple Cinnamon Apple Jelly can be a great gift for teachers and neighbors. If you choose to make it so it doesn't require refrigeration until it's opened, follow these instructions for processing your jelly in a hot water bath. Another good present, possibly for a youngster to make for her teacher, is an Apple Pencil Holder which transforms a balloon, papier mache, paint, and felt into a treasured keepsake.

Add the beauty and sweet scent of apples to your home holiday decorations. An easy dried apple wreath will fill your house with the warmth of a freshly made apple pie. An old-fashioned apple doll can be a gift for a special child or added to your holiday decor. The traditional pomander ball is another old-time goodie for the season. Apples, whole cloves, orrisroot (a preservative), fragrant ground spices, and ribbon are all you need to create a unique air freshener for a musty space. Pomanders make lovely gifts and decorations, but do begin them a few weeks in advance to give them time to dry.

Fresh, bright apples can add a lot of charm to wreaths and table decorations. An easy apple centerpiece consists of whole Red Delicious apples, greenery, and truly homemade candlesticks. Colonial-style wreaths work wonders on the outside of a home in cold weather and may be decorated with all manner of fruit, including apples.

These books from the CRRL have ideas for creating natural holiday wreaths in the classic style of Colonial Williamsburg. CRRL library card holders may click on any title to go to the catalog and reserve the book:

Christmas Decorations from Williamsburg
by Susan Hight Rountree.

Williamsburg Christmas: The Story of Christmas Decoration in the Colonial Capital
by Libbey Hodges Oliver and Mary Miley Theobald.

Apple Days for Young Ones

One of fall's great pleasures is the chance to introduce children to the sweet wonders of nature. Parents and teachers will find our list, Books for Apple Jacks and Jills, a good source for stories and picture books that teach about the seasons, what goes on in an apple orchard, and crafts that make the most of this popular fruit. On the Web, Virginia Apples: Kids' Corner has recipes, stories, and activities for young ones. Finally, as a special treat, let your child help make a delicious apple pie from scratch. This can become an enjoyable tradition to share every harvest season for years to come.