Apple Pantry Farm
Apples. They are such a part of Autumn. Bobbing for apples at Halloween, apple pie at Thanksgiving, apple cider at Christmas. In the Sierra Foothills, not more than an hour from Sacramento, there is a place called Apple Hill. When we first moved to Sacramento 17 years ago, we heard about this place and made out first visit soon after. Ever since, we have made a yearly trip to the apple orchards of this area, as have many other families throughout Northern California in the months of October and November.
We come for the apples, of course. And the scenery, naturally! But we also come for a few other things: apple pie, apple fritters, apple donuts, carmel apples, apple cider, apple butter, apple syrup, apple bread, apple cake. You get the idea. If you can make it with apples, you can find it here!
Golden Delicious at Apple Pantry Farm
Apple Hill has grown over the years from an association of about 16 growers to over 50 apple ranches, wineries, a microbrewery, with even a Spa thrown in to make your visit complete. It has become the "Napa Valley" for the apple lover set.
In the Fall, the place comes alive with the harvest. There are pumpkin patches and hay bale mazes. There are craft and art fairs. There are pony rides and train rides. And lots and lots of food: Bratwurst and Pulled Pork BBQ, corn on the cob and potato salad....and then there are the apple desserts.
Apple Peeling machine at Apple Pantry Farm
Some of the ranches are overrun, and honestly too crowded for my personal taste. But there are plenty that are charming and more low key. There is something for everyone. We stopped at Apple Pantry Farm, which makes their pies with Golden Delicious apples, as well as cider and tarts, etc. This is one of the delightfully low key and relaxing places on the Apple Hill map of growers. We stopped here for awhile and ate pie.
Vintage Cars at Apple Pantry Farm
We made a quick stop at Bavarian Hills. We heard the Bavarian music as we were driving by and were intrigued. There were a few craft and booths here, so the girls and I had a look. There were a couple of ladies that had inherited all of their Aunt's costume jewelry. The Aunt, being originally from San Francisco, had collected it her whole life, and the ladies told me there were rooms full of the stuff! They were selling things at amazing prices just trying to get rid of it all. Lucky for ME!
One of the places we love to stop is Jack Russell Brewing Company. I have to say, they probably have the best Barbecue of many of the places we have been. They have BBQ tri-tip and pulled pork. And the beer is truly exceptional. This year was the most crowded we have ever seen it, but there is a large beer garden and dogs (for you Jack Russell lovers!) are quite welcome!
Denver Dan's is also a good place to stop for jams and pies. They have frozen pies (as do many of the ranches) that will make it all the way home so you can bake at your leisure. We brought home a boysenberry, apple pie which was delicious! The berries are also grown in the vicinity and when in season, you can pick them to your hearts delight. You can also pick your own apples here and at many of the other ranches.
This is just a sampling of the goodies to be found at Denver Dan's.
Just a note: Apples are not the only thing in abundance here. It is also pear season and they are available at many of the ranches.
Next stop: Apple Ridge Farms. They are my favorite stop for apple wedges covered in carmel. They have a petting zoo here and pony rides, as well as short nature walks that lead you through the cool pine forests. This has been one of my favorite places as when the girls were young enough to love these things.
We did make a stop at High Hill, probably the largest venue at Apple Hill, and invariably the most crowded. This is in large part due to the number of attractions, which include the fishing pond pictured above, the apple barn which sells many apple varieties as well as anything apple related, There is a Fudge Factory building, pony rides, more craft booths than any other venue, and a number of other outbuildings. One of the buildings has apple drinks: apple cider, apple beer, apple wine, apple shakes....and on. There is also a cider press building where you can watch how apple juice is made. I know I am forgetting something. If this sounds good to you, High Hill is the place to be. But be warned, it is the most crowded and there is traffic to and from the ranch on the weekends in the high season.
If you are the type who would prefer a beautiful country drive with a few stops at smaller more relaxed apple spots, then I suggest taking the the roads that loop away from the main highway. There is an abundance of beatiful scenery, and so many places to stop, you undoubtedly find the perfect place for you.
No matter what your plans this weekend, I hope you have a chance to get out and enjoy the Fall season!