NC Mountains Apple Pickin’

After making the apple crisp dessert the other week, I have been itching for a trip to the mountains to visit an apple orchard. Eric and I went with one of my old roommates several years back and I haven’t been back to one since. I googled apple orchard and what do you know… Sky Top Orchard is the first hit. Seems pretty popular. So I decided I was going. After finding out that this place was also only 36 mins away from Tupelo Honey Cafe, I knew another stop was mandatory.

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If you have seen my post from another trip I had to Asheville, you will see why I love Tupelo Honey Cafe so much. I’ve been back twice more since that trip and every time the food is out of this world. I loved it so much that I bought the cookbook and I am actually making a black bean burger from from the cookbook this week for dinner. I’m seriously obsessed. Luckily, we are getting one of these restaurants in Charlotte in the coming months. Let me tell you, I will be first in line.

We invited my mother-in-law on our day adventure as well, and I’m so glad we did. I am very fortunate to have a mother in law who is amazing. We have so much fun hanging out. So off we went bright and early Saturday morning up to the mountains. We got to the Orchard right at 9 am which was when they opened. Note to others: that is the way to do it. The place was packed by the time we were ready to leave. So getting there early is the way to go if you want a peaceful experience and not one with a bunch of crowds and chaos.

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You would not believe the amount of apples they had. I was blown away with just the large selection of apples in the front store. Once you are ready to pick some apples, they hand you a map of the farm. Looking out from the store, you can see apple trees for days. Plus there are so many different types of apples. Apples I have not even heard of.  They even have a sample table which is a great way to try all the different kinds of apples. We just wandered around the orchard picking apples as we chose. We ended up picking several different kinds.

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Eric loves Granny Smith apples, so we got a good amount of those for him. We also got my favorite apples: Fuji; love me some Fuji apples. Then we picked up a bunch of random apples in twos including: Rome, Cameo, Arkansas Black, and Pink Lady. I’m sure we will not be able to tell the difference now between all of the apples, but we picked the nonetheless.

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After picking apples we headed back to the storefront where we browsed through all the jams, jellies, butters, and apples. They also have fresh apple cider and apple pies. We all bought cider but Eric’s mom bought an apple pie (I need to ask her how it was). It looked mighty tasty!

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But the best part of the trip is the apple cider doughnuts. OMG… you walk up to the stand to purchase doughnuts and the heavenly smell of sugar and fried bread is in the air. It’s enough to make anyone salivate. I of course had to buy a dozen and it took all I had not to eat them all while holding the warm package in my hands. Ohh they are delicious. Eric and I had several with apple cider for breakfast the following day. You HAVE to heat them up. They are 10X better warm. Throw them in the oven at 200 degrees for about 10 minutes and its sheer perfection in your mouth.

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The views at the top of the orchard were also wonderful. You can pick your apples while enjoying the mountain views in the background. The air was crisp and the leaves were just beginning to turn. The skies were overcast which all came together to make a perfect day for apple picking. I plan to make it a tradition to go up there every year. And hopefully with Sarah and James, Eric’s sister and boyfriend. This is an experience that everyone should have. Nothing like a day in the NC Mountains.

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We went home with 10 pounds of apples each. Now I’ve got several dishes in mind this week with all these apples. We are having apple, fig, and Gruyere cheese paninis this week, apple based salads, grilled apple, and I may even make some apple cinnamon buns with whatever is leftover next weekend.

How are you celebrating fall?

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Carolina Blueberry Summer

Sorry I have been gone for so long. I’ll admit I’ve slacked on the blogging posts recently, but I’m working on it. I’ve been so busy doing things and I have so much to tell you all. I might even up the amount of posts per week! GASP! 🙂

I still have NC wineries to share, new home decor developments, and I promise to post a Wife Lessons soon. 🙂 But first!! It’s finally starting to feel like summer here in North Carolina so I decided to take a stab at canning.

We are so blessed here in NC to have all sorts of berries… all good for canning into preserves or jams. I fancy myself a preserve fan and fell in love with one at Tupelo Honey Cafe in Asheville, NC this past fall. I downed that blueberry preserve so fast, I don’t think it made it past the first week back in Charlotte. Unfortunately, they are no longer selling it online. 😦 Needless to say, I was devastated. But to my surprise they were so gracious as to include the recipe in their cookbook I purchased during my visit. Thank the heavens!

Since we finally have fresh NC blueberries, I found it time to try my first canning in hopes of restoring some blueberry goodness in my home.

The recipe is pretty easy to follow and canning was simple as well. The first step is to sanitize your jars. You boil water then place your jars and lids into the pot and boil for 10 minutes. Once this is done you will need tongs to get the jars out. I purchased a kit from Wal-Mart with canning utensils. Highly recommend.

After you have sanitized (or while you are sanitizing) you mix the sugar and pectin (looks similar to sugar) into a bowl.

Next, you place the blueberries and the sugar/pectin mix into a pot and start to boil. I was afraid that the sugar would burn so I stirred the mixture during this step.

When things start to heat up, the juice starts to flow. It smelled delicious.

Once the mixture begins to boil it will look more consistent and you bring it down to medium heat. Cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Finally after your 10 minutes are up, you scoop off any excess foam on top (don’t remember why) and then throw the mixture into your jars.

This is also where the canning utensils come in handy. The kit comes with a funnel to prevent messes. Once you fill all your jars you clean them off and replace the tops tightly on to the jars.

From here you let it sit till it reaches room temperature and serve or you can place the jars in boiling water (completely submerged) for 10 to 15 minutes to complete the canning process. This removes any excess air so that the preserves last longer. Without doing so the preserves will last 30 days. When canning it takes overnight for the preserves to set and thicken.

I haven’t opened a jar yet but I can assure you it looks delicious. This preserve goes great with steel-cut oats in the morning and tastes just like blueberry cobbler. Yum!

Okay, I’m going to have stop now or I will find myself running to the kitchen to open these preserves immediately. Make them fast while we still have fresh blueberries!

Ashe-thentic – A Trip to the NC Mountains

I recently went on a trip the mountains with Eric’s family. During this trip we decided to make a day trip to Asheville, NC to visit one of Eric’s Mom’s friends (I guess that’s how you put it, haha). Prior to this trip my only Asheville, NC experience has been the numerous trips to the Biltmore House.

Once we finally found a parking space (Asheville is packed apparently on the weekends with not many parking options), we walked the streets of downtown Asheville. The downtown area definitely has it’s own flavor and the city is full of every sort of individual that you can imagine. The quaint shops and unique restaurants is what makes Asheville so intriguing. And if you happen to find a man dressed up as a nun and running during your visit, no worries, it’s a normal occurrence (sorry no picture for that one).

All of the restaurants are small in size and have an intimate feel. The shops advertise organically made clothing, one of a kind jewelry, and wind pipe instruments. If you are lucky, you will come across a local musical ensemble playing together for the enjoyment of all those willing to stand around and give a dollar or two.

My mother-in-law’s friend recommended a restaurant for us to try during our time in Asheville called Tupelo Honey Cafe. It was obvious when we got there that this cafe was THE place to be in Asheville. There was a two hour wait. We hesitated at first but decided to go for us and spent our wait time wondering around the streets of the city.

We wanted to see all of the downtown area anyways so it worked out perfectly. We walked around for a while and looked at all the shops. Then we decided to sit in a brick paved park looking area perfect where local artists come to perform.

We were lucky enough to experience a live perform for ourselves. The group titled Brizeus decided to play with three of the four members.

They played folk music, historic European, and more with their bombard drum (found the name after googling), bagpipe, and tambourine. It was a great way to relax on a Sunday afternoon.

Soon after the performance it was time for us to head inside for lunch at Tupelo Honey Cafe. Perfect timing! After ordering our lunch we were briskly served with fresh home made warm biscuits with Tupelo honey and blueberry preserve on the side.

Let’s just say that the biscuit was a taste of heaven. I immediately informed the server that I would be purchasing the honey and blueberry preserves. I even purchased a copy of their cookbook which I recently found out has the recipe for these divine biscuits.

Lunch was equally amazing. I had their Southern BLT which had southern style fried chicken on a artisan role with all the fixings including bacon. Not to mention the mac’n cheese side dish was to die for as well. And of course I had to wash it down with a large glass of sweet tea. It would be a sin to drink anything else with a lunch like this. I only ended up finishing half of my meal so I took it home to my lucky husband to try. Even as leftovers, he cleaned his plate and exclaimed that the food was amazing. Got the recipe for this sandwich too!

After eating our lunch we decided to walk around a little while longer and found a Chocolate   bakery. I didn’t get a picture as I was too mesmerized by all the chocolate. Needless to say I purchased some chocolate truffles. They even had shoes made out of chocolate that you could give as gifts! Very neat ideas. If I ever end up in the downtown Asheville area again, I will be sure to go back.

Overall it was a nice day trip to Asheville. I would love to go back again. I think the next time I visit the Biltmore House I will be heading back to downtown as well. Definitely a place I would recommend visiting if not just for the food!