Autumn’s Favorite Foods: Pumpkin and Apple

Fall is in full swing and with it comes fantastic seasonal flavors! Read more on how to get your fix of the autumn’s iconic flavors on an orchard excursion or at a restaurant, shop or brewery near you.

Pumpkin spice season
This übertrendy flavor pops up everywhere these days, but Michigan’s offerings prove especially unique, with pumpkin spice appearing in martinis, craft beer, soup and other fresh finds.

After a show at Detroit’s Fox Theatre, nearby Centaur Bar specializes in martinis. Pumpkin spice, rum and coffee liquor warm tipplers’ cheeks in the two-story lounge. Across town, Germack Pistachio Company roasts pepitas (pumpkin seeds) a few blocks from their Eastern Market store. The third-generation owners recently expanded their operation of nuts and seeds to coffee roasting and hard-to-find spices.

With hints of cinnamon and nutmeg and toasted walnuts,
 the seasonal pumpkin muffins at Zingerman’s Bakehouse in Ann
 Arbor rank as a staff favorite. Store associates wear vintage aprons 
and pearls at Sweetie-licious Bakery and Cafe in Dewitt (and Grand Rapids). The family recipe behind Mommy’s Pumpkin Pie inspires a buttery crust and creamy, spiced pumpkin filling.

Mommy’s Pumpkin Pie at Sweetie-licious Bakery and Cafe in Dewitt, Photo Courtesy of Blaine Moats

Mommy’s Pumpkin Pie at Sweetie-licious Bakery and Cafe in Dewitt, Photo Courtesy of Blaine Moats

Four types of pumpkin ice cream—cinnamon pumpkin crisp, pumpkin chip, pumpkin roll
and, for the purist, 
plain pumpkin—draw pumpkin spice-lovers to Moomers Homemade Ice Cream in Traverse City. And the 1950s-theme House of Flavors churns out seasonal pumpkin pie ice cream in Ludington.

Crunchy pralines complement pumpkin cheesecake 
at The Underground Cheesecake Company
 in Traverse City. 
Hearty pumpkin cake doughnuts fill cases at Cops and Doughnuts,
 a police-owned bakery
 in Clare since 1896 (through a name and ownership change). Pumpkin seed salsa sold by American Spoon in Petoskey adds zest to chicken tacos.

American Spoon in Petoskey, Photo Courtesy of American Spoon

American Spoon in Petoskey, Photo Courtesy of American Spoon

Pumpkin spice goes boozy at a number of craft breweries, including the coffee-spiked Pumpkin Spice Latte, an ale at Detroit’s Atwater Brewery, the British-inspired Jaw- Jacker Pumpkin Spiced Ale at Battle Creek’s Arcadia Brewing Company and Ichabod, made with pumpkin, nutmeg and cinnamon, served seasonally at New Holland Brewing.

New Holland Brewing in Holland, Photo Courtesy of Nate Luke

New Holland Brewing in Holland, Photo Courtesy of Nate Luke

Apple country
It’s easy to get the ripest, crispest, sweetest and tartest apples. Just stop at any of the too-many-to-count fruit stands and farm markets that spring up from the 850 family-owned farms growing apples in Michigan.

The orchards of the state’s southwest corner draw visitors year-round, but fall brings the experience to fruition. Purchase a peck or two of Gala, McIntosh and Honeycrisp apples, or pick some at Crane’s Pie Pantry Restaurant and Winery and U-Pick farm in Fennville. Standing amid 100 acres of sweet-scented fruit trees with roots back to 1916, visitors wander the grounds painted in fall colors and sample treats, including apple pie, apple crisp and apple cider doughnuts.

Apple picking at Crane’s Orchard in Fennville, Photo Courtesy of Johnny Quirin

Apple picking at Crane’s Orchard in Fennville, Photo Courtesy of Johnny Quirin

In downtown Fennville, more flavors come into play at the rustic eatery Salt of the Earth, starring vegetables, meats, berries and fruits from the local landscape. Less than 5 miles away, Virtue Farm crafts Virtue Cider from Michigan apples.

Sampling at Virtue Cider in Fennville, Photo Courtesy of Johnny Quirin

Sampling at Virtue Cider in Fennville, Photo Courtesy of Johnny Quirin

The fifth generation is still growing apples (and peaches and cherries) at Fruit Acres Farm Market and U-Pick, a Coloma farm established in 1846. A half-mile south, sip on fresh-pressed cider at Grandpa’s Cider Mill.

Check out the Pure Michigan Fall Travel Guide for more great seasonal travel ideas.

Where’s your favorite spot to enjoy the flavors of fall? Let us know in the comments!

10 Lesser-Known Cider Mills and Orchards across Michigan

Michigan orchards and cider mills bring back nostalgia of playing in leaves and haystacks, eating doughnuts or spending the day with family. Bring those feelings back by visiting a nearby cider mill, while also supporting local farmers! We hope you can use this list of lesser-known cider mills to start your own fall tradition or just try somewhere new! To find even more orchards near you, click here

Diehl’s Orchard & Cider Mill
Holly, MI

Family-owned and operated, Diehl’s Orchard & Cider Mill opened in 1954 to help families have lasting memories together. The mill is open daily through October and on the weekends in November. Located off a dirt road, it gives off an up north vibe in Southeast Michigan. The orchard is the perfect place to create autumn traditions and enjoy time together while viewing beautiful fall foliage. With a corn maze, petting farm, playground, an orchard and a hayride, there are so many activities to keep you and your family or friends busy. Not to mention between all of the apples, cider, doughnuts, jams and honey, it’ll be hard to choose just one item. You might end up bringing them all home!

Anderson & Girls Orchards/Gifts
Stanton, MI

Located in Mid-Michigan, this orchard is complete with a farm market, bakery, ice cream parlor and gift loft. The cider mill operates through Dec. 1. What’s incredibly interesting about this orchard is that there are barnyard animals like reindeer, camels, zebras, lemurs and more! This alone is worth the trip as kids will love to see and interact with these incredibly diverse animals that are rarely seen in Michigan, outside of zoos. Don’t miss Great Pumpkin Day on Oct. 22 where you can pick your own pumpkins, ride in a wagon or on a camel and participate in Kid’s Town.

Hayes Corn Maze & Pumpkin Patch
Rock, MI

Have a great time in the U.P. with your family and friends through Oct. 30 at Hayes Corn Maze & Pumpkin Patch, only open on the weekends. There is no shortage of activities here so you won’t ever get bored! Of course, hit the corn or hay maze, take a hay ride, participate in the photo contest, visit the pumpkin tree house with kids or sit around a campfire and relax. Come home with a huge pumpkin as a souvenir from your visit.

Photo Courtesy of Rowin Mulder

Photo Courtesy of Rowin Mulder

Erie Orchards & Cider Mill
Erie, MI

This orchard is located in the very southeastern corner of Michigan, near Ohio. This is a great place for a family outing. Don’t miss Kids Weekend on Oct. 8 and 9 where there will be child entertainment and magic shows, corn mazes, bonfires, a craft show and pony rides. Approximately 15,000 bushels of apples are harvested annually off 30 acres of apple trees. The varieties include Ida Red, Granny Smith, Northern Spy, Golden and Red Delicious and more. Be sure to check the website for information on each themed weekend in October. And set up a tour today!

Knaebe’s Mmmunchy Krunchy Apple Farm
Rogers City, MI

With a very interesting name, this Northern Michigan orchard is open Thursday through Sunday until Nov. 6. There are a ton of food and drink options, but be aware the bakery tends to sell out! Call ahead and place an order if there is something specific you’re looking to buy on your visit. A few for-sale items include homemade pies, doughnuts with bacon, apple and maple flavorings, apple crisp, apple cream cheese cake and a doughnut sundae! For first-timers, take a self-guided tour of the farm or get on a horse-drawn carriage ride or, for the kids, a pony ride. Don’t miss the tasting room featuring Twisted Roots Cider. Local hot dogs, brats and pizza are served as well.

Photo Courtesy of Amy Lijewski

Photo Courtesy of Amy Lijewski

The Jollay Orchards Farms
Coloma, MI

Jollay Orchards is open daily in Southwest Michigan. The Jollay family has been perfecting the craft of growing fruit since 1857! Jump on a hayride heading to the U-pick orchards which are well-maintained and manicured making it easy to choose your favorite apples among the many varieties grown. You can also visit the Farm Market for apple pies baked in brown paper bags and lots of other Michigan-made treats like jams, BBQ sauces and dumplings. Enjoy a stroll through the Animal Farm or Cornfield Maze, cast your line in the Fishing Pond or let the kids enjoy the playground area. The possibilities are endless!

Sietsema Orchards & Cider Mill
Ada, MI

Based in West Michigan, Sietsema Orchards was founded on the outskirts of Grand Rapids in 1934. Occasionally this location provides Farm to Table dinners, so be sure to regularly check the website to participate in those. They also create four different types of hard cider and just released a new one called Maggie’s Reserve. Proceeds from sales of Maggie’s Reserve will benefit Mercy Health Birth Center at Saint Mary’s. Contribute to a great cause while also having fun! Another reason to visit is to gather an amazing variety of apples and pumpkins.

Friske Orchards Farm Market
Ellsworth, MI

Since 1962, Friske Orchards Farm Market has been a family tradition in Northwest Michigan. The orchard grows and harvests approximately 5.5 million pounds of fresh Michigan fruit and produce annually and about 50,000 gallons of premium apple cider blends. It is open year around, bringing you their high-quality fruit and handcrafted specialty food products. Be sure to check out the Fruit Stand, Orchard Cafe, Old World Bakery, General Store, Country Haus Gift Shop, the seasonal children’s Orchard Playland and Barnyard Animal Petting Zoo, presenting options for everyone. Apple Fest Days are occurring Oct. 8 and 15 and are full of fun activities.

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Uncle John’s Cider Mill
St. Johns, MI

Located in Mid-Michigan, Uncle John’s is a local favorite. Back in the 1900’s the mill was used as a cattle barn, but now has been converted into a cider press and doughnut shop. Uncle John’s has won awards for their fresh cider and hard apple cider. Go visit and explore the five-acre corn maze, take a free wagon ride, visit the pumpkin patch or walk the nature trail. There are a ton of fun festivities happening this fall including Food Truck Friday, live music, inflatables and young children amusement rides. Don’t forget about their Cidery and Winery Tasting Room where you can try hard ciders, fruit wines and apple-flavored spirits. Note that they do not offer pick-your-own apples. A visit to this cider mill will be the trip of the season for your family or friends.

The Fruitful Orchard and Cider Mill
Gladwin, MI

This Mid-Michigan orchard will make for a perfect day trip. Open Monday through Saturday, the location offers cider slushies, made-from-scratch baked goods like cinnamon rolls, salsa and sauces as well as candles and gifts. Visit the observation area to see cider pressing in action. Be sure to call ahead to see what time the next press will occur. There are hay ride tours on Saturdays and a pumpkin patch where you can choose your next jack-o-lantern or to make pumpkin pie at home!

Where is your favorite cider mill or orchard? Let us know in the comments!

Five Michigan Crops to Cook With this Fall

Autumn in Michigan provides amazing produce for many of our seasonal favorite recipes. From ripe apples, pears, pumpkins and many more, it’s easy to support local growers in the Great Lakes state while enjoying some delicious and healthy food. Guest blogger Christina Carson from Awesome Mitten shares five crops to consider cooking with this fall.

With the crisp air of fall making its way back into Michigan, it’s hard not to get excited about the harvest season and all it brings. While some of the summer crops are starting to fade, the fall season offers a cornucopia of amazing local produce throughout the whole state.

A lot of folks don’t know that Michigan has the second most diverse production of fruits and vegetables in the country, beaten only by the ever-prevalent agriculture system of California. This means we have a near endless variety of amazing produce to choose from while supporting our own agricultural economy and local business owners.

Here are five fall Michigan crops that excite me the most. A few are expected favorites of everyone for the fall season, but I’m also including a few lesser-known crops that I encourage you to seek out and try.

1) Apples

Photo courtesy of Christina Carson.

Photo courtesy of Christina Carson

No article on Michigan’s fall crops would be complete without a mention of apples, of course. Michigan is the third largest producer of apples in the country, with an average of about 23 million bushels every year. This makes apples the largest fruit crop in Michigan. So no matter where you are in Michigan this fall, go ahead and find your way to an apple orchard – pick some apples, drink some cider and appreciate this amazing crop!

While an apple by itself may be a perfect snack, the options for cooking with apples are vast. Classic desserts like the apple pie and apple crisp should not be overlooked, but I challenge you to look past the pies and crisps this season. Put apples in your salads, roast them with carrots or stuff halved winter squash with sausage and apples before roasting for about an hour. You’ll know it’s done when the squash and apples are soft and the sausage is cooked.

2) Parsnips

Photo courtesy of Christina Carson.

Photo courtesy of Christina Carson

While often overlooked, parsnips might be my favorite fall vegetable. Their sweet white tubers don’t show up until the ground has been thoroughly frosted. The frost helps them convert starch to sugar and create that joyful flavor I can’t get enough of. They may not be a favorite of most, but you’ll find them in abundance at markets and stores throughout the state once the ground freezes.

Parsnips are best slow roasted, to bring out their natural sweetness. I like to chop them into cubes or fries, before tossing with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh rosemary. Roast them up at 375 degrees until soft inside and browning on the outside, about an hour depending how large you’ve chopped them.

Maybe you’ll become as hooked on them as I am.

3) Winter Squash

Photo courtesy of Christina Carson.

Photo courtesy of Christina Carson

Winter squash and pumpkins are surely one of the telltale signs of fall, and there is so much more to these delights than the pumpkin spice flavor. Slow cooking winter squash  in the oven for an hour or two is a great way to cozy up to the fall weather.

The varieties of squash available in Michigan are hugely diverse, especially if you buy them from a farm that enjoys growing lots of variety. While difficult to find because the seed is expensive, fairy squash is my absolute favorite. The perfectly smooth texture and sweet taste make them great for squash desserts or silky smooth pureed squash soup.

If pumpkins are more your thing, make sure to pick up some pie pumpkins and explore making your very own pumpkin puree this fall. Far tastier than the canned puree, all you have to do is halve your pumpkins and scoop out the seeds. Then set the pumpkins cut side down on a baking sheet. I like to put a little water in the sheet pan to keep them moist. Bake at 375 degrees for about an hour. Once the pumpkin’s meat is very soft, scoop it from the skin and puree!

4) Pears

Photo courtesy of Christina Carson.

Photo courtesy of Christina Carson

While apples may be the celebrated fall fruit crop, Michigan grows some phenomenal pears as well.

While not  grown on a massive scale, many apple orchards dabble in pears. Two of my personal favorites are the round, apple-looking Asian pear and  the rough, brown-skinned bosc pear. !

Perfectly ripe pears are a great snack on their own, but they also shine served sliced with cheeses. Pears can also serve as a substitute in just about any apple recipe you can think of or, if you’re feeling adventurous, poached. I highly suggest you slice up some pears and make yourself a simple pear crisp. I guarantee you’ll love it.

5) Watermelon Radishes

Photo courtesy of Christina Carson.

Photo courtesy of Christina Carson

In my mind, these radishes are a bit of magic. They show up in markets when the ground gets cold and almost resemble turnips instead of an actual radish. Smooth white orbs don’t look like all that much while they’re sitting on a farmer’s market table, but once you cut into these radishes, I can promise you’ll be hooked. The centers reveal a stunning bright magenta center, like cutting into a particularly colorful watermelon.

Watermelon radishes have a bit of a bite to them, but nothing too powerful. I find them best suited as a stunning salad topper, or sliced into chip-like slices and served on a veggie platter with hummus or another veggie dip.

What is your favorite Michigan fall recipe?

774908_10100241229705605_1160233728_oAbout the Author: Christina Carson is a northern Michigan girl through and though – addicted to the Lake Michigan coastline, our incredible local food system, and the mitten’s homegrown musicians. I share my passion for beautiful, delicious and joyful food through my blog and photography business – Toot Sweet. Keep an eye out for my monthly Michigan recipes on Awesome Mitten and follow Toot Sweet on Facebook and Instagram.