You know it's fall season when there's an abundant of all things apple and pumpkin-flavored, but nothing beats the real thing. The epitome of fall happens the moment you pick a ripe apple from the branches and bite into its crisp, juicy flesh. Upstate New York is magical in the fall and wouldn't be complete without a trip to the orchard for apples and cider donuts. J and I went on a whim and it just so happened to be opening weekend of Pick Your Own at Golden Harvest Farms in Valatie. Just 20 miles from Albany, this orchard is a nice getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city.
It's always a good sign when you are greeted by the rich, fragrant smell of freshly made apple cider donuts as soon as you drive through the parking lot. The sweet smell is enough to lure you into the shop first but a treat is much more rewarding after you've worked for it. If you need a little pep before venturing into the orchard, a distillery is conveniently located onsite. Harvest Spiritshas been making a range of liquors from apple vodka to apple jack and brandy. $1 will get you a sample and boy will it hit you. It's strong stuff, maybe that's why they'll only serve you up to three samples. Hard liquor isn't really for us but we really appreciate locally sourced and handcrafted products. Harvest Spirits also had samples of ice cider on hand from Slyboro Cider House. Produced much like ice wine, ice cider is sweet from the residual sugars and the apple flavor is very prominent. We were big fans and picked up a bottle.
Warmed up from a couple shots, J and I were ready to hit the orchards. This pick your own was a steal at $15 for a half bushel bag plus two coupons for FREE apple cider donuts! Apple sampling is encouraged too which meant free snacks along the way. It's still pretty early in the season, so not all the apple varieties are prime for picking. Our favorite were red crisp and sweet galas and we had no problem filling our bag, and stomachs to boot. But of course there was still room for donuts at the end of the trip!