Have you ever been there? Some friends of ours invited us to go with them to Apple Hill in Camino, California (right next to Placerville) in November. What a pleasant surprise to find so many apple farms nestled in the heart of Gold Country.
When I first moved to the foothills in the summer of 2003, I was first of all surprised by how many vineyards/wineries there were to be found up here. Next surprise – the house where we lived had an orange tree thriving and producing oranges. I’d moved here from the central coast, and if you lived far enough inland there, it was too cold to grow things like citrus – or at least so I thought. The apple trees and pear trees did fine though. The climate in the foothills – at least where we live – is very similar to the inland area of the Central Coast – so I was indeed surprised to see oranges growing just outside my front door.
We live a little bit up the slope from The Big Valley – so I guess it should not have come as such a surprise to find folks growing things like grapes and citrus and APPLES up here too. Many of the people who populated this area moved here from the San Joaquin Valley. I just usually think of pine trees when I think of the Sierra Nevada mountains and their foothills.
Our first stop was the coffee bar at High Hill Ranch – where we also got apple doughnuts. As we know – one of us is a big fan of doughnuts in any form – and apple doughnuts have been known to bring a smile. However, I must say, these apple doughnuts were pretty exceptional. In fact the whole day was pretty exceptional.
We had beautiful weather, nice friends to enjoy touring a few of the farms with, and lots of things to see and experience. Many of the farms had apple slices to try of the various apples they grow.
We discovered an apple variety called Arkansas Black at Larsen Farm (though they apparently are not the only farm that grows this variety). The Arkansas Black is VERY crisp and a very dark “black red” color. The flavor takes you back to your childhood if you were a kid who grew up with an apple tree in your back yard. Apparently, it came out to California on wagon trains, and they assume that is because of it’s “keeping” quality. We were told it will keep for many months. Ours didn’t last that long – because we ate them!
The craft booths at High Hill Farm were great too. Many of them did not want their wares photographed – I guess for fear of folks copying their work and becoming a competitor. Some of the booths didn’t have any signs up saying not to snap a picture, so I snapped one of a booth full of of all manner of liquor bottles that had been re-purposed into wind chimes. Amusing!
I made a couple of pints of applesauce from some of the Winesap, Arkansas Black and some Fuji apples that we bought when we were at Apple Hill. It was wonderful. I wish we’d bought more apples so I could have made more as well as some apple butter. I’m looking forward to next apple season when we can go back and get more apples (and another apple doughnut or two).