My first Minnesota apple orchard trip! Regrettably, there's no pick-your-own here. It really must be an East Coast thing, because the majority of Minnesota orchards don't allow you to pick apples.
And don't even get me STARTED on the lack of hot fried apple cider donuts. I just don't get it. We are a state that employs marvelous machines to serve hot fried mini donuts at the state fair at a furious pace. To keep up with demand. Because people love hot fresh donuts doused in cinnamon sugar. Because of course people do.
And yet...we don't have the exact same thing in it's traditional fall apple form. Keep in mind: apple cider donuts are not that different from regular donuts. Usually, the only difference is the substitution of apple cider for water in the yeasted dough, though sometimes, there's a heavier hand with the cinnamon for the cinnamon sugar that it's tossed into post-fry. My point: it is not that hard to make cider donuts. Sure, there's frying involved, but it's not that big a deal.
I had chosen Pine Tree for my first apple orchard for two reasons: first, it's fairly close to where I live, and second, they seem to be one of the very few places that sells apple cider donuts.
I arrived, salivating, and so excited for donuts. It was about 1 in the afternoon, and I hadn't eaten all day in order to best appreciate the once-yearly treat of hot, fried, apple cider donuts.
But then I walked in, and I didn't smell what I thought I would smell. Sure, it smelled of apples, especially since there's a processing line right in the barn. But there was no smell of baked goods, no tantalizing hot apple smell.
Then I spied them. Oh, they had apple cider donuts. But they sell them COLD. In a plastic clamshell. My heart just fell. Tragedy in apple cider donut form.
Don't get me wrong, I bought a package, and they were tasty. But they were no sublime-autumn-warmth-delicious-amazing apple cider donut straight out of the fryer enjoyed under leafy apple trees. They were just not what I wanted. Add that to the lack of apple picking, and the entire trip left me so homesick for Boston. I've had so many wonderful trips with friends to apple orchards, and this just wasn't what I wanted.
It also doesn't help that all of the apples are different! Minnesota is in a slightly different growth zone than Boston, so very few apples overlap between Pine Tree and Boston orchards. Honeycrisp is one of the few that does. You can find a variety of options in Minnesota, and I haven't done an exhaustive search, but it was hard not to have my favorite apples this autumn. Cortlands, Jonagolds, Pink Lady, Gingergolds, Mutsu, oof. I need to get to Boston next fall, if I can.