Saturday, October 13, 2007

Pearsnapples, or Further Along the Circuit de Paysan

Well, gang, the weather finally looked at a calendar and resigned itself to being fall. We even felt safe enough to take the air conditioner out of the window last night! Tee hee. And we have had some rain, too. In fact, we had a three-day holiday last weekend , and though we had some ideas for fun things to do, the monsoons came on Saturday, and we just holed up watching movies and taking naps (which wasn't too bad a plan either!). But it cleared up and became beautiful on Sunday, so we decided to venture north and see what kind of trouble we could get into. My only idea was to visit a small orchard/farm stand that I had read about on one of my favorite blogs. The irony is that they are from Montreal, but the place they wrote about was just 20 km west of Hemmingford, QC (which is, in turn, a mere six miles from my house and my closest crossing). Somehow, I had never been quite that far west. We usually travel down the Covey Hill Road, stop at the Viau butcher, then head north at the Mooers Forks/Cannons Corners crossing to frequent the outdoor market at St. Chrysostome, and then continue on to Montreal. But by heading further west this time, we stumbled upon the epicenter of the known apple-producing universe! And it's name is Franklin Centre.

Our first stop was to visit M. Safian's roadside stand that I had read about, and we scored a peck of gorgeous russet apples, some wonderfully-fragrant Flemish Beauty pears, and the proprietor's signature buckwheat honey (dark and flavorful), all for about fifteen dollars. The russets were a particularly exciting find because they are an heirloom apple that you don't see much anymore. Russeting refers to the leathery jacket covering the apple, and though I find them beautiful, modern apple growers and consumers, apparently, do not. But they are firm and sweet and almost nutty in flavor, and may even be compared a little bit to a pear. Delicious!

Franklin, QC is a dense cluster of apple orchards, and you can hardly drive a mile down the road before hitting another one. Some are tiny, like M. Safian's, and some are huge dog-and-pony shows, which some may find crass, but I think are charming at this time of year. One such larger operation was Vergers Cassidy, just down the way from M. Safian. There were a million cars and a parking attendant directing people, so we knew something big was happening there! As it turns out, every weekend in October, the Cassidys have an Octoberfest of sorts. They have hot cider and German sausages on the grill, a German musician playing handbells and the accordian, pony rides and a petting zoo for the kids (ok, we enjoyed the petting zoo, too!), fresh baked goods (we snatched up an apple strudel!), picnicking in the orchards, and of course, u-pick apples of all kinds. And let me tell you, the joint was jumpin'! It seems like every Montrealer had come down, Circuit de Paysan map in hand, to enjoy their (Canadian) Thanksgiving weekend picking apples at places like Cassidy Orchards. I highly recommend it for a fall outing, especially if you have kids.

Our next stop was a bit further down the way, at Vergers Blair. There was also a big blow-out happening there, but this time, the patrons were at the other end of the age spectrum. All the old-timers seemed to had converged to enjoy an outdoor dance featuring the music of the Black and White Country Band. They played traditional Acadian music (close your eyes, and you would swear you were in Louisiana), and the old folks got their groove on. They two-stepped and line danced and even busted out their tap shoes! It was quite entertaining to watch! Of course, Blair Orchards had u-pick apples and baked goods, too. We scored a maple cream pie and some warm dinner rolls to take home. There was also a beaver tail stand next to the music pavillion (that's the Canadian take on fried dough, like elephant ears) where you could have your crispy dough topped with real maple cream. YUM!

By the time we finished visiting Vergers Blair, we had run out of Canadian cash, and truth to tell, the better part of the day was gone, too. So we decided to go to the end of the Circuit de Paysan to the west (Huntingdon) and then loop around through Ormstown and back down to Hemmingford. Along the way, we encountered a lovely old covered bridge that reminded me of my beloved cocker spaniel, Percy, who passed away last year about this time. (Yes, I realize that the bridge was not named in his memory, but it is in my mind!) All in all, it was a lovely day, and truly, one of the top five all-time autumnal outings, maybe because it was unplanned and oh-so serendipitous. In any case, I strongly encourage you to get out there and enjoy at least one more al fresco adventure before the winter sets in. (My local readers should be ashamed if they don't, as we are really lucky to live in this glorious apple country--and right next to one, too!)

1 comment:

Randi said...

Looks like a fun time. I wish I was as close to the US as you are to Canada. I'm only 62 miles, but I have to cross at the very busy blue water bridge. Are the crossings very small? Are there lineups? Is it very formal? I find it so fascinating that in some parts of vermont, one side of the street is Canada and the other side is the US.