A favorite autumn tradition of mine is visiting the pumpkin patch or cider mill. Having grown up in Michigan, this is something I've done since I was a kid. It was always so fun to visit the cider mill for fresh apple cider and donuts and watch how the cider is made. Now that I live in New Jersey I was pleased that they uphold similar traditions here. So for the last few years my husband and I have been visiting farms to reap the joys of an autumn harvest. This year we found a place with a pumpkin patch and cider mill in one. Score! Our perfect autumn day went something like this:
Figure out where we want to go
This year we had a few goals in mind - we wanted to carve a pumpkin, drink cider and eat donuts, and also peruse a corn maze for awhile. We found a place that fit all those needs. Before you go, decide what you want out of the excursion. Do you want to pick your own apples? Do want to pick your own pumpkin? Do you want to do a hayride or a corn maze? Or do you want to just visit a traditional cider mill? It's easy to find what you're looking for in your area on the web now. There are sites specifically dedicated to helping you find a farm of your choice.
This year the corn maze was pretty basic. But in the past, we've done ones that were shaped and also ones with activities riddled throughout them. There are some now that are also haunted corn mazes if you're up for a scare! We always come up with ideas for scary movies inside a corn maze, why is that?
We like to pick our own pumpkins. We go out into the field and search for the perfect pumpkin for each of us. This can get a little dirty, so be prepared. Most places also have some already picked ones that you can usually get if you don't want to head out into the field. And of course, eating your pumpkin also can be quite delicious with these recipes.
Fun fact: Pumpkins average in size around 13 pounds. Giant competition pumpkins are grown and can weigh over 1,000 pounds! In 2010, the world record was 1,810 pounds. Over 1 billion pounds of pumpkin are produced in the US every year.
At the cider mill, you can get a peek into how the cider is made. They usually let you look into the area where they actually smash the apples down to make the cider. This is fun for the kids to see. We also brought a bunch of apples home. We had to wait in a long line this year to get our hands on fresh cider and donuts. It's become a pretty common autumn tradition so weekends are usually pretty packed in October. I spoke to someone that said years ago she would just be there with a small group of people and now there are hundreds of people. I researched a little bit and they say the best time to go is October as it's the right time to get the best of the harvest and enjoy the colors of fall. Some places are open into November, but then you miss out on Halloween. Prepare to wait in line, especially if your place boasts the best cider around!
Fun fact: It takes about 35 - 40 apples to make 1 gallon of apple cider!
Eat donuts and drink cider
After waiting so long, you can't wait to bite into that piping hot donut. The combo of apple cider and a donut is amazing. Also a favorite is hot apple cider, very good on a cold day.
Creating our Jack-o-lanterns
Once we're home, we usually put on a Halloween movie and get to work cleaning out and carving our pumpkins. We'll want to use the pumpkin seeds inside to roast them for a crunchy healthy snack. In past years, I've also roasted the whole pumpkin to make pumpkin puree and make fresh pumpkin pie with it. It's up to you when you want to carve your pumpkin, some people wait closer to Halloween as they can go bad fairly quickly. Here you can find a few tips for keeping them fresh. I made my jack-o-lantern after Jack the Pumpkin King from The Nightmare Before Christmas. Emi made hers after My Neighbor Totoro.
Fun fact: The tradition of carving a pumpkin is believed to have come from Ireland, where they used to carve faces into turnips, beet and other root vegetables as part of the Gaelic festival of Samhain.
Roast the pumpkin seeds
After you've gotten everything out of the pumpkin, you can clean the seeds and roast them for a healthy, crunchy snack. Below is one of my favorite recipes for roasting pumpkin seeds. But they're also good with just a little olive oil and salt.
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds with Truffle Oil & Parmesan
- Clean and dry your pumpkin seeds.
- Pre-heat your oven to 300 degrees.
- In a bowl combine shredded Parmesan Cheese (about 1/2 cup) with about 3 tablespoons olive oil and about 2 tablespoons of white truffle oil.
- Toss with some salt until evenly mixed then transfer to a baking sheet and spread evenly.
- Crack some freshly ground pepper over the top of the seeds.
- Bake for approximately 35-45 minutes, or until golden brown, then let cool.
Recipe from Tony Brueski's The Taste Spot.com
Enjoy the fruits of your labor and don't feel bad for having cider and donuts for breakfast. :)
What are your favorite autumn traditions? We'd love to hear them!