Labor Day Weekend 2010 and the "unofficial" end of summer. It had been the hottest summer on record, reports indicated that it was above average temps even for Africa. There were 35 days in NY with 90 degrees or higher. The warm weather started in April and I'm not sure if we've seen the last of it. But Labor Day weekend was glorious....temps in high 70's, crystal blue skies, no humidity with a taste of autumn in the evening air. Though, my wardrobe was still shorts and sandals, it's apple and pear pickin' season upstate a bit at the Warwick Valley (NY) Winery. So, the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, Steve and I and Jeff and Pat Winter took a scenic drive pass Sterling Forest Renaissance Festival, Mt. Peter Ski Slope, Farms, Horse Ranches and Corn Fields and with the help of a GPS, we arrived by Noon.
So I will begin with food..it's a food blog after all, and the Winery's Pane Cafe was the first stop on our agenda.You placed your order from a chalkboard menu, received a buzzer gadget, then settled at a wrought-iron table in an outside garden-dining area.
Five minutes later, 2 pulled pork sandwiches, a tomato and cucumber salad and a salad of spinach, beet, goat cheese with orange segments was ready to devour. Served on paper plates with plastic cutlery it was our very own picnic in the country. Need I say...I didn't order either of those salads. The pork was tender, not too sweet & crowned with slaw. The salads...fresh, crisp and flavorful with rounds of toasted, seasoned French bread circling the plate.
We found the booth that sold a sturdy bag that held a 1/2 bushel of soon-to-be-picked-fruit for $20 and headed for the orchards. The uphill climb was worth every step as we came upon row after row of apple trees, 30 varieties in all. Each row had a small plaque before it indicating the kind of apple and what it was best used for such as baking, eating, cider etc. There were Cortland with its white crisp flesh, the striped red Gala, the aromatic Macintosh with its beautiful ruby color, the high dessert quality Empire, and Thomas Jefferson's favorite- the spicy Spitzenberg known for its orangish tough skin and russet dots and faded stripes.
We tasted an apple from each row we were interested in, commenting as though we were Apple Oficionados. Some had a faint pear flavor possibly from their close proximity to the pear orchards, a spicy note, others were crisp to the bite, or softer and juicier. Not one tasted the same or had the same texture.
On our way to the pear orchards, we waved to those atop of a hay wagon pulled by a tractor. The beautiful day and shared activities brought strangers together. So on to the Pear Orchard. One of the earliest written histories or records comes from Homer's reference to them as "Gifts from the Gods." The pears were in large crates...the reason....Apples ripe on the tree; Pears ripe off the tree. The types weren't as varied as the apples. There was the Bartlett, a light green to completely yellow pear that gives off a sweet aroma, the Bosc which is dark yellow with a cinnamon russetting of the skin. One bin was stamped Paula Ruby pear that had a red blush to the skin, so I grabbed a couple of those, too. The bag was full, and I think I heard it groan.
It was time to quit, but not before a stop to the Winery. It was packed with people bellied up to the bar listening to the wine expert explain the various wines. We took her suggestions to heart and headed for the shelves. Steve chose a Pinot Gris with a delicate floral and honey note. I picked a Sour Cherry Cordial and an Apple Liqueur. Jeff & Pat selected the Black Dirt Red (the kind of dirt in Warwick, NY). It is a 100% Baco Noir, a French-American hybrid grape that has a cherry, plum & fig note.
The Tasting Room
It was a wonderful day. The best Labor Day weekend, I can remember...fantastic weather, the great outdoors, and time spent with my husband and good friends. We left the winery exhilarated, loaded with fruit and new knowledge of pears and apples and tired...but not too tired to stop just down the road at Scheuermann Farms where the pumpkin patch caught our eye. But, that's another post....see ya then.
Rustic Pear Tart
adapted from Straight from the Farm Blog by Jennie Love
5-6 ripe pears
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg
juice of half a lemon
1 T. plus 1 t. cornstarch
1/2 package of prepared or homemade pie crust
1 T. butter
1 T. honey
1/4 t. boiling water
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or non stick foil
Peel and core pears. Cut into 1/4 inch thick slices and place in a medium mixing bowl. Toss pears with cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon juice, and cornstarch. Let sit for a few minutes while you prepare the crust.
Roll out pie crust to 9 inches wide. Use a rolling pin to help transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet. Give the filling in the bowl a stir again to make sure the juices are coating all the pieces. Use a large spoon to heap pears onto the center of the pie crust, leaving at least a 2 inch border around the outside. Dot with butter. Hold the juices in reserve in the bowl for the time being.
Carefully fold up sides of crust around the heap of pears, pinching any seams that form to make sure they are sealed. (forms a kind of pouch) The pears in the center will not be covered by crust. Pour reserved juices over the exposed pears, making sure it gets inside the crust.
Place tart in the hot oven to bake for 40 minutes or until crust is golden brown and pears are tender. Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack. Combine the honey and boiling water to create a glaze. Use a brush to apply to both the hot crust and pears. Allow tart to cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing. To transfer tart to a serving plate, it’s best to let it cool completely so crust holds together.
(serves 6) Serve with ice cream or whipped cream or squares of cheese!
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