Every fall, my family and drive up to Twin Lakes, WI to pick apples, always on a Sunday. It’s a tradition we’ve kept for as long as I can remember, and it goes hand in hand with our tradition to enjoy the fruits of our labor (heh heh) afterwards, while watching the Bears game.
Harvest Time/Oriole Springs Orchard is about an hour and twenty-five minutes drive from Chicago. It’s technically in Twin Lakes, WI (home of Country Thunder, if that’s your thing). The Orchard has apples, pumpkins, and cherries to pick, as well as a smokehouse, donut shop, cider barn, brat shop, petting zoo and a newly added deck to enjoy all the goodies with an unparalleled view of the orchard.
We always start with the apple picking. We enter through the end of the orchard where we are greeted by orchard workers who direct us to the Golden Delicious apples and supply us with the bags to contain them.
The trees are always full of apples, just ready to be plucked and taken home. They have an ingenious device to pick apples on the top branches scattered throughout the orchard. It’s a something like a broom handle with a wire covered in denim, fashioned to catch the apple as you pull it from the branch. It’s like hitting the jackpot any time you can find one hidden in the neat rows of trees.
After we fill our bags with apples, we head over to the smokehouse, paying for the apples as we exit the orchard.
The smokehouse is full of delicious meats and cheeses, specifically the best deli ham I have ever tasted. There is also summer sausage, apple butter, honey, pie filling, and all sorts of assorted goodies. The brat shop is just outside the smokehouse that sells hot dogs and brats to be enjoyed with a cold cup of cider.
The donut shop is next door, with a line that stretches past the patio and into the grass. The wait for the delectable fried dough was almost an hour, but oh so worth it. They make them to order and cover them in cinnamon sugar, coconut, frosting or sprinkles.
They patio and small shop next to the smokehouse were dotted with batches of pumpkins, squash and gourds. I am a sucker for tiny pumpkins, so I bought one for a dollar, such a bargain.
The petting zoo is off to the side of the main barn, where you can pay a dollar to feed the small ragtag group of animals. There are goats, a pig (Mike the Pig, to be exact), and a few ugly turkeys.
Before leaving, we stopped at the cider barn, for a half gallon of the juice they make from the not so perfect apples. We couldn’t pass up the cider milkshakes they were selling, they were amazing. Like creamy apple pie. I would definitely drive up again solely for another cider shake.
Once we had our share of Harvest Time, we went back to my parent’s house to feast on apples, cheese and charcuterie. We parted ways at the end of the evening, all toting our bags of apples and leftovers home with us.
Until next time, Harvest Time.
If you’re interested in visiting this beautiful orchard, check out their website for a harvest schedule.