P.Y.O Pumpkins, Apples, Paw Paws & Recipes


And it was everything I’d hoped it would be. Fall-like, family friendly, and we even found a photographer to bring along! Thanks to Jami McDowell for taking these great shots! (And, yes, that is a hair flip in the above photograph. That’s apparently what I do while walking to the pumpkin patch.)


For those of you who live in the DMV area, there is no shortage of pumpkin and pick-your-own apple orchards to choose from. We opted for Mackintosh Fruit Farm. This time of year, the apples were already off the trees and neatly collected in ready-to-purchase bushels and the pumpkins were a-waiting in the field for the picking. There was even a corn maze and Fall Festival activites on the weekend. Though we went on Columbus Day, there is still plenty in the fields, especially in the way of pumpkins.

For those of you who haven’t picked your pumpkins yet, may I recommend bringing some gloves if you go to this farm? As great as it was to actually get to pick them myself (instead of having them just laying there like a muddy grocery store shelf), those suckers were pokey! Thankfully, I had a very cute little helper named Gideon, my friend Kari’s son. And I’m not sure who enjoyed getting muddy and playing the farmer more…

This farm also had a beautiful pick-your-own vegetables patch with a wide variety of beans, squash and greens still in the field (have you ever picked yellow eggplant?). And, perhaps most importantly, it had paw paws. Have you ever had a paw paw? This wild-growing fruit been called the poor man’s banana (although I paid $3 for it), but I think I’d call it nature’s pudding cup. You slice the fruit in half, being careful not to eat the skin or seeds, and eat the flesh like vanilla pudding. Not bad! And it was quite the conversation starter on Twitter.

Not to mention, the farm is near the extremely cute town of Berryville, Va. I first discovered the Berryville Cafe on my way to write about a Squirrel Festival in West Virginia for the Washington Post. The food is excellent and the service is nice and slow — just what you want in a good towny diner. Be sure to check out The Cookie Guy nearby (may I suggest the cake-like pumpkin spice one?).

photo 3

My priority on this trip was the apples, which I have since canned into applesauce, apple-pumpkin butter and baked into apple fruit roll-ups {recipes below}. I brought home a beautiful half bushel of honeycrisps. What a relief to brig home apples instead of peaches, knowing that the world will not end — and the flies will not feast — if I don’t bust out my canning pot right away. Phew!

photo 4

I also collected some great pumpkin recipes last fall, if you’re looking for something to do with them besides let them rot on your porch. The sweet pie pumpkins have myriad possibilities!

So if you still have apples sitting around or are looking for some fairly simple fall canning, here’s the recipe I used for sauce, adapted from Food in Jars cookbook. If you’re not into canning (I haven’t convinced you yet?), no worries. You can pop this applesauce in the fridge or freeze it for later in the year. For mommas just thinking about making their own baby food, this is a great place to start! No peeling required :-).




    • 4 pounds apples (Use a diverse variety — more sweet ones like honeycrisps if you don’t want to add sugar, and a few tart ones like goldrush for complexity.)
    • ½ cup apple cider or water (Grab some cider where you get your apples!)
Optional spices:
  • 2 pieces star anise (I left this out)
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • I also add a cinnamon stick and two slices of lemon peel while it’s cooking down.
  • 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon cloves
  • sugar (I didn’t add any sugar. If you use honeycrisps, there’s probably no need!)

Do This:

  1. Quarter apples. I use an apple slicer to cut them into eighths and remove the core. Put them in a large, non-reactive pot. Add liquid and star anise (if using), put on lid and bring to a simmer. Let fruit cook for approximately 15-20 minutes, until the fruit has broken down. Use tongs to fish out apple skins. (Or leave them in for added nutrition and blend them at the end.)
  2. Remove star anise. Using a potato masher or immersion blender, break down the fruit until it has reached your desired consistency. (If you’ve left the skins in, use an immersion blender if possible.) Add cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Taste and add sugar if you feel it is necessary.
  3. Pour applesauce into your prepared jars. Wipe rims, apply lids and screw on rings. Process in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes for half pints and pints, 20 minutes for quarts.
  4. When time has elapsed, remove jars from canner and let them cool on a towel-lined countertop.
  5. To store, remove rings and keep in a cool, dark place. Applesauce will keep in storage up to one year. (Or just refrigerate or freeze your jars if you didn’t process them.)

I dare you to not eat most of the applesauce while apples are still in season. It’s tough! That’s why I have to can and shove it in the back of my cupboard. I can’t resist apple goodness!

And if you have far too many apples to just put them all into sauce (as I did), here’s a recipe for apple pumpkin butter from the same fabulous Food in Jars book.




  • 5 cups applesauce (from what you just made or store bought)
  • 3 cups plain pumpkin puree (canned is perfectly fine)
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground ginger


  1. Combine the applesauce and pumpkin puree in a large pot. Bring to a gentle simmer and then reduce the heat. Cook over low heat for at least 1 hour, stirring every 10 minutes to prevent sticking. If the butter begins to spurt out of the pot, use a splatter shield to keep things neat. (I put all these ingredients in my crockpot while I was finishing a second batch of applesauce, and it cooked down over 3 or so hours.)
  2. After the first hour of cooking, stir the sugar, lemon juice and spices into the butter. Stir and continue to cook over low heat, until the butter is thick and spreadable, about 30 to 45 minutes.
  3. When the butter is done, remove it from heat and ladle into freezer-safe jars. Butter can be kept in the freezer for up to 1 year. (Here’s her helpful explanation of why pumpkin butter can’t be canned.)

BOTH of these recipes will be making an appearance at the Alexandria Food Swap this weekend. I’m so excited for my first food swap, where I’ll be exchanging these labors of love, along with peach jam, for other folks’ homemade goodies. The pantry will be more diverse and I’ll get to meet some other people who are just as crazy about preserving these wonderful seasonal foods.

One Response to “P.Y.O Pumpkins, Apples, Paw Paws & Recipes”
  1. Vape Pen says:

    Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an really long comment
    but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t appear.
    Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Regardless, just wanted to say fantastic blog!

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