I am neurotic about buying organic whenever I can, especially when it comes to apples. However, I go non-organic when it comes to pick-your-own produce. It’s a yearly tradition in my household to visit a new apple orchard every year. This year, we found a relatively unknown apple of our eye at Rinker Orchards.
While you pass private orchards, the signs are clearly marked and foolproof with GPS to locate Rinker Orchards. Pure and simple goodness. That’s how I describe the famous Rinker’s apple cider. No sugar, no water and no preservatives; just pressed apples in their natural form. Complimentary samples are waiting for you to imbibe. I wish we had brought a cooler to bring some home as the cider is unlike any other brand I have tasted. A pint cost $1.75, ½ gallon cost $6 and $9 for a gallon.
While I missed trying pies or donuts, I forgave them when they mentioned that they sold cider sicles AKA homemade apple cider popsicles for .75. My daughter kept repeating “this is so good.” Rinker’s sells local honey and the Lions Club is present most weekends selling apple butter.
Now onto the apples. Don’t go expecting a commercial operation. Simply purchase the size bag desired $6 for half a peck, $9 for a peck and $15 for half a bushel. You can mix and match apples from the bin and the PYO orchard. In the giant bins were Honeycrisp and Red Cort. From the orchard, current picking includes Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Fuji, and Ida Red. We were told from an employee that Ida Red will last until January and makes great applesauce. In the coming weeks are York and Rome apples. The popular Nittany variety will appear the first weekend in October.
The 43rd year of apple picking at Rinker Orchards is from Labor Day through Columbus Day weekend. However, due to Mother Nature, it’s best to call to confirm. They are open Fridays to Mondays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. They accept cash and credit cards.
Rinker Orchards is located in Stephens City. Other than the orchard, the only other activity is the seasonal Family Drive In movie theatre. I will say gas prices can’t be beat in this part of Virginia. Ten minutes down the road is Winchester where the Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum lies. We loved it years ago and look forward to seeing the remodeled museum on our next trip there. Just remember, if you visit the Shenandoah Valley during the fall, it’s the height for leaf peeping tourists so allow plenty of time when driving through the area.
Photos by Kathleen Molloy.