Apple/Pear Picking at MJ Ranch + Other Random Things


This post will jump around a little bit so try to stay with me. Michael, Jorgina and the little ones invited Anh and I to join them on an apple picking adventure in the middle of September at MJ Ranch in Julian. No they don’t own the ranch, but it was somewhat fitting that they enjoy going to the place named after them. We’ve never done it before and heard it was a ton of fun. Before I start, I wanted to mention that I wasn’t originally going to do a post on this but I ended up changing my mind! Sorry for the lack of photos to properly illustrate our time at MJ Ranch.

First off, the place was a little hard to find. Once Google tells you where to make your last turn, you can mostly figure out where to park. When in doubt, try to find another parked car and park next to it. The signs didn’t really direct us to a clear place to park. There are only a few options so the process of elimination will eventually get you where you need to be if you don’t see any other cars around. We arrived just about when they opened to avoid the impending heat that was sure to cause us exponential discomfort. As we got ourselves ready, we walked over to a gentlemen sitting underneath a tent with a table laid out with different drawings of the various kinds of apples we could find. He was very helpful and mentioned some of the apples like the winesap and jonathan were most likely already all picked. For $10 you get a paper bag and can taste and pick as many apples as you wish.


Having never done this before we felt a little out of our element. How would these short people be able to reach up to get those green delicious apples seemingly so close, yet so far away?

IMG_3366Aha! With an apple picking stick of course!


Once we got the stick, the apples appeared to be a lot closer and within reach. MJ also brought along with them some extra rags to wipe off the dust and dirt that accumulate on the apples so you can try them before you pick a bunch. This is highly recommended as our rags were completely covered in dirt by the time we were done. Each tree tastes different and if you don’t like them, they tell you to just throw them on the ground and they’ll re-absorb back into the soil. I didn’t realize how unique each fruit from the different trees could taste. Some were great while others not so much. Not pictured are the pear trees we also were able to sample. It really was a lot of fun and who doesn’t like limitless taste tests!? We ended up with a bag of mostly green delicious apples, a few red delicious, and bosc pears.


What kind of people would we be if we didn’t stop by and get some Julian apple pie from either Mom’s or Julian Pie Company? Anh prefers the Boysenberry Apple Pie and since I don’t really have a preference, we went with that. The berries add an extra tartness to the pie and coupled with the ginormous scoop of sweet vanilla ice cream on top, you get a killer bite that hits all the nostalgia pressure points. DSC_0018     A week or so after our apple picking we had some green delicious apples and bosc pears left. What could we do with these?

I decided to chop them all up and throw them in a pan with butter, orange juice, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. The raw pears were a little too starchy and the skin gave an odd aftertaste. Cooking them with a generous amount of sugar and spice would hopefully fix that. 

We had just completed a Trader Joe’s run and picked up some quite delicious items that would compliment our fruit. Anh loves her croissants and when she set her eyes on the almond croissants there was no turning back.


They come frozen and you have to defrost and let them rise for nine hours, which takes some planning ahead. It is perfect if you leave them out overnight and have time to bake them in the morning. They look pretty pathetic when you take them out of the package, but they do increase by at least three or four times (pictured above).


Here is our finished product with a little powdered sugar we added on top for good measure.


And then there was Cookie Butter Ice Cream. Holy wow where have you been all of my life. For those of you that love it just as much as I do, thank you for sharing your passion with me and I hope to not see you in the ice cream section at Trader Joe’s right before they sell out. For the others that are not impressed, bless you! More for us! 

This is our final dessert plate with Julian apples and pears, an almond croissant, and cookie butter ice cream. OMG. Yes each stand out on their own, but when combined heaven gave us a glimpse of the kind of dessert they serve up there. The croissant has a flaky outside texture but gives way to a soft interior. The apples and pears played nicely with the ice cream, adding that extra spicy tart kick I love. The ice cream itself is made up of vanilla and bits of cookie with cookie butter swirls throughout. The vanilla flavor serves as a pleasant base for the cookie bits, full of bursts of cinnamon and of course the cookie butter to woo you into submission. I can’t properly explain such things that amaze me so. You will have to get the ice cream yourself if you haven’t already.



After we had cookie butter ice cream for the first time it was my job to find other things to compliment it. Enter Chocolate Mint Pocky. I like almost anything mint, and now I like almost anything cookie butter. The other day I went to try to get another carton of cookie butter ice cream but they were sold out. I am so obsessed with it I called two stores and asked when they’d be getting new shipments. I believe they said they should have another shipment by this weekend. I may have to check into cookie butter ice cream anonymous very soon.


Tis the pumpkin season and I didn’t realize just how many pumpkin items they had at Trader Joe’s until I read Mary’s post last month. This was during the visit I was desperately seeking cookie butter ice cream. Not wanting to leave empty handed, I picked up some pumpkin ice cream.


DSC_0035This one was really tasty as well. It was smooth and had just enough spice to make me feel it from the tip of my nose, all the way to my belly. The amount of sweet pumpkin flavor is really good too. Could ice cream be my favorite thing from Trader Joe’s? We have a new item in the form of Salted Caramel Gelato in the freezer now…

On a side note today is the last day of our Taste of Bankers Hill giveaway! Enter here to win a pair of tickets.  We have six pairs to give away!

MJ Ranch
1070 Farmer Road, 
Julian, CA 92036

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About Darren

Fooood! I love it if you can't tell already. I love everything about it. The taste, the smell, the look, the feel, the satisfaction, the gratification, and ultimately: the fun! I've been in San Diego for about 10 years now and it amazes me that there are still places to uncover. Traveling, eating, and taking pictures of food has always been a hobby of mine. So naturally Michael and I thought it made sense to share what we found with all of you. I tend to side with the savory but never shy away from a knock out dessert. If you have a place you think we haven't tried let us know! We're always on the lookout...

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2 Comments on “Apple/Pear Picking at MJ Ranch + Other Random Things”

  1. I wanted to go to MJ Ranch for the pears and apples but they were closed by the time we made it up to Julian. Boohoo! I loved going pear picking last year since we have an apple tree so apple picking is not quite as exciting, haha. Your dessert looks crazy good and I love the cookie butter ice cream, too! I haven’t tried the pumpkin yet but that might be my next purchase.

    1. We’ve picked up more cookie butter ice cream a few days ago as the obsession continues…Since I know you kind of have a pumpkin crush I think you will rather enjoy the pumpkin ice cream too. 🙂

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