Forget the pumpkins. September is all about Apples and I am here for it.
It’s no secret that my love for apples this time of year runs deep. I’ve posted multiple recipes with them (here, here, here, and here) already this season, and I’m guessing that’s probably not the end. I feel like I have to confess though– I’m a little new to the joy of fresh apples.
We had an apple tree growing up, but the apples were small, green, hard and sour. It essentially served as a worm motel and breeding ground, and the area was best avoided in the early fall when they started dropping. I, like many 90s kids, was raised on Mott’s Applesauce (I still love you Motts!), and so when I was older I happily passed on the chunky homemade stuff my mother in law made, watching in horror as my husband’s brother warmed it up in the microwave and ate it for dessert (DESSERT!). It wasn’t until I went on a mom’s group outing about 6 years ago, desperate to meet mom-friends, to an orchard where suddenly I saw what all the fuss was about. It sounds ridiculous, but picking a ripe apple off a tree kind of blew my mind. Even a Red Delicious! The waxy, mushy, flavorless grocery store apple of my youth– tastes pretty decent when plucked from a branch. We walked and we picked and we ate, tossing down those we didn’t like, and picking the ones we did into bag after bag. I later sounded like a complete idiot exclaiming to my husband (who grew up with two actual fruit-producing apple tress, homemade applesauce AND apple pie his whole life) just how good an apple was picked from a tree!
Cut to a few years later, and I hear that my cousin had purchased an old orchard about 40 minutes from our house, and he was hard at work getting it back into shape. We got updates from him at the holidays and learned about apple growing, tree trimming, and all the different varieties that he had at the orchard. The next fall, we visited and my U-Pick experience changed dramatically. At his orchard he had the usual suspects: Red Delicious, Jonagold, and the popular Honeycrisp…but he also had so many others. Liberty, Winesap, Ashmeads Kernal, Lura Red, and dozens of others with quirky names and traits that I could barely tell apart but he knew just from a glance at the tree. He was an encyclopedic tour guide, showing us the varieties, what was good and what wasn’t– and explaining the way the orchard ripens, each variety in two weeks stints starting in late August and ending in October. I left with a wooden crate full of apples, my brain full of new apple facts and ideas, and instructions to come back in a few weeks when more varieties were ready.
When my dad was young, his grandparents had a farm where they lived during the summer. It had a big garden, a few horses, some donkeys, and perhaps most importantly my great grandmother’s birds, which included peacocks, guinea fowl, and African Geese (If you think about it…. it was like the ultimate Hipster Farm. Ol’ Granny and Dado could’ve Instagrammed the shit out of this place), and was generally a place to escape the booming metropolis of Greenfield, Indiana and get some fresh country air.
My dad would tell us stories when we were little of “going to the farm” which sounded very exotic and magical for a girl who dreamed nightly of having a horse, had decorative peacock feathers pinned to the bulletin board in her room, and had never even really been to a farm before. It’s weird to look back at America’s history through the lens of my very own family and go from everybody-has-a-farm (or knows someone who does), and is eating fresh local foods, to the world of the farm being replaced by convenience meals and there-is-no-season-because-it’s-always-in-season-somewhere! global groceries.
Now here we are, finding ourselves turning a welcomed corner. The emphasis on local food is stronger than it’s ever been in my lifetime, and those old heirloom varieties which fell out of favor for the shiny picture perfect (bland) grocery store produce are regaining strength and popularity at farm stands, green markets, and specialty grocery stores. It’s not all that surprising that once again, there is a farm in my family.
When my cousin was walking us through the trees explaining each apple, he mentioned that he wanted to be the new “family farm.” Where our kids and their cousins can come and run around and pick their afternoon snack right off the tree. They’ll know exactly where the apples in their applesauce came from (sorry Motts), and have memories of going to the orchard that they can tell their kids! It’s crazy to me how my very own family has fallen into the historical trend line of owning a farm and eating food that came out of known-ground, to not owning a farm or even knowing or caring where exactly your produce came from, to once again having a little plot of land where food can grow and memories can be made. ….Now all we need are some peacocks….
In other news:
Currently reading: Re-visiting Rice Noodle Fish by Matt Goulding. I got the book for Christmas and got about halfway through, then it got shelved basically due to life itself being too busy, but it’s back on my nightstand and I’m once again entrenched in the world of Japanese cuisine and culture and trying to convince Chris that YES, we do need to go to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Currently Cooking to: Stankonia by Outkast. What a freaking album.
Currently Craving: BA’s Best Apple Cider Donuts. Fully plan on making these this weekend <3
Currently Watching: Fall TV is back! I can’t watch This is Us due to an annoying conflict between our local NBC station and my cable provider, but once that’s back I’ll be crying on the couch with the rest of you! I’m also re-watching season 6 of the Office (Jim <3 Pam 4ever) when I have a spare 20 minutes here and there, and if my brain can handle it, we will be tuning into the new PBS Ken Burns doc, “The Vietnam War.”