apple picking & authenticity + apple pancakes

apple pancakes // brooklyn supperIf my rural southern forbears found out that each year I seek out the chance to pick apples, they’d probably be disappointed that I didn’t own the orchard but glad that it was something easy like apples instead of something gross like tobacco. But when they found out that I actually pay for the privilege of doing farm work, they’d all keel over dead on the spot (hopefully after producing whichever offspring ultimately led to my existence). Why on Earth, they would wonder, would I pay to harvest fruit? And even worse, why would I drag my children into it?

Pick-your-own farms for urban tourists are nothing new, but in recent years they’ve exploded in both numbers and popularity, coinciding with the mainstreaming of gourmet food culture in evidence everywhere from Top Chef to the organic section of your grocery store to the high-end ranges and fridges in real estate listings. And while a gourmand in the 80s would seek out bold new presentations with the dipping areas arranged just so or unexpected fusions between cuisines, today an aesthetic that favors realness and nostalgia above all has won the day. We want our pies to look like grandma’s and go to the taco truck that is más auténtica.

apple picking // brooklyn supperWhich, as far as I’m concerned, is great. I’d way rather know your Nana’s goulash recipe than know how to emulsify a chicken so that barbecue sauce is the food and the chicken is the sauce and your mind is blown. But it’s good for me to get off my high horse every now and again and take a look at what I’m doing. Because as much fun as it is to pick apples, it is at it’s heart a simulacrum just like the phony facade of the “fish shack” at the mall or the spray-on crust of a loaf of white bread.

It’s undeniable that a lot of the striving toward authenticity that characterizes current food culture is doomed to fail, and apple picking points to the reasons for that. The rural idyll apple picking represents is the fantasy of people who don’t have to worry about hailstorms or commodity prices. At the end of my day at the farm, I am no longer a farmer. I paid for an experience, had it, and it’s over. Similarly, our grandparents put up food for the winter because they had to. If I really want a tomato in January, I can buy one. Though I am free to rediscover canning, I can drop in and out of seasonal eating as I please.

apple picking // brooklyn supperBut if apple picking is inauthentic at its core (sorry), so what? Nobody needs to pick their own apples and you don’t save time or money by doing it, but it does offer a reason to spend a day out of the city. It’s also pretty good for the farmers’ bottom lines (hello bounce house). And for children and adults alike, there’s a value in experiencing where your food comes from and how, even if it’s a somewhat contrived experience. We can never achieve perfect authenticity, but there’s a lot to be gained from the pursuit.

With that in mind, some weekend his fall we’ll load up the car and head to a country orchard to pick our own sweet, just-ripe apples once again. In case you do the same and find yourself with a trove of apples, or even if you straight-up bought them, here’s a recipe for simple, tender, and light apple pancakes. Nothing fancy, just a nice way to showcase the bright sweetness of peak-season apples. I think your Grandma would approve.

apple pancakes // brooklyn supper

Apple Yogurt Pancakes (adapted from this blueberry pancake recipe)
serves 4

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup full fat yogurt
1 1/2 cups milk
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1 cup apple slices, cut to 1/18 inch thick (look for a small, sweet variety like Pippins or good Galas)
coconut oil, butter, or neutral oil for frying
maple syrup, butter, and apples slices for serving

Set a large, rimmed baking sheet in your oven and turn heat to 200 degrees F.

Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium-high heat.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, sea salt, and nutmeg. In a smaller bowl, combine the eggs, yogurt, milk, and zest. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry, drizzle with the melted butter, and stir just until well-combined. Fold in the apples.

Drop a tablespoon of oil into the preheated skillet. Add 2 – 3 tablespoons of batter per pancake, and cook for 2 – 3 minutes per side. Place cooked pancakes on the preheated cookie sheet in the oven.

Serve with sliced apples, soft butter, and maple syrup.

Comments

  1. says

    I never thought deeply about apple picking until I lived in the city and had to hike out to the suburbs to do it–I grew up picking apples at the orchard 5 minutes from my house. Even if it is “trendy,” I still think it’s important to know where your food comes from and there’s something thrilling about standing in the middle of an apple tree, after climbing past branches on the quest for the perfect, unblemished apple. Pick on, my dear!

    • says

      Totally agree Kelly. No matter where we live, like here with apple orchards all over, or in the city, we’ll always drag our kids out there just for the chance to see a farm at work. And this year, I’ll make a point of climbing to the highest rung on the apple tree ladder. Cheers!

  2. says

    in the uk, I learned the word “scrumping”. It basically describes the unsanctioned pilfering of apples from abandoned orchards…especially good for cider making!

    • says

      Hi Kirstin, Nice to have you pop in! Your comment is funny because I just heard about National Gleaning Day where the harvest is gleaned to feed the hungry. But yeah, I’m always kind of shocked by all the wasted fruit at pick your own orchards.

  3. says

    Man, I know farming is hard work and I know it’s harder work than I do in my nice work-from-home computer life. I have so much respect for farmers. That’s why I kind of look at going to farmers’ markets and going to farms to pick apples or blueberries or pumpkins is a way of showing that respect, going straight to the source and being thankful for the people who make our food supply possible.

    • says

      Hi Shanna, that’s so well put! I love our farm trips, and always relish the chance to get our girls out to see where their food comes from. Apples aren’t quite as bad, but I’m pretty sure my heart grew five sizes the day we went strawberry picking. That is some really hard work.

  4. says

    Thanks for sharing this thoughtful post. Nice to see someone acknowledging the essentially false nature of our search for ‘authenticity’, but still seeing it’s value anyway. It might not be exactly real, but neither are my false eye lashes and I still love those.

  5. says

    I’ve been wanting to go apple picking for the longest time! These photos are so cute and the pancakes look SO delicious! I have buckets of apples at home at the moment so I cant wait to try your recipe out this weekend! Thanks!

  6. says

    Sure it’s easy to just head to the grocery store, but apple picking is a fun experience- especially for kids! They enjoy being able to eat a piece of fruit that they just picked. Many apple picking farms offer many more attractions as well, so it’s really a full day of fun!

  7. says

    I love this post and I completely relate with you. We love visiting the orchards and going apple-picking for the same reasons you do. Despite the “tourism” we enjoy getting out of the city and spending the day outdoors…. and because we love food, an outdoor event that revolves around food makes us happy :) thanks for this post, it’s cute :)

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