Butternut Squash and Apple Soup – My Fall Favorite

At a wedding may moons ago, I had a fantastic butternut squash and apple soup.  I’ve been trying to replicate and/or reinvent it since then.  This is one of my favorite attempts thus far:

You’ll Need:
3 Tablespoons of Butter
1 Medium Butternut Squash (peeled, seeded, chopped)
1 Large Granny Smith Apple (chopped, seeded)
4 Shallots (chopped)
3 Cloves of Garlic (diced)
3 Cups of Chicken Broth (gluten free, of course) (or rabbit broth, if you’re feeling frisky)
2 Cup of White Wine or Hard Apple Cider
1 Cup of Sour Cream
Fresh Tarragon
Salt & Pepper

Optional: Bacon! (cooked and then coarsely chopped)

Do this:

Melt butter in the pan, add garlic & shallots.  Cook for about 5 minutes.  Add the squash and apples, cook for a further 5 minutes.  Add the chicken broth, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes (or until the squash is fork tender).  Add the wine/cider, tarragon leaves, some salt & pepper.  Stir together and then immersion blend (or run through your regular blender in stages).  Then stir in sour cream and chopped bacon!  (add more salt/pepper to taste) Garnish with a spoonful of sour cream and an apple slice.  Try not to eat the whole batch at once….it’s hard.


Small-batch Homemade Hard Cider from Storebought Juice

This is a recipe I’ve been tweaking over time (that is bits and bobs borrowed from here and there to begin with!), but I think it’s a pretty decent (and easy) one for a novice home-brewer. 🙂

You’ll Need:

  • A gallon glass jug of apple juice or cider from the store (this saves you having to buy juice and the bottle – aka carboy – separately)
  • A packet of cider yeast –  I like this one.
  • An airlock – like this guy
  • A few tablespoons of alcohol, type unimportant
  • An appropriately sized bung…yup, a bung…also called a drilled stopper. The wholefoods brand juice takes a size 6.5 bung.
  • Another quart of juice or cider (you won’t use this for a few weeks, so don’t worry too much about this yet)
  • A cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 cup of honey or brown sugar
  • A bucket or pot that holds at least a gallon and a half of liquid.
  • A length of food grade tubing – mine is about 4 feet, which is the least I’d recommend.
  • Bottles – I’m a fan of swing tops like these – so that I don’t have to deal with capping them.

Day 1:

  • Sterilize your stopper (I just run it through the dishwasher on sanitize).
  • Open your juice and dispose of the cap – you won’t need this.
  • Dump in about 1/4 packet of yeast.  The rest can go back into the fridge for later or you can chuck it if you’re never going to do this again.
  • Pop the top on your airlock and fill with alcohol.  As you can see mine has purple liquid in it – it’s creme violette, which is all I happened to have had laying around, oddly.  Some places will tell you to fill your airlock with sanitizer, but I’d rather fill it with something that I wouldn’t mind drinking if it splashed in.
  • Put your jug in a cool-dry place out of direct sunlight.  Cider likes a cool ferment, so between 60 and 70 degrees is best, but up to 75 is ok.
  • IMG_6772

Day 3:

  • Check to see that there are bubbles passing through the liquid in the airlock.

Day 7:

  • Sterilize your bucket or pot and your tubing.
  • Siphon (with your tubing) the liquid from your glass bottle and into your pan.
  • Clean out and then sterilize your glass jug.
  • Siphon your cider into your now sanitized glass jug, return airlock, return to its cool, dry place.

Day 21:

  • Place a cinnamon stick and your sugar or honey into a pan with the fresh quart of apple juice or cider.
  • Heat until all of the sugar has dissolved and then cover and allow to return to room temperature.
  • Sterilize your bucket or pot.
  • Pour sweetened room-temperature juice (sans cin. stick) into this bucket or pot.
  • Siphon your cider into this bucket or pot and allow it to mix
  • Then siphon into bottles.  This can be a bit of a sticky situation if you’re not careful.  A sanitized ladle and funnel can be helpful as this is a tiny batch.
  • I got this trick from a brewing forum – fill a clean coke bottle with cider so you can check for carbonation.

Days 23-25:

  • Squeeze the coke bottle to test for carbonation.  Once it feels like a regular coke does (pretty solid), you have good carbonation in your  cider.  You now have two options.  If you’re keeping the cider for yourself and have fridge space for it, put it all in the fridge – this is called “cold crashing” and will kill all the yeast and stop it from making anymore alcohol (or exploding your bottles).  If you want to store it at room temperature or give it away, you need to heat pasturize it to kill the yeast.  I’ve never done this, because I’m the only person I know who loves cider.  If you want to try it, there’s a post here that will walk you through the steps.  Please don’t hurt yourself.

At this point, I drink the coke bottle cider – it’s not in a pretty bottle and I want to know what the baseline taste is.  Your cider will mellow with age, so I’d let it rest in the fridge for 2-6 weeks…but you can let it age for up to a year, if you feel like it. If you start this week, you’ll have a great offering for the Thanksgiving dinner table. 🙂