I’d like to sip my cider.

It is hard, when the walnuts are cracking and rolling underfoot, and when the skies are one day so blue it hurts and the next like soft grey flannel, and when the leaves bank against the porch steps and the Virginia creeper goes ruby, not to get a little nostalgic. Are any of us immune?

walnut

I do miss things. I miss the crackle of the woodstove, and the pile of shoes drying out next to it, and the way my toddler learned to swing a hatchet at the woodpile under the watchful and loving tutelage of his father. I miss the dappled canopy of the walnut trees behind our house. I miss autumn potlucks, all kabocha squash and braised pork and cold beers. I miss the call of my goats from under the majestic old oak that stood sentinel on the hill, nodding its quiet reassurance north to where I was hanging laundry behind the house and west to the crew snipping winter squash from their vines. I miss the goats’ winter coats too, less shiny than their summer sheen and thick almost overnight with a cashmere undercoat. I miss the carpet of leaves and pine needles crunching underfoot on long walks through our woods with my child, and the moss and dirt under his fingernails as he plunged into the shallow creek in gleeful disregard of the growing chill. I miss the color of wild persimmons against an October sky, and our fire pit, and our fall carrots. I wonder how many leaves our young sugar maple, the one we planted up near the mailbox, put out this year.

fall carrots

wild persimmons

But it is also nigh on impossible to ignore fall up here in the Hudson Valley. It crept along quietly for awhile. Way back in early August I drove north along the Taconic to Rensselaer County and had to squint to be sure I was really seeing a few red leaves. One day in September I went to buy some corn for dinner at our local orchard’s farm store and half gallons of their first cider, pressed the night before, beckoned from an icy bin. When I drive to pick up my son from his preschool on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, I am often stopping behind elementary school buses, and kids hop to the pavement under slow-motion showers of ochre leaves. Most mornings call for jeans and a sweater, but by noon we can still trade our slippers for sandals. It won’t be long, though, before we dig through the closets for our boots and winter hats.

bumble

seconds

tawny

But I’m in no rush. Last winter was extremely hard. And there’s no getting around it – the one that’s coming promises to be pretty intense as well (I’m working on another post about it all; I’ll share it as soon as I can). And so I’d like to just hit pause for a spell, thank you very much. I’d like to curl like a cat in the warm lap of these golden afternoons. I’d like to kick through the leaves with my son. I’d like to sip my cider and scratch my head as I figure out how to make his requested pink furry mouse costume with a complete lack of sewing skills. I’d like to eat more cider donuts.

ochre

kabochas

I will even take a month of todays. It was cold and wet. We slurped soup in a diner while, back home, the steady rain cleaved the gravel driveway into tiny canyons. We dried off while we bought our groceries and when we pushed the cart to the car the rain had tapered off to a sweet drizzle, but in the 90 seconds it took to return the cart something shifted up in the clouds. I was soaked through to my skin when I climbed back in the car. We sat in the parking lot for a while, chuckling and waiting for the rain to let up enough to drive home.

Later he woke from his nap and climbed onto the bed where I sat writing. I closed my computer and I put my empty mug on the windowsill. He climbed into my lap and rested his head against my growing belly. I grinned in unspeakable delight to realize my two children were nearly cheek to cheek, and the littlest one even gave a swift thump, but I didn’t say a word. These are the last months when he doesn’t have to share me.

Then we trudged through tall wet grass to the basement for a butternut squash, and over to the barn for some onions and garlic. He curled up on the couch to watch some excavator videos (“With a grapple, Mom, but no operator, okay?”). I made this soup. It is like a fresh pot of coffee, or a handwritten letter, or the Amélie soundtrack, which is to say: always perfect.

Winter Squash Soup with Curry and Coconut Milk
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

You can use almost any kind of winter squash here – butternut, kabocha, red kuri, hubbard, anything sweet and tender. I really like the little kick this soup gets from the chili sauce, but you can certainly leave it out if you like. If you’re making this early in the fall from local squash, there’s a chance your squash hasn’t fully cured yet. It will still work, but the sugars won’t be as concentrated, so you might want to add another tablespoon or two of sweetener – taste before serving and adjust as needed. Finally, if you have a low- or no-salt curry powder, you’ll need to salt this soup. Taste just before serving and add additional salt as needed.

1 medium or large onion, chopped
1-4 cloves garlic (depending on your feelings about garlic), minced
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 winter squash, about 2 pounds, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 14-oz can unsweetened coconut milk
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon brown sugar, whole cane sugar, or maple syrup
1 tablespoon fish sauce or soy sauce
1 teaspoon Asian chili sauce (like Sriracha) (optional but recommended)
1/2 cup red lentils (optional; these give the soup a nice protein boost and cook quickly, but I often leave them out)

Warm a couple tablespoons of olive oil, coconut oil, or the fat of your choice in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until they begin to soften, about five minutes. Add the garlic and cook another one to two minutes. Add the curry powder and saute a minute more.

Add the squash, the coconut milk, the broth, the sugar, the fish or soy sauce, the chili sauce, and the lentils if using. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until the squash is soft, about 30-40 minutes.

Puree the soup until it’s smooth and velvety. An immersion blender makes this easy (and safe!), but you can also puree the soup in batches in a food processor or blender – be careful! Or you can use a potato masher; the soup won’t be quite as smooth but will still taste delicious. Taste for salt and sweetness and adjust if necessary. Ladle the soup into big bowls, top with a dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream or a squeeze of lime juice, and serve with lots of bread!

(Want to make this in the slow cooker? Easy peasy. I actually wrote about this soup before.)

butternuts

37 thoughts on “I’d like to sip my cider.

  1. Pat

    Beautiful words.

    The title of the post reminded me of that song we used to sing when you were little. “The prettiest girl I ever saw…”

    Love the last picture of him wearing that bracelet from the pool in Virginia Beach..

    Reply
  2. Nicole

    Fall is my favorite season despite – or perhaps because of – its bittersweet, fleeting nature. I so love your descriptions here; our weather is different in Northern California, but you trell brought that east coast fall feeling to me this early morning so – thank you .

    Reply
    1. Lisa Post author

      I know exactly what you mean. I’m sure that’s a big part of it for me too – spring and fall both – other times in my life they evoke, and knowing that a more uncomfortable season is on the horizon…

      Reply
    1. Lisa Post author

      Soon, soon? We’ll be down for a couple days in early November – gone to Missouri for most of them, but I plan to stay a day or two around A’s birthday before heading back to New York.

      Reply
  3. rebecca

    this post has made me nostalgic for all the things I have never known, all the things I never will know.

    it is astounding in its beauty. thank you.
    xo

    Reply
  4. amanda

    beautiful, as always.

    and a completely ridiculous question but by winter squash, would you by any chance mean butternut? or will any old squash (clearly not the yellow long necks of summer) do?

    Reply
  5. Betsy

    Found you on IG. You recommended tupelo honey to another feed I follow. Your writing is stark and stirring and hauntingly beautiful. I can’t wait to read more!

    Reply
  6. erin

    aw, congratulations , sweet mama on the newly growing babe, the new sibling, the one who will arrive after his last months of just you. i remember that time with my second child’s arrival, and now those two brothers, 11 and 8 are the sweetest of friends (mostly, i whisper) . it was intense at times only between about year two and three when the youngest really developed his “voice” …. fall sounds amazing and rich where you are. dwell, drink from it, let it send you. miss you! xoxox

    Reply
    1. Lisa Post author

      Thanks, Erin. I miss you too!! Fall here is indeed a gorgeous creature. Other things are astir – there will be much to share – going to go visit your fall in a moment, over on Flickr.

      Reply
  7. debbie

    Your writing is gorgeous, as always. And so many congratulations on the new babe! Fall is making its way to Arizona as well. We had our first frost last week, and lost some peppers and sweet potato greens. Otherwise, we are beginning the slow hunker-down-to-winter, and bracing ourselves for the bitter cold of the desert. Why can’t this beautiful early Fall weather last forever??? It is just too unbearably sweet and lovely.

    Reply
  8. Kristen @ Motherese

    What a beautiful post, Lisa! It was if you were describing – in words more perfect than any I could conjure – the scene outside my window at this very moment. This line, in particular, grabbed me and invited me in: “I’d like to curl like a cat in the warm lap of these golden afternoons.” I’d like to do that too. And then to top it all off with a delicious-sounding recipe. Please and thank you!

    Reply
  9. Paula

    OK…where’s the book deal? !! Really. Your life and writing are awesome and important. Part of the growing genre of back to farm, back to basics memoirs. New fan!

    Reply
  10. emily

    hello,
    i just stumbled onto your blog via molly at orangette. i spend a little time each morning checking up on the blogs that i follow, searching for inspiration in the form of a recipe or a photograph, most of the time skipping 90% of what is written on the page. i was expecting to do the same when i first came to your home on the web this morning – what a beautiful surprise. i began to read, and continued to read until the very end, where my mind’s eye was left with a beautiful image of late fall in the northeast, and a fabulous recipe to boot. thank you for sharing. i’m so pleased to have discovered your site, and can’t wait to read on.

    Reply
  11. Penelope

    I follow in the footsteps of Mallory and emily, via Orangette. I subscribe to only a few blogs, but when one resonates with me as yours did, I must sign on. Thank you for your thoughtful and achingly lovely descriptions!

    Reply
  12. Elise

    I, too, found my way here via Orangette and am delighted to see that you are somewhere in my neck of the woods. While we have family in Westchester and often drive the Taconic we are just outside of Albany. So many great things going on around here in Winter and throughout the Hudson Valley and Berkshires. Happy to fill you in if you need any suggestions. Both my boys are grown and out of the house…one on his own and one in college and your post has reminded me of countless fall days. I just sent my college son the roasted pumpkin seeds from our annual Halloween carving–a little bit of home. So many lovely orchards, and cider donuts, and woodsmoke at this time of year. Enjoy!!

    Reply
  13. Krista

    Yes, I do feel nostalgic at this time of year. I grew up in the Northern Hemisphere but moved to Australia 2 years ago. It is so strange for me to reconcile our Spring/Summer weather with October and November. :-) It does my heart good to read about your Autumn days even as I’m parked in front of a fan with cold juice and my hair piled on top of my head to keep me cool. :-)

    Reply
  14. Charlotte

    I too found you via Orangette. What a lovely post. With frost in the air yesterday, I did want to stop time so I could have a bit more time crunching through leaves and sipping warm cider before the winter rains come (back). And you made me nostalgic for the days my boy watched excavator videos – sadly now he’s into minecraft and jurassic park building.Did you manage the mouse? My challenge was a bald eagle.

    Reply
  15. Val

    Hi Lisa,
    I found this post via Orangette. Your writing is beautiful and I so look forward to reading more of your blog. I posted a similar thai-inspired butternut soup recipe on my own blog the other day. I love the idea of making it in a slow cooker, I had never considered that approach.
    Thank you for the inspiration!
    Val

    Reply
  16. Cat

    This is just to say, I happened across your name at Orangette and, being a former Frog Bottom CSAer and all, recognized it immediately- I am just delighted to know that things are going well, and just plain going, and I wanted to thank you for the joy, the meals, the teaching moments, the ‘hilarity ensued’ hijinx in the kitchen, and all the memories that sprang from my weekly pickup. Cheers and good luck to you and your family!

    Reply
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