Listen, I like pumpkin, I really do. After Halloween my dad hacks apart the jack-o’-lanterns, bakes them, purées the innards, and sticks the resulting goop in the freezer so that we can make pumpkin bread and pumpkin soup well into the winter. However, the truly superfluous amount of pumpkin-flavoured things I see every fall fills me with despair. I used to be rather indifferent to it, until the year I saw pumpkin-flavoured whiskey at the LCBO. I had to put my foot down then. I am opposed to these flavoured liquors which often rely heavily on colouring (if you need to add colouring to make your whiskey look like whiskey, you fucked up) and other additives. If you handed me a bottle of cake-flavoured vodka I would break the bottle against the wall and then come at you with the glistening shards for daring to bring such nonsense into my presence. Worst of all, these flavoured liquors have a lower alcohol content than a spirit should have. 35% ABV for a whiskey? Unbelievable. Whiskey should be at least 40%, and most good whiskeys have a higher alcohol content than that, hovering between 43-47%.
“But, Rowan,” you may be wondering, “if I am to resist the urge to drink pumpkin-flavoured whiskey, and eat pumpkin-flavoured baked goods, and shove an entire pumpkin up my ass — what should I be consuming instead?”
THE DRINK: CALVADOS
I feel like I’ve been trying to make Calvados ‘happen’ for years now, yet no one is joining the apple brandy bandwagon. But if you were looking for the perfect fall drink, this is it. It is the liquefied ghost of a harvest, a musty memory of bounty. It gets you goodly drunk. Sometimes I have it straight, sometimes I have it on the rocks. If you adulterate the taste by mixing it with anything, you are an unforgivable heathen.
THE SAVOURY: CURRIED SWEET POTATO SOUP
This recipe is adapted from a recipe in Collins Beekeeper’s Bible. I fiddled with the spices and also added wine, because of course I’m gonna add wine.
- 1kg sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
- 1 small red onion
- 1 shallot
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 canola oil
- 1 rounded tsp curry powder
- 1 tbsp minced ginger
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
- 3 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock
- 1 cup white wine
- 1/4 cup coconut milk
- Salt and pepper to taste
Heat oven to 350F. In a bowl, mix the potatoes, onion, shallot, honey, oil, curry, ginger, and cayenne pepper, making sure to fully coat the vegetables. Pour the sticky mixture onto a baking pan and bake for roughly 20 minutes, with a stir and a shake somewhere in the middle. The sweet potatoes should be quite soft. After the mixture has cooled, dump it into a food processor and purée it while gradually adding in the stock, coconut milk, and white wine. I used my dad’s homemade pear wine, which was a great choice. Once everything’s good and creamy, put it in a stockpot and reheat it slowly. Since the wine is uncooked and the onions need to mellow a bit more, you should let it simmer on low for a couple hours, giving it a stir every now and then. Serve with a dollop of plain yogurt.
THE SWEET: APPLE-CARAMEL COOKIES
This is adapted from a recipe for apple cider caramel cookies, a recipe that calls for powdered apple cider mix. I said “hell no” to that, and decided to use actual apples.
- 1 cup softened butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup peeled and chopped apple (a good baking apple, like McIntosh or Granny Smith)
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp allspice
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 24 caramels (roughly)
Heat oven to 350F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Mix all ingredients except apples and caramels. Fold the apple bits into the dough. Take a good pinch of dough, enough to completely envelop a caramel. Smooth the dough into a ball shape with the caramel at the centre. The dough should be sticky, but not impossible to work with. You might have caramels left over, or you might need to unwrap a few more. Depends how big you make the cookies.
Bake until set; the cookies should slide off the parchment paper easily (unless some caramel leaked out). I’d give exact baking times, but I have never in my life followed a recipe’s baking time exactly. Ovens are temperamental things, each one a uniquely assholeish creature. For this recipe, I find that ‘5 minutes, rotate pan, another 5 minutes’ usually works out. So, do something similar to that, I guess.
As you can see, I favour the apple quite a lot. That is the true taste of fall, not some dumb orange gourd.