Category Archives: Vermont

The Five Senses of Fall, Part II: Taste

Continuing my mini-series on the sensory experiences of the changing seasons in Vermont, this chapter meanders through the flavors of Fall.

Vermont Foliage

Brilliance in our backyard.

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Fresh apple cider donuts at Cold Hollow Cider Mill!

Waning days and cooling nights of October herald the apple harvest.  With apples comes the sweet ambrosia of freshly pressed apple cider, as well as the unparalleled pleasure of a warm apple cider donut that blends saccharine and savory in every bite.

It lies within the piquant spices, warm and aromatic, that we fold into our beloved autumnal recipes. Ground ginger with its peppery verve; the harmonies of nutmeg and allspice; a punctuation of cinnamon fragrance that permeates the air and lingers like a lonesome houseguest.

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Creamy, buttery squashes melt into soups and stews. Sugary pumpkins are distilled into pie. Great green fronds of kale and sleigh bells of brussels sprouts grow sweeter with each light frost. Fall is the taste of pizza topped with sweet slices of pear, tangy blue cheese crumbles and a drizzle of earthen maple syrup.

It’s the parade of pumpkin beers with flavors that range from robust imperial stouts, dark as night, to golden ales redolent of pumpkin, molasses and spice.

In my own kitchen, the flavors of fall are nostalgic. Some of my favorites include the first “Adult” recipe that I tackled all on my own: Bon Apetit’s Cheese Tortellini Soup with Cannellini, Keilbasa and Kale. I was 14 and it was my first acquaintance with a fennel bulb. My family was so proud of me for making that soup, and even though it was a winter recipe it’s always reminded me of the Fall season.

Another all-time favorite Fall recipe is Rachel Ray’s Penne Pasta with Pumpkin and Sausage. The sweet lusciousness of pumpkin and cream, fragrant with the scents of cinnamon, nutmeg and sage feels like a warm shawl wrapped around my soul.

A classic harrow from days gone by.

One of the classic pieces we inherited with the house. Beautiful!

And then, of course, there’s our beloved Fall soups and chili, their recipes speckled and spotted with dinners of days gone by: Barefoot Contessa’s butternut squash and apple; Inyo Country Store’s Lentil Soup; meatball soup with winter vegetables; my Mom’s hearty white chicken chili. Every bowl evokes memories of sweaters and swirling leaves.

In this gustatory narrative, I would be remiss to leave out the flavors of Vermont’s hard ciders, which we’ve discovered are quite exquisite. Our favorite thus far is the ethereal flavor of Citizen Cider’s Unified Press, an effervescent libation with nuances of apple, honey and sunshine.

The flavors of Fall in Vermont are romantic and intimate; rich with the fruits of harvest, laden with warmth, and fragrant  with spices and herbs.  Yum.

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The Five Senses of Fall, Part I: Sounds

Fall is upon us here at the little house on the hillside. In celebration of our changing seasons, I thought I would do a five-part series that touches on all of the sensory experiences of fall in Vermont, since the visual elements tend to get the most attention.

Fall colors

The aural experience of Vermont in October would not be complete without the metallic drone of chainsaws, revving to life like an inhalation as they cut through seasoned logs, then fading away to a dull hum as they await their next task. Throaty ATVs make quick work of moving the woodpile, and the logs offer a satisfying thud that you can feel in your bones as you’re stacking them.

The wood-burning stove has its own dialogue, creaking and groaning as the fire warms its walls and sporadic clicks and murmurs as the metal cools down. There’s the pops and sizzles of a damp log as the fire licks its sides; the hiss of air as the vents are opened and closed to control the flame. It’s the squeal of the handle on the stove and the rich whoosh of air as the fire drinks in the outside through the open door before the next log is thrown in.

Fall would not be without the crunch of leaves underfoot. It’s the sound of sweaters getting pulled out of storage, of jackets swish-swishing as they stave off the nip of cold in the air.

The start of next year's woodpile

It’s the hum of bees scurrying across the fall asters as they drink in the last of nature’s bounty for the season; the symphony of crickets that will crescendo into silence; the spectral cries of coyotes echoing across the valley on a dark night. In the morning, it’s the subtle crunch of  grass kissed by light frost.

In our home, Fall is the methodical chop-chopping of root vegetables for soup; of applesauce bubbling and blurping away on the stove top; of warm bread crackling while it cools on the countertop. It is the impatient whistle of the tea kettle and the muffled sounds of slippered footsteps.

You can hear it in the shops as they hawk their apple cider and pumpkin-flavored wares. And you can hear it in the towns as they celebrate the harvest season. It’s the thrum of snow tires on snow-less pavement, and the skittering of dry leaves across the sidewalk.

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All at once, fall is a cacophony of noises and an oasis of quiet preparation for the winter that is to come.