As you can tell from my last post, I'm bullish on autumn. In a world where Google can answer every question, I like to put a little emphasis on the mystery and spectacle that is nature's wheel. I try hard to give my kids a sense of wonder and appreciation of nature and how, regardless of how digital we've become, there are things greater than man. Fall always helps me remember what it means to be a kid again - jumping into a pile of leaves with reckless abandon and smelling that sharp, cool air. I want to make sure that my kids stay enchanted by simple but elemental things like changing leaves.
So, I get really stoked to get the family involved in the seasonal food and drink scene. Apple picking, farmer's markets, and the pumpkin patch are staples in our house. These are simple outings that are kid-friendly and low-cost, and end up being the building blocks of longstanding family traditions. Plus, the old-timey, handcrafty-ish values of the vendors at these places provide for some incredible products that you can't get anywhere else.
One of the best ways to celebrate harvest time is to enjoy the bounty of seasonal drinks and ingredients. So let's take a look at a few of Fall's greatest hits:
#1 Apple Cider
This is the king of all fall beverages. Warmed and mulled with spices, it makes a great warmer for the whole family on those brisk fall evenings. When the kids go bed, mix up an Apple Frost for a sturdy evening nightcap. If you are feeling adventurous, ferment some into your own hard cider (more on this later).
Though most are destined for that jellied monstrosity of the Thanksgiving cornucopia, whole fresh cranberries start appearing in grocery stores in late October. Their crisp, tart flavor makes them perfect candidates for a simple syrup variation. Cook them down with some sugar and lemon zest to make a unique syrup that is great for cocktails and mocktails. The whole berries make a sharp garnish as well when impaled upon a cocktail skewer.
This is a fun, once a year treat to get into with your little ones. Trust me, kids can't resist tearing these babies apart to extract each of the little juicy nuggets. Keeps them busy for hours. Not only are they sweet and tasty, but pomegranate juice is the essential ingredient to grenadine. Get a bunch this season and make your own - it will revolutionize your Tiki drinks, and make one hell of a Jack Rose. Here's a recipe that works best when you take the time to make the juice yourself.
#4 Pear anything
Pears are the unsung heroes of fall. I think they get forgotten about because they are so mediocre when purchased off-season. If you can get your hands on tree ripened pears, prepare to have your mind blown. Eat them fresh or puree/juice them for a seasonal mixer: Gin & Tonic for the adults, pear juice & club soda for the kids. Sliced pears make great garnishes for cocktails that feature Pear Brandy. The one from Clear Creek is a must add to your fall liquor cabinet.
Many of the new small-batch breweries have tremendous fall beer offerings, as well as established greats like Ayinger or anything German. Go look for your local offerings and try a few out. The Festbier style originated from the Bavarian old-timey days when Marzen beers were brewed around harvest time, and set aside until Spring. These strong, hoppier beers would keep fresh through the summer and mellow with age by September/October where they would be consumed in great quantities (aka Octoberfest) to make room for next years stock.
So start your own tradition this fall by getting your hands on some seasonal favorites before they're gone! PROST!