It’s that time of year that you sense the days getting shorter as well as feeling the oncoming chill with nighttime temperatures consistently producing a morning frost. The autumn season is truly a magical time of the year especially if you live in the Minnesota North Country. The gardens out back are on their last hurrah and yielding the last of their produce. We still have kale, broccoli and lettuce still going strong, but the tomatoes have long since given up their bounty. One of the best parts about autumn is seeing the trees in all their glory producing their wonderful array of colors.
Our maples have started to take on a deep shade of red with some orange undertones. Along the North Shore pink salmon have already made their annual fall run up the feeder streams that empty into Lake Superior and along with them come eagles circling around the rivers for a shore lunch. We finally finished up the last of the brook trout caught from Brook Trout Camp and were planning to chase the pinks for the second of two adventure camps, but life became unexpectedly busy and we had to put off a number of projects we hoped to do in the past couple of months.
Instead we have taken a step back and cast aside some of our labor to fully immerse ourselves with what we love to do best…cranking up the stoves and hauling out the cutting boards and stock pots. One of our fall projects was to perfect our apple crisp. Our backyard apple tree produced a bumper crop of apples this year. The family was periodically busy picking and searching for reasonably clean apples that did not have too much bug damage on them.
These are truly “organic” apples in the sense that no pesticide has ever come in contact with this tree. Of course some of the apples were pretty ugly looking and discarded on the ground, but there were a large percentage that had minimal blemishes on them. Once peeled, these apples had a very wonderful taste and firm texture. While we have not been able to identify the genus of our tree, we found the taste of the apples to be pretty similar to that of Macintosh apples. We have been experimenting with various proportions of these as well as a Minnesota favorite, the Haralson apple.
Our maples have started to take on a deep shade of red with some orange undertones. Along the North Shore pink salmon have already made their annual fall run up the feeder streams that empty into Lake Superior.
We recently added a cookbook from the Gunflint Lodge, which is located north of the Cascade River, far up the North Shore near the Canadian border to our resource library. The Gunflint Lodge was featured in several publications for their accommodations and cuisine. Their cookbook features recipes they have created to take advantage of local ingredients, like walleye, lake trout and wild game. They offer selected recipes according to the various seasons of the year. We have experimented with a couple of their soup recipes so far and have been inspired.
In general, when it comes referencing other sources, we consider the recipe as sort of a guide to let the creative talents of the chef weave through various stanzas of the recipe by modifying based on the preferences of the cook or the ingredients on hand. We have tried a couple of their fall soup offerings, the Butternut Squash soup as well as their “Neeps and Tatties” soup. We have been impressed by both. The “Neeps and Tatties” soup is a soup made up largely of rutabagas and potatoes. We decided on that due to having a four pound rutabaga lying around from a recent CSA share. The highlight has been the butternut squash soup which we slightly modified to take advantage of ingredients we had on hand, like parsnips, celery and carrots.
Like other “home grown” Minnesota cookbooks we have used like the Duluth Grill volumes and the second edition of Betty’s Pies favorite recipes cookbook, I am probably drawn more to the Gunflint Lodge cookbook more than anything. I think all three have exceptional value and have challenged me in the kitchen. I can’t say enough about the Duluth Grill volumes which have become the inspiration to our Comfort Foods podcast series.
The Gunflint Lodge cookbook though, takes an entirely different angle by using local ingredients in the manner of hunting and gathering and would tie in very well to our Adventure Camp series as well as our Comfort Food series. In fact, with the plentiful selection of recipes dedicated to Minnesota’s State Fish, the walleye, I am feeling that a future adventure camp will be “Walleye Camp.” Hopefully, Lady Luck will be smiling down on us as hopefully we could catch enough walleyes to try three or four of their walleye recipes.
As we sign off for autumn and head into winter, here is a preview of a recipe we plan to feature next fall.
Executive Chef Frank’s Apple Crisp
Filling (measurements for a 9 1/2” pie pan)
- 2/3 proportion Haralson Apples (fill to ¾ of a 4 quart mixing bowl)
- 1/3 proportion “Backyard” apples, or Macintosh apples
- Lemon zest from a medium lemon
- 1 T cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg
- 2 T corn starch
- ¼ cup water
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ granulated sugar (optional, if using Granny Smith apples)
- 1/8 cup rum (optional)
- 1 cup AP flour
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 7/8 cup brown sugar
- 1/8 cup granulated sugar
- 6 T unsalted butter