The Tastes of Fall

September 20, 2012 by Ellen Stimson in Autumn


Today is officially the last day of summer. But here in Vermont summer gave way a couple of weeks back to chilly mornings and sunshiny crisp days.  Woodsmoke has begun to drift lazily around the village at night.  That crisp, clean, dry smell of autumn is in the air, so stunning and surprising every year, a smell forever connected to bright colors and fresh apples and the first fires of the season.

We tied cornstalks to all the porch posts and stuck little hydrangeas in and around the corn. The raccoons come at night and try and steal the cobs and the dogs go crazy. Yesterday we scattered pumpkins around the porches and a few gourds. So the colour on the ground is just a little bit ahead of the trees. The leaves at the top of the mountains have begun to change and just at the very tippy top of our old maple too. Change is in the air. You can feel it coming.

Fall has a taste as much as a smell. This time of year my thoughts go wandering toward pork chops with a bourbon glaze, next to a pile of orange and yellow squash with brown sugar and sage.  Apples and nutmeg, cinnamon and sage. We dug up all the potatoes this past weekend and so a gratin must be coming. We have a sixteen year old who is thankfully not too old to appreciate warm apple bread just out of the oven when he gets home from school. My Gram’s chicken pot pie sounds just about right too. Maybe with some cheddar biscuits and baked figs.

It’s time —How about those pork chops squash for supper?

Here’s my best gratin recipe too for another night instead of the squash.

Serve both supper versions with a wilted spinach salad with a little mustard bacon and balsamic dressing.

Bourbon Glazed Pork Chops

  • 4 tbls strong Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbls packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 (ish) tbls bourbon
  • 4 thick center-cut bone-in pork chops
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper and a little garlic powder

Prepare a medium-hot grill.

In a bowl, mix together the mustard, brown sugar, and bourbon. Rub the pork chops with the garlic and dry seasoning, then brush with half the glaze.

Place the chops on the grill. Grill until the chops are slightly charred and cooked, about 20 minutes. Brush with the remaining glaze before serving.

Roasted Butternut Squash

2 medium butternut squash

6 tablespoons (ish) sweet butter, melted

1/4 cup light brown sugar

salt and pepper sage and nutmeg and cinnamon

3/4 cup pecan pieces

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut off  the ends of each butternut squash. Peel the squash, cut them in half lengthwise, and remove the seeds. Cut the squash into 1 1/4 to 1 1/2-inch cubes and place them on a baking sheet. Add the melted butter, brown sugar, salt, and pepper. Toss all the ingredients together and spread in a single layer on the baking sheet and sprinkle nuts on top.  Roast for 45 to 55 minutes, until the squash is tender and the glaze begins to caramelize. While roasting, turn the squash a few times with a spatula, to be sure it browns evenly. Taste for seasonings and serve hot.

Potato Gratin

  • 4 pounds mixed baby potatoes
  • Gobs of heavy cream at least 2 cups worth
  • ½ stick sweet butter
  • 2 fat sprigs each fresh tarragon, sage, and rosemary
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Salt and pepper and nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup grated good strong Parmesan reggiano

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Halve the potatoes and toss them into a large baking dish and season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, put the cream, butter, herbs, and garlic in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook for about 5 minutes, to infuse the cream with flavor. Season with more salt and pepper.

Pour the hot cream mixture (through a strainer) over the potatoes, (discard the herbs and garlic), if there is not enough cream to go 3/4 of the way up the potatoes then pour some additional cream on top to make up the difference. Sprinkle the Parmesan evenly over the top. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked top has begun to get golden


  • Cheryl Mac

    I love when you put up recipes! I may make these chops tonight. It is raining and cold in CO and I think I neeeed these potatoes

  • Molls

    We had our first fire here lat night. This morning the family room has the left over smell and that’s what made me come to see if you were writing this week. I love the smells of fall and they always make me think of Mrs P. I am so happy you are writing regularly again. I cannot do October without hearing about Vermont

  • Katiedid

    I am coming to Vermont! We are staying over Columbus weekend at the Woodstock Inn. Is that far from you? I have been reading about Vermont all these years here and in Yankee and I am so excited to finally be coming. Any chance we could email and you could give me some tips? I’d love to meet for lunch too if you are going to be around. It’s always weird to try and leave the bloggy world but I feel like I know you and your family well after all these years I am hoping we can connect. Please let me know how this sounds to you.

  • beesknees

    It does have a smell. It is very different from summer and we are already getting it too. I have yet to put my gardens to bed and the bits of color that are still happening look more vivid in all this cool new England September sun.

  • Marta Weston

    Gratin with nutmeg? Mmmmmm I am making this. I can taste it right now. I go to the grocery store on Fridays after work and this is on the menu for tomorrow.
    Do you use fresh nutmeg? Do you think it matters?

  • Catalina

    “Change is in the air. You can feel it coming”
    I always face this season with a little dread. I hate the dying trees. To me there is decay and an impending feeling of doom. This probably means I should live in sunny California instead of Iowa. But I just found you and have been reading all of your posts characterized as autumn. You have a way of seeing that is comforting me. When I was sixteen my mom died in October so that is probably when it started. This year I want to get some pumpkins and see if I can change my attitude. (Believe me I know pumpkins alone are not the answer) Thank you for what you do. I need to hear this life perspective every single day

  • jessie hile

    I love this time of year and seeing VT through your eyes! Now quick tell us about the pumpkins

  • Lynn Silence

    Thanks for the pork chops and the gratin. Squash I can do without. I almost called you last Wednesday. Our group went to the Sidney Street Cafe. Now you know I have always said that I hated beets. I had something there called ‘beet risotto.’ It was deep red rice and it was DELICIOUS. I still don’t like squash, but I may get edged into it eventually!

  • Lisa

    Here in our valley it’s about the “gold in them thar hills” ~ we all watch for the top of the mesa and the slopes of the San Juans to go aspen-gold first (they practically *glow*), then we wait for the color to ooze down to us down below. But it’s all yellow. Finding any red or orange here in Colorado is always a big deal — we feel like we’ve won a prize to hit upon a mountainside of scarlet scrub oak. The camera comes out and we stop the car. :0)

    I’d love to see the kaleidoscope of autumn colors where you live. One of these days!

    And LOVE the recipes Thank-you; they’re on my fridge now — Appreciated the reminder about gratin! Haven’t had that in ages, and it is thee perfect autumn food!)

  • Maria (Bia)

    Here in the south, fall is a teaser. Cold … yes? but then again, no.

    But it does settle down … eventually.

  • Starrlife

    Ah. October is my birth month, the smell of wet leaves, that sweet woodsy smell is what I wait for each year, more than the heady energy of spring. I feel most at home then. Memories of laying in golden fields looking at the tops of trees as a child are dear to me. Thanks.

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