Monday, September 26, 2011

The Soup Project: Hot Apple Soup

In my last post I mentioned the Hot Apple Soup that Shelby Slater made for the Sourdough Speaker series at the North Cascades Institute. Just the mention of the soup makes me think fall and hot apple cider.

I usually buy apples from Liz and Michael of Grouse Mountain Farm at the U-District farmers' market. But not this week because I left for the Institute on Friday morning.

I'll share a bit about my farm visit and the speaker event at the North Cascades Institute.

On my way to the Institute, I stopped at Blue Heron Farm owned and managed by Anne Schwartz. This is one of the farms that supplied the food for the dinner, and I was so excited to meet Anne and husband Mike Brondi since I'd heard about her farm for years.

Anne says she started farming organically in 1979. She and her husband Mike Brondi built this farmstead themselves. Anne worked for Cascadian Farm for 12 years and has served on the Washington Tilth board for 30 years. Her husband Mike was instrumental in growing and planting the native plants surrounding Cascade Institute's Environmental Learning Center buildings and lodges. In addition to growing food for the Institute, Anne grows for Skagit Valley Co-op and she grows food for a 20-week CSA.

When I arrived at her farm, I met some CSA members doing a work share. After Anne ate a quick lunch, she invited me back to her barn where she got busy packing boxes for Skagit Co-op. She reused some organic produce boxes and talked about the organic standards and how rigorous the inspections for organic farms are. Anne is like the grandmother or organics in Washington state.

Anne invited me to see the fields where the produce grows so I followed her and her border collie in their pick-up truck to the fields. The sun was shining and working outside looks inviting when the weather is fine. I woudn't mind being a "fair weather" farmer, but let it pour like it did today and that's another story. Farming is relentless and farmes put in time every day without many vacations.

Hard to believe sugar pie pumpkins are here already. I'm thinking pumpkin bread. Make mine gluten-free.

When I asked Anne what she liked best about farming she said, "Being outdoors." Farmers do love the lifestyle. I don't think I could keep up with Anne she's got so much energy.

Check out the vegetables in Anne's truck. They unloaded big yellow tubs so fast, I barely got time to say hi to Anne's border collie.

Deer and elk are challenges at Anne's farm, so big fences surround her organic crops.

Anne and Mike couldn't attend the dinner because Mike was running in a marathon east of the Cascades on Sunday morning, but I was able to incorporate farm photos in the slide show for after dinner. Anne sent an amazing letter telling about her start in organic farming and their connection to the Institute. Someone from the Institute read her letter before dinner and it was great to be able to show pictures of their farm after dinner.

Other farms who also contributed to the dinner were
Viva Farms (a cool Skagit Valley farm that helps new farmers get started)

The North Cascades Institute is about 45 minutes east of Blue Heron Farm. You drive over Diablo Dam to get to the Institute. Seattle City Light offers ferry tours every summer on Diablo Lake. The lights along the edge of the dam came from Pioneer Square decades ago.

The buildings were finished in 2003. Each lodge has a larger gathering room and a number of sleeping quarters with two bunk beds and a desk. It's pretty basic with bathrooms down the hall but everything is clean and green--totally inviting, I can't wait to return as a participant.

No cell phone service meant no annoying people focused like zombies in one-way conversations, the insecure checking email and pounding out text messages, or the silently obnoxious bobbing around with earphones plugged into Ipods. I loved every minute of this trip and had never before realized how annoying cell phone use can be on a continual basis.

I stayed in Fir Lodge, and sipped wine with new friends. We stayed up telling stories and talking to each other.

Before my event workers arranged this cool table to display and sell books. The squash was from Blue Heron Farm.

The first course was hot apple soup served in acup. Chef Shelby Slater said he'd used apple cider vinegar instead of apple cider and he'd thickened it with cream. It was an interesting twist on the recipe from my book. I wouldn't have thought of using the apple cider vinegar as the base but I do love vinegar and using it in soup intrigues me.

For the version in my book, I used apple juice, lemon and hazelnut butter. But I hadn't made this soup since last fall, and it's actually a sweeter soup than Shelby's version. More like a dessert soup. Also I added the zest of the lemon this morning and that made it even better. Add a dollop of coconut sorbet and well . . .

I've been sipping it all day. It's hard to stop. That a hint of hazelnut butter and lemon zest, it's seductive. Sweeten it with maple syrup adjust the flavor with lemon juice and a dash of salt and you won't be sorry.

I used 3 large honey crisp apples that I bought at Skagit Valley Co-op.

Here's the recipe close to the way it's presented in the book:

Hot Apple Soup
(Serves 4)

3 sweet-tart apples, cored and sliced (I used honey crisp)
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 cups apple cider (I used Rockridge Orchards apple cider)
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cardamom or cinnamon
1/4 cup hazelnut butter
Dash of sea salt
Up to 1 cup water
Freshly grated nutmeg
Dollop of coconut sorbet (optional)

1. Simmer apples in lemon juice, zest, apple cider, maple syrup, and cardamom or cinnamon for about 10 minutes or until tender.

2. Blend in a blender or with a hand blender, adding hazelnut butter, dash of sea salt and enough water to thin to desired consistency.

3. Sprinkle with freshly grated nutmeg. Add a dollop of coconut sorbet, if desired.

It was pouring rain so I took pictures of this soup on a table near a window instead of on my Cooking Assistant's table.

He looked up with such sad eyes. But he got happy when offered his usual "prewash" job.


Joan said...

wow what a cool trip! any trip that involves wine and a lodge sounds wonderful. hot apple soup sound wonderful too! thanks for scouting out all these great places to visit for us.

Debra Daniels-Zeller said...

Thanks Joan. Of all the places I've been this one was heavenly and the weather was perfect. There are a couple other Sourdough dinners that sound good too--Cranes and Night Photography.

Brooke said...

This soup looks fantastic! I love the farm, too. As an aside, I visited Jones Creek Farm last year and absolutely fell in love with the farm and the owner. We can't wait to go back again this year!

Debra Daniels-Zeller said...

Love that, it makes me wish I'd does the Skagit Farm tour this past Sunday:( I hope to visit that farm someday!