Fall Splendors and Apple Chestnut Soup

here a goose, there a goose, flying overhead

here a goose, there a goose, flying overhead

As much as I look forward to preparing delicious fall meals and the glorious show of fall colors in our neighborhood, I eagerly await the arrival of the migrating Canada geese who take refuge in the cornfields behind our house for a short rest and feeding. ( No, the geese do not end up in the stockpot – we simply watch their comings and goings with awe. )

Each year our resident local population of Canada geese is joined by droves of migrating birds, hungry for a good meal of corn that they glean from the freshly harvested fields. This year the geese arrived in record numbers and one day the cacophony of their sounds drew us down to the fields edge for a front seat view. It seemed this year that their numbers had doubled – or tripled – and we spent an unplanned hour late one afternoon spellbound as we watched wave after wave of organized chevrons of geese arrive in the fields. The geese arrived in the hundreds – we estimated that several thousand geese spent the night in the neighborhood cornfield. ( In fact, we heard the honking of arriving and departing geese all thorugh the night and wee hours of the morning.)

We joked that the cornfields had become like an airport – chevrons in, chevrons out, one group of geese circling in one way and another the opposite way. Magnificently, the geese knew what to do all on their own without lights, runways or control towers to organize their activity.

As we peered far to the horizon we continually spotted more flocks headed our way; beginning as tiny dark specks and then turning into large honking groups of geese overhead. It all began to mimic an old WWII movie depicting wave upon wave of bomber planes coming into view over the horizen and headed for their intended target. Most of these geese have moved on now, but our residents remain to entertain us over the remainder of the fall and winter. If we are to be really lucky, we might have a return of a flock of snow geese that arrived for two days several years ago.

Apple Chestnut Soup with Merken

serves 4-6

This is one of my favorite fall soups. I have tweaked it several ways over the years with equally good results. For instance, you can add chopped, fresh fennel and use fresh pears instead of apples. Or add some of both for additional flavor. I often add grated, fresh gingerroot at the end – this year I used Merken, the delicious Chilean spiced pepper blend. You can easily turn this into a cream soup if you wish.

dried Italian chestnuts before cooking

dried Italian chestnuts before cooking

NB: ( If you are use dried chestnuts, cook them in simmering water for approximately 30 minutes or until they become somewhat tender. They will finish cooking once they are incorporated into the soup. )

2 stocks celery, chopped
2 large onions, chopped
2 medium-sized apples, peeled and chopped
3 teaspoonfuls fresh chopped thyme
32 ounces water or light vegetable stock
6-8 ounces squash, peeled and chopped ( 1 overflowing cup)
16 ounces cooked and peeled chestnuts ( 12 ounces chestnuts for soup; reserve the rest for garnish )
2 cups light cream ( optional )
¼ cup Sherry ( Amontillado or Oloroso ) or Madeira
salt & pepper to taste
¼ teaspoon Merken ( add more to taste if desired )

1. Saute the celery, onions, apples and fresh thyme in 3-4 tablespoons butter for 8 minutes or until they have softened.

2. Bring the stock to a simmer in a 4 quart saucepan. Add the cooked vegetables, squash and the chestnuts and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 35 minutes or until the squash is soft.

3. Puree the soup in batches in a food processor and strain to remove all particulate matter. Press down on the solids to extract all the flavor.

4. Return the soup to the pan and the cream if you wish. Heat the soup through and add the sherry, salt and pepper and Merkum. Adjust the seasonings, add more water or stock if you need it and simmer the soup for an additional 35 minutes. Serve immediately or cool and refrigerate for up to two days.

garnish with a swirl of Merken and some cooked chestnuts

garnish with a swirl of Merken and a few cooked chestnuts

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