September 22, 2011

A Pensive Autumn Mood

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After last week's frost, the autumn weather has been hanging around. Yesterday morning I stood under dark gray skies in a field of tawny golden dried grass (weeds gone to seed and then turned crisp and dry by the frost) and harvested the last of purple cabbages. Their color was so vibrant against the clouds which seem to intensify all of the hues of the day. While I cut each head of tightly connected leaves, I dreamed of our future farm, winters that will someday be warmed by a wood stove, and thought about the fullness of our cupboards even now.

As the season changes, I really can't help but join in the pensive mood that this time of year seems to bring. Working on a farm reinforces the sense of the cycle that happens each year. Planting seeds and seeing them through to harvest, filling and emptying jars, drawing inward, shutting windows, sleeping under heavier blankets as the cooler weather arrives and eventually throwing them off and opening things up to greet spring. I am reminded of past fall seasons and moments that happened under other dark autumn skies.

I also think about the season to come. Though it isn't necessary for me to stock up on food and warmth, I have been thinking about what else I should gather while this part of the world is still growing. Last week I said I was nearly done with canning, but 10 pounds of peaches that someone never picked up from the farm ended up in my kitchen last night. I had seen this recipe for peach butter here and here and I knew that was where they would go. I did not mind the warmth of the simmering peach butter or the pot of boiling water steaming up the kitchen windows.

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All these preserves tucked away on the shelves are more than just pretty jars. It won't be long before I'll be opening them and using them as often as possible. The peach butter is a deep orange, the rusty color of a fall leaf, with a rich peachy flavor. Right away it begged to be spread on a buttery biscuit. So I whipped up a batch as quickly as possible and ate most of them right away, too. These are simple biscuits with a very buttery flavor. They are ideal for enjoying homemade jam or peach butter while gazing out the window in a pensive autumn mood.

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Simple Buttermilk Biscuits
Adapted from Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Cafe
I usually prefer to mix doughs by hand rather than have to wash the bowl of the food processor, but these are so easy to mix in the food processor that I didn't mind washing it while they baked. You can, of course, mix them by hand.

2 cups (6 ounces) whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons sugar (optional)
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) cold unsalted butter
2/3 cup cold buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 400'. In the bowl of a food processor, place the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and sugar. Process briefly to combine or, if mixing by hand, stir together in a mixing bowl. Cut the butter into smaller pieces and add to the dry ingredients in the food processor. Pulse several times until the butter is broken up and the butter and flour are combined to resemble a coarse meal. Or cut the butter into the dry ingredients by hand until it resembles a coarse meal. With the food processor running, pour in the buttermilk and process just until the dough comes together. Or, by hand stir in the buttermilk until the dough comes together. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and gently press it into a circle about eight inches in diameter and about 3/4 inch thick. Cut the biscuits with a knife, a biscuit cutter, or a glass of the desired size. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the tops are light golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes before eating.

Makes 8 to 10 medium sized biscuits.

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