Friday, September 18, 2009


So, it's that time of year - pumpkin season. When I first moved to Austria more than 9 years ago pumpkins were pretty rare. Occasionally you'd see one sitting outside someone's front door; not a jack-o'-lantern, mind you, just a plain old pumpkin. Now, however, the stores have started selling pumpkins in all shapes and sizes as early as the beginning of September. There are so many things you can do with pumpkins, either as decorations or for cooking. Just last week I made a couple dozen pumpkin-raisin cookies (thanks for the recipe, mom). And soon I have to pull out the pumpkin bread recipe, which is a must in the fall and has recently been requested by my guy.
When most Americans want to cook or bake with pumpkin, they simply pick up a couple of cans on their next trip to the grocery store. Unfortunately, there is no such thing in Austria, at least not yet - anyone interested in starting a canned pumpkin export business?? Here you actually have to buy a pumpkin, peel it, then bake or steam the flesh to get it to a point where you can work with it. Or, if you're lucky, you can occasionally find packages of pumpkin pieces where someone else has already done the hard work.
In the past, I've made pumpkin cookies, pumpkin bread, mashed potatoes with pumpkin and pumpkin risotto. This year my goal is to try pumpkin cream soup, which is a local specialty and can be found in most restaurants from September to November. If anyone else would like to share their experiences with pumpkin, please do so!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Fresh Apple Cider

One of my favorite things about September, aside from the fact that it signals the beginning of fall, is the fresh apple cider. The whole process starts in the spring when the apple trees are full of beautiful pink and white blossoms. As early as June you start to see tiny fruit replacing the blossoms. And in August the apples start to drop to the ground, forming a sweet-smelling carpet that attracts the attention of every bee and wasp in the area. At the beginning of September, the local farmers start to produce apple cider. In my town, one producer even goes so far as to set up an outdoor fridge which he keeps stocked with bottles of apple cider that you can purchase any time, day or night. It works on the honor system - there's a little cash box next to the fridge, and (if you're a good person) you simply drop in your €1.50, grab a bottle and go. My man and I were really excited this past weekend to see that the cider fridge is back! There's even a little sign hanging overhead with the word "Süssmost" - sweet cider. We immediately bought two bottles, both of which were empty by Sunday evening. Such a fantastic flavor and no chemicals...just pure apple goodness. I can't wait to pick up another bottle on the way home today.