Do you ever walk into the grocery store with a plan and suddenly you’re so seized, so mesmerized by an ingredient, either new or in its most glorious incarnation, that you can’t even remember what you thought you were going to cook? That happened to me today when I saw Arkansas black apples for the first time. What dark beauties they are! Happily, the produce people at my market are as silly-happy about these things as I am, and they don’t look at me with a quizzical look when I approach to gush. In fact, they join right in. I think I was going to make a roast chicken for dinner tonight, which seems very ho hum now since I paired these beautiful apples, dense and sweet with a little zing, with buttnernut squash, onion, fresh marjoram, thyme, and sage, chicken stock, and some rich cream. Fall goodness in a bowl. Now I wish my family would hurry home from work and school so that we could tear into a loaf of dark bread, open some nice wine, and enjoy this soup.
Music for making butternut squash soup with Arkansas black apples:
Alison Krauss’ A Hundred Miles or More
Arkansas Black Apples
Arkansas blacks are an heirloom varietal and the darkest apple cultivar. They are burgundy in color on the tree and continue to darken in storage. The apples are tart and dense when first picked and sweeten and soften a bit with keeping. You may store them in a cool, dark, dry place for up to six months.
Squash and Apple Soup Tips
Here’s the thing. This sounds like a fancy recipe, but it’s just squash and apple soup. You can really use any winter squash and any apple varietal.
Making a soup like this, I think, requires that you follow your instincts rather than a recipe. To start add just enough stock to come up nearly to the top of the squash. When you puree the soup, gradually add more stock, if needed, until you have a silky soup which appeals to you. I keep a little stack of spoons next to me and take a little taste as I go. When the soup is the perfect consistency, you’ll know it.
The beauty of a soup like this, well any soup for that matter, is that you can personalize it. Love thyme? Add a little more. Hate sage? Skip it. Don’t have fresh herbs? Substitute a smaller amount of dried. Hate apples? Use a couple of pears. Cooking for one? Use a small squash, one apple, and decrease the stock and cream.
To prep the squash, cut off the top and the bottom and cut the squash in half. Slice the peel off from top to bottom steadying the squash with your non-dominant hand. Then slice each half open and scrape out any seeds and pulp. Cut the squash into strips and then into cubes about ½ “ in diameter.
Once you have added the cream, do not allow the soup to come to a boil. If you need to reheat it, do so over low heat.
Butternut Squash Soup with Arkansas Black Apples, Cream, & Fresh Marjoram, Thyme and Sage
1 very large buttnernut squash, cubed
2 Arkansas black apples, or other varietal, cubed
1 medium onion, diced
4 to 8 c. chicken stock, depending on the volume of your squash
1 c. heavy cream (I love Cedar Summit Farms.)
a small handful each of fresh marjoram, thyme, and sage, chopped finely
a little olive oil for the pan
salt and pepper
- Warm a soup pot over medium low heat.
- Drizzle in a few turns of olive oil and add the onions. Season them with a little salt and pepper and saute them until they are tender but now brown, about five minutes.
- Add the cubed squash and apples, a little salt and peeper, and enough stock to reach nearly the top of the vegetables and fruit.
- Bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer gently until the squash and apples are very tender, about 15 minutes.
- Add the herbs and the cream and warm the soup through.
- Remove from the heat and using either an immersion blender or a conventional blender, puree the soup until it is silky, gradually adding more stock if necessary.
- Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Scatter each serving with fresh herbs if you wish.