We spend most weekends upstate in Columbia County, and while there, we’re always planning our next meal. In the summer and fall, this typically includes a daily run to Eger Bros. farm stand near Hudson. When we see that “Butternut Squash” and “Apples” have been added to their roadside sign, we know that our cooking plans will include this soup. In this variation, we've added more local flavor by including single malt whiskey from Columbia County’s own Hillrock Estate Distillery. Because the autumn days grow cold, after all.
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
2 red-skinned apples, such as McIntosh, cored
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
4 cups vegetable broth
2 cups apple cider
3 cloves garlic, minced
About 1/2 cup (4 ounces) single malt whiskey
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Créme Fraiche, for garnish
Fresh sage leaves, for garnish
Toasted pepitas, for garnish
Combine the squash, apple, onion, vegetable broth, apple cider, and garlic in a large pot or Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the vegetables are soft, about 7 minutes. Remove from the heat, then, using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth.
While blending, slowly add the whiskey, tasting as you go, until you reach the desired bite and depth of flavor. The amount is up to you—the whiskey will cut the sweet and add complexity. It doesn't have to be from a top-shelf distiller, but in helping you choose, remember to practice the Ina Garten method: "If you wouldn't drink it, then don't cook with it, either." So take a swig before adding. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve hot, ladling the soup into small bowls or mugs. Garnish each serving with a dollop of créme fraiche, a sage leaf, and a sprinkling of the pepitas.