The mornings this week have been acutely brisk. The kind of brisk that wakes you up from summer's sleepy haze and makes you pause before you go out to feed the chickens in bare feet; the kind of brisk that brings on a wave of cold-weather lists that hits you hard alongside the smell of the apples suddenly looking nearly ripe on the trees. I haven't stacked all the wood yet, and where did I set that quilt I mended last spring? Let's take out the knits and see what the baby needs, perhaps there's still a few days for swimming in the river, how do the butternuts look in the garden?
After a deep, cool breath that list tucks itself behind another one —a list of all the joys to look forward to in the months ahead.
There's the leaves, sure, and the fall raspberry jam. There's sweet potato pie and all the applesauce I can stand to can. The baby will have a birthday, and even better his first taste of fresh cider. Our kindergarten at home, sourdough every week and hours to talk over the season's shifts and explore the forest. The orb weavers' webs sparkling in the dew, the fog that settles into every nook and valley of the great green hills. We'll play outside all day in layers of mama-knit clothes and after dinner we'll curl up under those mended quilts and look out at the big round moon, the sweet smoky smell of those first fires on the breeze. It's enough to make you will the sun behind the clouds and ask summer to politely be on its way.
But it wouldn't be fair to ask summer for any more than what she so lovingly gives, and for now instead we'll make a shorter list. A list that we may only have another week or so to check off, a list for this in-between time when summer is still here though autumn's footsteps can be heard coming up over the hill. A list of all the ways not to leave summer behind too soon.
Let's gather goldenrod to dye wool, turn those brambly blackberries into a pie. Let's go barefoot a little longer until our toes are itching for wool. Let's take our morning chai piping hot but make lemonade in the afternoon. Gather asters for the table. Take one last trip to the lake and get ice cream on the way home. Let's keep splashing our feet in the pond, watching cloud shapes pass over the water. Stay out and watch the sunset, knowing in a couple of short months it'll disappear each day before we're done cooking supper. Let's make sun prints with every shape of green leaf we can find.
Because for now we can pretend that summer isn't over until we say it is, and surely the apples and leaves and cold weather lists will wait patiently and quietly until Tuesday.
A recipe for these in-between days, to warm our morning kitchens and fill our bellies for a last beautiful weekend of summer.
Apple and Oat Dutch Baby Pancake with Summer Preserves
2 tablespoons butter
3 fresh eggs
¾ cup whole milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons sugar or maple syrup
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup coarsely ground oats (or oat flour)
Pinch of salt
1 apple, peeled and sliced into thin pieces
Fruit preserves or berry syrup (recipe below) and fresh whipped cream, to serve
Heat your oven to 425. Place the butter in a 9” cast iron skillet and melt the butter on your stovetop.
Beat the eggs with a whisk, then add the milk and vanilla and whisk to combine. Add the sugar, flour, oats or oat flour, and salt and stir together until the mixture is smooth (a few small lumps are fine). Last, gently stir in the apples.
Once the butter is fully melted, swirl it around the pan to give it an even coat. Pour in your batter, and place in the oven. Bake for about 20 minutes until the pancake is puffed and the edges are deeply golden.
To serve, drizzle with warm fruit preserves or fresh berry syrup and top with a dollop of maple-sweetened whipped cream.
2 cups berries
¾ cup sugar
Juice of ½ lemon
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and lemon juice over medium low heat. Stir together until thick and syrupy, then remove from the heat and add the berries. Mash the berries in the pot and return to the stovetop over medium low. Cook for several minutes, stirring frequently, until you’ve got a thick, delicious topping.