I Used to Dread Autumn
I Welcome It Now, with An Ode-to-Summer Recipe—B*tchstachio Ice Cream!
Decades before the phenomenon was diagnosed as Seasonal Affective Disorder, I loathed in my soul the arrival of Autumn. It wasn’t just the dying of the light. I had to go back to school, which I detested. It began to get cold and rainy. The greenery withered. Though I lived in Southwestern Pennsylvania where fall foliage is unsurpassed in beauty, I couldn’t see what the hoohaw was. The leaves would all eventually turn brown, fall to the ground, and rot, leaving skeleton trees.
Adulthood and moving to two-season Texas brought no relief. I hated the rush and stress of handing over our family to the all-encompassing maw of school. And why did school districts think that beginning school in mid-August is a good idea? It’s a demonic way to destroy summer by forcing us into the educational system’s hegemony while it’s still too bloody hot to think of anything but the pool and watermelon. Being a teacher in my 40s offered only more malaise about Autumn. Talk about lack of self-knowledge in career choices! Now, I was perpetuating the regimentation that crushed my heart when I was a student.
But it wasn’t just school; the whole world seemed to say “Okay, now we gotta pay for all that June-and-July lollygagging. We’ve gotta make 4th-quarter moola and deal with elections, Thanksgiving, winter holidays, and the cold dead days of January and February. This is the real world. Summer was an illusion!”
Since empty-nesting, moving away from the oven known as Texas and back to true four-seasons latitudes (Colorado), and realizing I’m a witch, I’ve embraced Autumn. No, I’m not a pumpkin-spice addict. I do, however, like the nesting, storing, and shrouding that autumn brings.
Maybe it’s not having to heed the school system that explains my rapprochement with the planet tilting towards fewer hours of daylight and cooler temperatures. Maybe it’s climate change that’s making me, with each Summer, more quickly weary of the never-ending radiance and relentless heat. This year, I started tiring of summer before American Independence Day. I wasn’t a killjoy. Somehow, I found myself still at home in the kitchen, oven and stove on, my back to the light pouring through the windows.
Perhaps it’s simply age crafting this change in my soul. And I don’t mean that in terms of my having turned 60 five days ago. I mean the age of my transition. I’ve lived six years now as my true self through the changing of the seasons, in a way I couldn’t when I was young and at odds with the way I felt I had to meet the world. In this witchy frame, I’m not afraid of encroaching darkness and living things self-shrouding to prepare for winter.
I used to live a constant winter in my soul, even in the heart of summer. Now, I meet autumn and her sister, winter, as who I am. They haven’t changed. I have. Now, I can and want to nestle in a blanket of leaves and loam. To be still and listen. To take time with who I am because I love who I am, especially in seasons of cold and darkness, when meat grows thin on the bone and the wind with no birdsong makes me contemplate—and cherish—my own breathing.
That’s quite a spell.
So, this year, I made an ode to summer … in an ice cream recipe.
Pistachio’s neither a summer nor autumn taste. Something about the feeling of it, cardamom, and the cool, satisfying coat of creamy fat on my tongue and palate seem to be an incantation for the waning of the heat and light, and the putting up of shorts, bathing suits, and summer outings. This treat’s aromas are an incense to greet this liminal time in late August and early September. To savor what was and what’s to come … without missing what is, right here with me.
Now that’s a transition I can further explore.
B*tchstachio Ice Cream
Prep Time: 20min, 6-12hr cure Cook Time: n/a Total Time: 6.5-12.5 hrs
Difficulty: Easy Servings: 1-1.5L
Sm mixing bowl
Airtight Container, for curing ice cream base
Ice cream maker/churning device
2nd airtight container, for storing finished ice cream (keep this in the freezer overnight before storage)
0.5C (100g) granulated (caster) sugar, divided into two 1⁄4C (50g) ea
2T (16g) dry milk powder 0.25t xanthum gum
2T (43g) agave syrup (or light corn syrup)
1.3C (315ml) whole milk
1.3C (315ml) heavy cream
1C (125g) raw unsalted pistachios
1 cardamom pod, shelled
seeds of 1 vanilla pod (or 1t vanilla paste or 11⁄2t vanilla extract)
sea salt, coarse
4 dried apricots (I soak mine in Curaçao overnight or longer), diced into 1⁄8-1⁄4in (3-6cm) pieces
1. In sm mixing bowl, whisk together 1⁄4C sugar, milk powder, and xanthum gum, till fully combined.
2. To med saucepan, add syrup, then whisk in whole milk.
3. Add sugar mixture from Step 1 to saucepan and vigorously whisk to smoothness.
4. Over med heat, stir often, adjusting heat to prevent simmer, till sugar fully dissolves (3-5min, or hits 160-175°F/71-80°C).
5. Remove pan from heat and whisk-in cream till fully combined.
6. Transfer base to airtight container and refrigerate at least 6 hrs up to 24 hrs. (Curing longer in fridge allows proteins to relax for the creamiest texture and tastiest flavor. Don't kid yourself by hurrying this crucial step. You want the best ice cream you've ever eaten? Cure this bad girl the maximum time.)
7. In food processor pulse (on high) pistachios, cardamom, vanilla, sea salt, and 1⁄4 cup of the granulated sugar till mixture forms smooth powder or paste.
8. Remove base from its cure in fridge and whisk. (Base will separate during the cure, so it needs recombining.)
9. Whisk pistachio paste into base, till fully combined.
10. Pour combined mixture into ice cream maker and churn till mixture reaches soft-serve consistency (about 15min).
11. Slowly add (not in clumps) apricot bits to soft serve as it churns.
12. Churn another 10-15min.
13. Transfer to frozen airtight container and layer parchment paper directly onto ice cream to prevent ice crystals from forming.
14. Seal container (it's okay if parchment paper flows over edges of container) and place in freezer at least 6 hrs (better if 12+ hrs).
Store leftovers in same airtight container, always applying the parchment paper to ice cream surface, to prevent ice-crystal formation.