THIS ARTICLE IS ADAPTED FROM THE OCTOBER 7, 2023, EDITION OF GASTRO OBSCURA’S FAVORITE THINGS NEWSLETTER. YOU CAN SIGN UP HERE.
It’s officially fall, but everyone I know is complaining about the lingering summery temperatures. My fashionable friends want to start wearing their big coats and scarves, while nature-lovers are watching vigilantly for any sign of browning leaves.
I’m a summer person, but fall has its charms. I love any kind of seasonal celebration, especially when it involves food. Nearly every culture has a harvest festival, where special dishes and drinks take center stage. Even corporate America has gotten in on the festivities, churning out pumpkin-spice everything.
This week, we’re featuring some of the world’s more offbeat fall feasts and harvest treats. Sure, there’s Oktoberfest, but people in Germany are also sipping fizzy federweisser wine, made from the season’s first grapes. On the island of Jersey, it’s time to make black butter, a rich licorice-flavored apple preserve that needs to be stirred for hours over a hot fire. I hope the weather is nice and cool there.
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Korea recently celebrated Chuseok, a harvest festival that’s one of the major holidays of the year. Songpyeon are small steamed rice cakes that people present to their ancestors on memorial altars, but they’re also happily eaten by the living.
Colorful and stuffed with sweet sesame, nuts, or bean fillings, they’re traditionally steamed upon pine needles.
Jersey Black Butter
As I’m writing this, residents of the island of Jersey are peeling apples and boiling them in cider, before adding licorice and spices.
Making this dark, fragrant fruit spread has always been a community effort. To preserve the practice in the modern era, heritage groups hold butter making-nights where locals gather to peel apples, stir pots, and fill jars.
Maple Leaf Tempura
The most fall food in existence must be these deep-fried maple leaves. A specialty of Minoh City in Japan, locals collect the leaves a year in advance and dry them in salt, before frying them in a light tempura batter.
The leaves themselves don’t taste like much, but combined with the batter, they make for a sweet seasonal snack.
Called “feather white,” this pale wine is as light as its name. Federweisser is an early autumn treat in Germany’s wine-growing regions, where it’s enjoyed alongside hearty onion tarts.
What makes this wine a local and seasonal tradition is that it ferments quickly, and can be annoying to store and ship. In Germany, festivals honor this ephemeral beverage, and, increasingly, wineries in the United States that produce federweisser are holding their own celebrations.
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