While fall technically began on September 22, unofficially it starts the day after Labor Day. Many of us welcome the shift to harvest season, bringing cooler air, leaves the color of apples and pumpkins, and the feeling that nothing would be finer than to tuck oneself in with a glass of warm cider and a couple dozen cider doughnuts.
Unfortunately, the cider and doughnuts will be more expensive this year, as 2012 will go down in history as one of the globe's driest years: According to the multi-agency U.S. Drought Monitor, by mid-September, 65 percent of the contiguous U.S. had experienced moderate to exceptional drought. This natural tragedy has far-reaching repercussions, from dwindling drinking-water supplies to lower crop yields and higher prices for a great many foods.
In Dry Harvest, author and science writer Katherine Harmon investigates the near- and long-term effects of the 2012 drought, including shortages extending to the coming years of corn, soy, and wheat and the resulting impact on livestock, many of which are fed the increasingly expensive crops. Here's one upside: The drought stands to strengthen the movement to buy local, refocusing our diets on what is available and seasonal rather than produce shipped in from anywhere, anytime, and at any price. Read on to learn the smartest food choices in the face of rising prices and discover the crops that have actually fared well this year, tomatoes and peppers included.
Speaking of peppers, Sara Bonisteel takes us on a tour of the original Tabasco factory, still owned and operated by the McIlhenny family on Louisiana's Avery Island. Bonisteel captures the love that goes into our favorite elixir of peppers, salt, and vinegar, and her colorful photographic essay will make you want to crack open a bottle right away.
Or maybe you'll want to crack open some cider. In our humorous archival article A Handy Guide to Pressing Your Own Cider, Ian Knauer and Alan Sytsma offer up some, well, interesting advice. One idea: Make sport of gathering the apples by throwing them into the back of a pickup truck, rather than, say, merely collecting them in a basket and hauling them to your car. Along with this very personal methodology comes the sweet payoff of a mulled cider recipe—and a few more laughs.
And what would a fall harvest tribute be without a hearty meal? Pork Chops with Pecan Corn Bread Dressing and Cider Gravy and a Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake with Buttermilk Icing will surely become seasonal favorites of yours from here on in.
What is your favorite squash? Spaghetti? Acorn? Buttercup? Let us know via Twitter or Facebook, drop us a line, or post a comment on our blog. For more tasty bites, sign up for our weekly newsletter to get convenient access to our most-read blog posts, editors' favorite recipes, and exclusive reader offers.
Here's to fall feasts!
The editors of Gourmet Live