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Sage has been part of humanity's herbal arsenal for thousands of years, with users praising its contributions to cooking and health.

Nowadays, it is known as much for herbal remedies and smudge pots as "that herb in the Thanksgiving stuffing."

Cooks use sage in sausages and other rich foods, and it's used to flavor a type of English cheese. It also is paired with browned butter in Italian pastas.

Use or lose: Fresh sage loses potency quickly, in less than a week, even if kept refrigerated. Dried sage lasts up to six months, but if you haven't used it since last year, replace it for best flavor.

Here, the pungent herb seasons a quick soup with Thanksgiving flavors. Sage leaves fried in butter will lend flavor to the fat. The butter should brown, but be sure to add liquid before the butter solids burn in the bottom of the pot.

> PUMPKIN CIDER SOUP

3 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

20 small sage leaves

4 cups chicken or vegetable stock, or water

2 cups apple cider

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 onion, sliced thin

2 apples, peeled, cored, sliced

1 teaspoon curry powder (optional)

1/2 to 1 cup heavy cream

1 1/2 cup pumpkin (or butternut squash, or sweet potato puree)

Salt and pepper

Heat oil and butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, fry sage leaves until crispy, 10 to 15 seconds. Remove to paper towel.

Quickly add stock and cider, nutmeg, onion, apples and curry powder if using. Stir in pumpkin. Simmer until the vegetables are soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat.

After cooling briefly, puree the mixture with a blender, immersion blender or food processor. Return to medium heat, stir in cream to taste, and season with salt and fresh ground black or white pepper.

Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with crumbled or whole sage leaves.

email: agalarneau@buffnews.com