If you’re anything like me, autumn is merely a signal that the bounty of garden love and affection is about to hibernate. Cooking in the fall climate is a little rough after summer’s spoils, but perhaps a little guidance for you fair-weather cooks out there could help you avoid despair.1) Do NOT give up on local foods after the farmers’ markets close.
While most of the CT markets will board up in October, there are plenty of folks around who milk Mother Nature for all she’s worth, even through the “killing frost.” While you’re going to have to give up on the tomato plants (if you hadn’t composted them already), basil, cucumbers and peppers pretty soon, you can look forward to leeks, squashes, beets, and heartier greens like escarole and my favorite post-frost buddy, kale. Actually, there’s a great website I found here that you can bookmark for easy reference. Not only can it aid you amateur gardeners in harvesting as well as next spring’s plantings, but all you foodies can start scouring your region for those who already have it down pat. Turns out, it’s pretty much good sense—notice I didn’t say “common?”). Look at a Brussels sprout plant: Did you really think it was going to fold after just a couple of cold nights? Not a chance.
2) Try canning!- If you even consider this option, that means you must have had a pretty good harvest this year—kudos—and it really is something to think about. It takes a little investment upfront, but you can reuse jars next year! Plus, think about the money you’re going to have to spend on food over the winter. Something tells me you’ll be better off canning over the long haul. I’m not a canning expert and have only done it with preserves, so let me direct you here for expert instruction on almost any vegetable you could think of. It’s not rocket science. My grandmother canned berries and vegetables most of her life but could never figure out how to get on the Internet. If you’re reading this you (most likely) can get on the Internet; I’d like to think that means you could learn to can vegetables. It really only takes a) vegetables, b) water, and c) salt—plus a little heat to kill bacteria—and you’re golden.
3) Start cooking with fruits- For me, eating and cooking with fruits is what fall is all about in my mind. Stone fruits like peaches and plums, as well as fall raspberries and blackberries are crowd favorites. Do I really have to mention apples? All of the above can be eaten raw, for sure, but how many fresh peaches can you really eat? OK, this is not a good question, but honestly they are fantastic as savory accompaniments, too. Example: I searched for “grilled peaches” on my favorite search engine and it returned 678,000 results. Granted, I only glanced at four, but still….you’ve got options. The sweetness of fruits are time-honored foils for the robust flavors found in traditionally savory foods like meats and onions. Remember—ALL of it has sugar in it. That’s why meats get nicely browned (called the Maillard reaction) and onions caramelize (the exact same process…just nicer to say).
naturally, those plums with some reduced Australian cabernet and maybe a couple
of figs will do real nice alongside a duck
breast. And those grilled peaches I mentioned? Slice them up, toss with a few
caramelized onions in *real balsamic vinegar and put it all over a NY Strip.
Make sure you’re with someone who doesn’t mind seeing you cry. *Note: If you didn’t spend about $30 on the
bottle of balsamic vinegar you have, DO NOT USE IT. That inky mess is just red wine
vinegar with balsamic ‘crud’ mixed in and has zero resemblance to the good
stuff. Bite the bullet and go get a good bottle; you’ll find out why people pay
for it. There
you have it: A few tips to keep the chin up as the nights get longer and
colder and your farmers’ market packs up until next June. Remember, there are
only a few months even here in CT that we really go without. And if you plan for
it, you won’t have to.
*Note: If you didn’t spend about $30 on the bottle of balsamic vinegar you have, DO NOT USE IT. That inky mess is just red wine vinegar with balsamic ‘crud’ mixed in and has zero resemblance to the good stuff. Bite the bullet and go get a good bottle; you’ll find out why people pay for it.
There you have it: A few tips to keep the chin up as the nights get longer and colder and your farmers’ market packs up until next June. Remember, there are only a few months even here in CT that we really go without. And if you plan for it, you won’t have to.