Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Busy Time of Year; Eating Fall

The Larder at Il Moya 2015

The past weeks have been crazy busy at our Homestead.  I know that it is the same thing at many homesteads - urban or rural.  The change from Summer's growing scene to the harvest and cold weather preparation is probably the busiest time of year for us.

What takes up a great deal of that prep time for us is what our grandparents referred to as,  "Putting Food By":  canning, freezing, drying and pickling.

If you eat whole, real, local food,  you almost have to figure out a system for yourself of preserving  some of that good food for the winter months.   Unless you want to eat well sprayed,  well traveled, flavorless produce from a supermarket  - how will you have any fruit and vegetables if you don't save some during their prime growing seasons?

There are some things that we've learned over these recent years about drying, freezing and canning.  A big challenge is keeping track of what you have; keeping an inventory,  if you will.  Now, obviously the larder shelves are visible - we can see everything stored there.  The challenge with the larder is just knowing how much of each item we have left.  That is pretty easy to do.

The freezer, of course, is another story.  We have a big chest freezer; the kind of appliance that can easily "disappear"your carefully packaged food - and lead to waste. One suggestion for keeping track is to either paint a square on the wall near the freezer with "blackboard paint" OR buy a blackboard and mount it near the freezer.  Get some freezer friendly boxes that will fit in to various parts of the freezer and will hold specific food items.  In our big freezer, we have two hanging bins for frozen berries and vegetable, and a lidded box that holds smaller cuts of meat such as hot dogs, sausages, breakfast meats, and smaller packages like ground meat.  We then have various sections dedicated to stocks, sauces, etc.  In other words, when we lift that lid, we at least have an idea of what sections to search in when we are prepping. The final step for freezer management is to take the time to sit and list the contents of your freezer on the blackboard.  When something is removed from the freezer for use, it gets crossed off of the list on the blackboard.  This little system is worth the time it will take you  to set it up, and will avoid waste and buying something that you already have stored.

So, whether you are freezing or drying or canning, I do hope that you did - or are in the process of - doing something so that you can feed yourself well when the temperatures drop.

Note:  As the weather changes and we get into the Winter for real, I will be posting recipes from our larder and freezers. But right now, as we are in the Fall transition period, I have been asked by a number of folks what we like to cook at this time of year.    Here are some dishes that we find ourselves always returning to in the Fall.

Early Fall Recipe Ideas

I am not posting "recipes" here.  I am offering ideas & techniques for you to develop your own recipes from the bounty of the harvest season.

Fresh Tomato Sauce - there are still tomatoes in the Farmers Markets.  Don't miss the opportunity to chop them and put them into a hot skillet with olive oil and garlic and let them cook down.  Add some chopped onion, basil or oregano and a bit of tomato paste if you wish.  Add partially cooked pasta, stir and let it finish in the sauce.  Nothing like fresh tomato sauce!

Ratatouille - Although any dish with such a French label might be scary this is merely vegetable stew.  There are basic recipes all over the place for ratatouille. The method is merely layering onions and tomatoes and eggplant, peppers and zucchini, along with aromatics such as garlic and fresh herbs.  The "stew" makes its own gravy as it cooks.  It is amazing with crusty bread for dipping.  It is delicious over rice or noodles and left over ratatouille baked in the oven with fresh eggs poaching on the top of the casserole is an addictive brunch dish.

Composed Salads - There are also great greens still in the Farmers Markets.  Arugula, Spinach, Salad Greens and hearty greens like Kale, along with radishes, apples, pears, good cheeses, peppers - you get the idea.  Don't limit yourself! Add good Italian Tuna or some strips of salami or left over sliced beef to really take it past the "salad" level. A good salad with lots of seasonal ingredients makes a delicious meal, with a tangy dressing of your choice and some good bread, it is dinner.

Fried Green Tomatoes - Some of those "non ripe" tomatoes, whether growing in your own garden or available at the markets, are available now!  Every good Southern cook has her/his own recipe for fried green tomatoes.  Do some research.  See what recipe appeals to you.  Basically, dipping slices of green tomato in an egg wash, flour, and cornmeal dredge and frying them up in oil or lard or bacon grease will be delicious.  You can also add a dipping sauce, like remoulade or aioli.  Crunch on the outside, tart and soft and juicy on the inside - don't miss making some fried green tomatoes.

Let's hear from you all.  What are your favorite things to make in the Fall?  Did you put any  foods by?

Treasure Real Food!