More harvest talk
Nancy Hinton (Food writing 2006)
All the summer stuff is now gone, the autumn vegetables are in full swing, there are some late season strawberries, but basically, the end is really drawing near. It’s time to stock up. I feel the pressure, but it’s hard to find the time. This is my favorite time of year: the market still abundant, the sunny days, the crisp nights, the leaves turning, I always want to celebrate Thanksgiving fully, hold a big feast with friends, yes turkey, but all kinds of stuff, and lots of wine. But somehow, in the restaurant business, in no matter what function, this is always a busy time of year. Maybe one day .
Ok, so the parties and campfires will have to wait, but I do have to put some stuff up no matter what. I did jar some tomato sauce, some ratatouille, some hot pepper sauce, some salted herbs. I even shaved the kernels off ears of corn, froze the kernels, and the naked ears (for broth); I needed to extend the corn season a little.
Now, it’s the mushrooms that are coming in. François is out picking, he’s so good. When everyone is saying there is nothing out there, in one morning, he comes back with baskets full of lepiotes, wild oyster mushrooms, lactaires délicieux, coprins, blue foots... It’s turning out to be a not bad fall mushroom season. Some varieties didn’t bloom, others came out in full force, but rotted immediately – too much rain and heat. So, we missed out on the late season cepes and the puffballs, but the blue foots and some of the later bolets are still promising.
With the mushrooms, we do all kind of things to preserve them for the year. Some we freeze IQF (flash frozen individually), others we dry and make powders, and some we transform right away to make glazes, pickles, soups, sauces, flavored oil, and butter.
When the winter squash come in, we keep some in a cool spot for cooking, the rest get washed with soap and water, and are put out for decoration. Others go into storage for cooking at a later date, say January or Febuary, when anything good is scarce. This way, they will keep for monthes, even ‘til next season, but once spring comes round, we’re all sick of squash, hard to believe now.
We’re also stocking up on local onions, celery, nantaise carrots (the sweet stubby ones), garlic, all the root vegetables.... Keep them in a cool place and you’re better off than buying the same thing from supermarkets, or imported stuff.
Tis the season to revel in the abundance, to cook up a storm, but also to think about the winter ahead and stock up. There is nothing more rewarding and soulful than eating your own preserves in the heart of winter. I don’t want the season to end, but I’m almost looking forward to those cold, sparse monthes inorder to appreciate all the hard work of today.
4 L (8x500ml mason jars)
4 ribs celery
1 small bulb Fennel
2 bunches Parsley
2 bunches Basil
1 bunch Dill
1 bunch Thyme
1 bunch Rosemary
1 Tbsp Black pepper
2 Tbsp Fennel seed
2 Tbsp Coriander seed
1 tsp All spice
1 Tbsp Juniper berry
Lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
2 c Salt
Dice vegetables very finely. Chop herbs. Grind spices. Grate lemon zest. Mix well all together and layer with salt, store in airtight containers in fridge. Can (in mason jars in boiling water) to keep longer than a month.