November arrived with a huge windstorm that both postponed Trick-or-Treating until Saturday and brought down the leaves in volume from the maple, oak and ash trees. Their final display of gold and red regularly causes me to catch my breath, but the weather is turning cold this weekend, with our first frost, so that beauty will turn into the beginnings of winter, more stark than lush.
Our lawn has a leaf coat on it now, but I don’t really like to rake, and honestly leaving it until spring is the environmentally sound thing to do, so I’m considering whether to leave it messy or not. I try not to trade environmental soundness for appearances, but I hate being the only messy lawn on the block. Still, I’m working on living with my discomfort.
The last pumpkin is out of the garden, and I pulled the last batch of Tomatillos, plus a few ripening tomatoes this morning in advance of the upcoming cold. Tomorrow, we’ll wrap our fledgling fruit trees in their winter fleece coats, and next weekend I’ll be pulling up all the plants and vines, spreading a layer of compost on the beds and calling it a day until next spring.
I feel like a squirrel at this time of year, stocking up for the winter. A bushel of apples from our local orchard is in the fridge, while I wait for the delivery of my new dehydrator, bought with a wedding gift card. I love dried apple chips, on salads and just to munch on, and I will make a batch of apple sauce, which we mostly use for baking.
In a few weeks we’ll head to a farm near my sister in upstate New York and buy bushels of squash, sweet potatoes, and at least 20 lbs of onions, which should hold us until around February. Our farm share ended last week, and the last of the kale, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, garlic and shallots are being used up. In October, November and December the food bill spikes while we stockpile and fill the kitchen with holiday goodies, and then it winds down through February. While I know the grocery store will still be there, I think this is the way we humans are supposed to live, storing and preserving our food. I do it imperfectly. We can’t live on what we put up and store, and we’ll never have enough land to grow it all. And that’s ok, because part of the strategy is investment in local farms. This year, Vermont cheese fills my fridge, my vegetables and apples vary between zero and 6 food miles, I haven’t actually purchased an egg in months, and my meats now come within a 150-mile radius, which while it sounds like a lot, is 1/10th of the average of transported food and vegetables. That doesn’t necessarily outweigh the chips in the pantry or the other purchases, but I’d rather do this imperfectly and incrementally than all at once. For the same reason that diets fail, so does massive lifestyle change. My daughter and I spent some time at the local grocery store last weekend, and this weekend we are headed to HMart to stockpile some our Asian pantry and freezer staples.
The cold draws me to the kitchen, always. With the onset of chill, I feel pulled into the warmth of the oven. Last weekend it was cold and rainy, so I spent as much of my time in the kitchen as I could. This weekend will be the same – one last batch of Salsa Verde for holiday gifts, homemade potstickers, maybe a pot of chili.
One thing that happens at this time of year is that my fridge is filled with root veggies. With the final CSA pickup, and me not cooking as much due to some back-to-back travel it was time to use some things up – leeks, a very large golden beet, red and yellow onions, parsnip, carrots, mushrooms, a fennel bulb and a couple sweet potatoes went into the oiled pan, got covered in more olive oil and balsamic vinegar and then into the oven at 400 degrees F under aluminum foil. Roasted veggies are simple and delicious, needing only time and just a tiny bit of seasoning.
After about an hour, I tossed them a little, but left them covered. After hour two I uncover them, and then roast them for another hour or two more, until the veggies are soft and caramelized.
While they roasted, I moved on to the pint of Peppadew peppers I picked at the farm this week. Marinated stuffed Peppadews are a favorite of mine, but they are expensive. These, on the other hand, are not and it’s the same thing. I used this recipe, and now they are in the garage fridge waiting to be seeded and stuffed with goat cheese.
None of these recipes are particularly complex, which is part of the appeal. There’s a place for intricate food preparation, but during stocking up season, the key is to keep the food moving into it’s final form, so when winter comes, you still have a touch of spring and summer to sustain you, literally and figuratively.