Winter Food Dreaming

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Though we've been quiet on the emails lately, we've been thinking of you, and wow do we have some good veggies ready for you right now. The farm store tomato table is filled edge-to-edge, the coolers are stuffed, and we think a little August chill like this is the perfect boost to start thinking about winter eating. After weeks of sweating and watching any un-irrigated corners of our farm get dustier and dustier, we were kind of grateful for the preview of fall that came yesterday (even if it required three changes of clothes to complete the rainy epic harvest of salad greens for our growers co-operative).  We're still wearing wool hats mid-morning, and we had our first little fire in the yurt last night to dry out and warm up. It gave an extra nudge to the urge we've been having to start putting up some of this summer bounty, a good reminder that our average first frost is only 10 days away, and that all this abundance is as fleeting as it is overwhelming.  

I think it's a common thing for vegetable farmers in August to be simultaneously very tired and very strong.  We lift hundreds of pounds of tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, summer squash and cucumbers, over and over; I have to remember if one of our chefs orders 80 pounds of cabbage, to divide it into reasonably sized cases for normal people to lift.  But the vast majority of our produce goes directly to you, individuals families, farm members, market and farm store customers--and now's the time for you to do some lifting, too!  We are starting to offer discounts on 10-pound and 20-pound flats of tomatoes, bulk quantities of beets, kale, chard, and summer squash.  Farm members, remember you can take your additional 10% member discount off of those bulk deals, as well. 

Yesterday we snuck in our first batch of tomato sauce by throwing onion, garlic, a whole flat of grade-B tomatoes, and some wilted basil from the farm store, into a huge pot while making coffee Monday morning.  We just blended it all up (skins and all), after letting it simmer all morning while we worked.  It's now in the freezer, and the first 5 tally marks are on our "Winter Food Dream List," a piece of paper stuck to the yurt fridge, listing all the things we'd like to have in our freezer and canning pantry, going into winter with a real kitchen for the first time in 4 years.  On Sunday we managed a small batch of sweet pickled beets--not canned, just a fridge pickle batch, and we'll have no problem eating them up in no time.  

It's really the time, now, to stash away whatever you can of summer for later.  We both grew up in families that did quite a lot of that, so it's a natural process for us, but I know it can be less familiar, even intimidating for many people.  One beauty of our information age, of course, is that even if your childhood August memories didn't include clouds of steam from the canner and a mist of boiling vinegar for pickle brine, it's easy to find directions and recipes for putting up food. I still treasure the paper cookbook from the Ball Canning Jar Company I won at the 4-H fair at age 10, but the modern version is their website, loaded with seasonal recipes and clear canning directions:  If canning, I do encourage you to pull recipes from trusted tested sources like the Ball website, or county extension agent websites (beware of random food blogs who may not have truly tested recipes for food safety).  

But if canning intimidates you, or you lack the time and equipment, we really encourage you to take a few moments here and there to stash things into your freezer--grate some summer squash in the quantity required for your favorite zucchini bread recipe (if you're really good, write the recipe on the ziplock bag, so you have it on hand when you pull it out of the freezer in January).  Onions can also be chopped and frozen, in 1/2 cup or 1 cup increments, ready to use in winter soups; or chop kale, garlic, and onions together, stuff into a ziplock bag, and freeze for adding to a frittata or a soup.  Fresh salsa gets a bit watery when frozen, but honestly we still think it's pretty darn good in February.  If you have time, make our roasted tomato soup and freeze some of it for winter too, in freezer-safe jars or ziplock freezer bags.  We're printing out extras of many of our favorite recipes to have on hand in the farm store, and we'll be there hosting from 3:00-7:00 tonight, so we encourage you to come on out then for a chance to talk to us, get tips, or share your own favorites with us and fellow farm friends. If that time window doesn't work, remember the farm store is open all the time, self serve.  

It's a great time to take a little walk around the farm and see what's happening--and if you have an urge to get your hands dirty, we even have a few not-too-strenous tasks you can jump in on this afternoon, like cleaning and trimming garlic to make room for our onion crop to come in and cure.  If you linger, Noah may put you to work on the new 35-foot 4-season chicken barn--you can't miss it when you pull up to the farm store. 

If you visit the farmstore, or the market this week, we know you'll eat well....and we encourage you to make a winter dream food list of your own, and start putting a little bit away for later, too. 

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