Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Preserving the Seasons: September, Week 1

Now that the school year has begun and night falls more quickly in the evenings, I can feel autumn nudging just a little more at the door, wanting to be let in. More and more I have to reach for a sweater in the morning (the other day I even wore my lovely knit beret!), and during the day I'm trying to soak up as much remaining summer sun as I can handle.

Things don't seem to have changed much in the kitchen yet -- my weekly CSA shares continue to feature tomatoes and peppers and zucchini and all the good late summer produce that taste sun-ripe and sweet -- and my preservation efforts still reflect that.

But as the days dwindle and the air grows cooler, we'll start to see more of fall's favorites showing up at the farmers' market:

--more tomatoes, of course, with green ones starting to be sold as well as the red
--apples and pears
--fall raspberries
--more melons
--potatoes for storing (not just fingerlings and new red spuds)
--sweet potatoes
--onions and garlic, already dry and easily stored
--winter squash: pumpkin, butternut, acorn, and others
--cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli
--carrots and beets
--second plantings of beans, cucumbers, zucchini
--lettuce, spinach, kale, other greens
--eggplant and peppers
--plenty of herbs
--chestnuts, black walnuts, walnuts
--maple syrup and sugar, honey, jams
--apple cider and cider vinegar

In short, it's the best of the end of summer and enough of fall to make your mouth water for more substantial meals and home-baked treats.

And though you'd think it's time to start shifting from all preservation to all cooking, there are still so many things you can do to put food up for winter. For me, I'll probably wrap up my canning this month with the last of the tomatoes, some grape juice, plenty of applesauce, and possibly a small selection of fruit butters (thicker than fruit sauces, often with spices added). I'll probably also dry some more vegetables since that works so well to reduce the storage space needed.

I'd like to say that come September, I'm able to relax and enjoy the rest of the harvest season. Sometimes I even manage to do just that. But it's definitely not time to sit back and do nothing yet (is it ever?). I'd like to get out for a few farm and festival visits this month, to enjoy the changing scenery and the delicious food, but I'll also spend a good deal more time in the kitchen, looking at pots and jars.

I don't intend to miss anything, really. I'll get to enjoy plenty of time outside as well as inside, and all of it, memories as well as jars of the harvest bounty, will get saved up to be enjoyed in the depths of winter.

Autumn, in all its color and warmth and seductive aromas, invites us to breathe and drink and eat deeply -- to live deeply -- and to enjoy as much of the wealth of the season as we can. Even with the subtle reminders of the cold and seemingly barren fields and days to come, autumn reminds us of our wealth and welcomes us to the table.

So let's welcome fall, even with the work it brings, and let's prepare for the feast to come.

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