I love the first cooler day of summer leading into fall when you begin to fantasize about the leaves changing colors and wearing comfy sweaters. Fall is my favorite season, not only for the beautiful scenery, comfortable clothes, but mostly for the produce! There are so many warm and inviting dishes that are associated with fall. This is the time to dust off the crockpots and get out the one-pot comforting dishes that we all crave during the cooler weather.
I found a great website through epicurious that lets you know what produce is available in your area! Visit the link below:
From talking to the farmers at my market I have been reassured (by more than one source) that butternut squash will be ready in 2-3 weeks. I am getting antsy as this is one of my favorite fall vegetables, not only for its gorgeous orange hue, but for its versatility. My husband can attest that the past two Saturdays I have speed walked toward the market entrance saying “do you think they have butternut squash here today?” with hopeful anticipation. As a concession prize I did pick up a spaghetti squash from one vendor, which I plan on posting a recipe for in a couple days, so stay tuned!
Now is also the time to take advantage of the end of summer surplus that growers are experiencing; they are offering the best prices on these items also! This is your opportunity to freeze produce for the winter months when you begin to recall the warmer days of summer with the overflowing tables of berries, corn, and tomatoes.
Berries are the easiest fruit to freeze, and they require a very small time commitment. Wash the berries then spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Freeze for a couple hours, or until they are frozen solid, then pile them into a freezer plastic bag, removing as much air as possible. This allows them to be stored in a flat layer in the freezer (because who doesn’t want more room for berries!). You will be extremely happy you spent the 5 minutes total to freeze these berries when your co-workers are complaining about paying four dollars a pint at the grocery store for the same thing! Plus your fruit will taste better since it was frozen at the peak of flavor. Corn can be frozen using this same method, although a quick Google search will present you with a variety of ways to freeze it also.
Now is also the time to stock up on herbs, or prune as much as you can from plants that you grow. One easy way to store fresh herbs is to chop them to the desired size and place in ice cube trays (think the old fashioned ones you used when you were a kid) and then cover with water and freeze. Once frozen you can place the cubes in labelled plastic bags according to the herb. Be creative: you can also make your own herb mixtures this way! Once ready to use, place the ice cube in the soup, stew, slow cooker, etc and watch it melt into your dish.
My current dilemma is how to preserve the 30 fresh Serrano peppers that are growing in my container gardens. If any readers have suggestions on how to do this I would be excited to hear them!