It's finally fall.
Let's quickly run down the list of everything associated with the season that I'm supposed to mention as a lifestyle/food blogger before we move along, shall we?
- describing the "chill in the air"
- baked apples
- pumpkins baked with apples
- falling leaves
- so much squash
- vintage scarves and artisanal coffee, next to apples and pumpkins
- colorful leaves falling on apples and pumpkins while wearing a hand-knit scarf
- pumpkin spice in everything on everything next to everything
Ok now that's out of the way... Listen, I enjoy the aforementioned as much as the next girl writing from her kitchen in Brooklyn. But sometimes it feels that fall is overplayed with all the focus on pumpkin spice and putting it all through an Instagram filter. There's a focus on the trendy like knitting and canning without any explanation of why these things should be done to prepare for the cooler months. It's certainly not because knitting a scarf is going to be a cathartic experience or the "new moon" phenomenon I keep seeing mentioned on IG will inspire us all to snap out of bad habits. (I've resigned to the fact that absolutely nothing is going to make me start doing laundry every week instead of just waiting for my clean underwear to run out.) Autumn, for me, is about hitting the refresh button on routines. My apartment is small, my summer recipes are tired and my pantry needs a clean-out. I take the first few weeks of the season to make new meal plans and address what I need/want/have to prepare myself for the colder months.
I've talked about eating seasonally in previous posts and why I think that it makes more sense for someone living on a budget. Seasonal food is cheaper and more nutrient heavy- it's easier to plan a meal around what's immediately available at the market. When the seasons change I always check what is currently growing in my area on the sites below:
Next, I make sure that my pantry is stocked with all the herbs + spices which best compliment the produce growing in my area. In the fall I always make sure to have the following ingredients on hand:
- canned pumpkin (duh)
- canned corn, sweet and regular
- apple sauce (homemade if you want but there's NO shame in store-bought)
- frozen pie/pizza crust (again, make your own when when you have time but for meal planning pre-made works wonderfully)
- stocks: chicken, veggie, beef
- curry powder
The first few weeks of October, when the weather is still warm are the best time to pick up summer produce while it's still available at the market. More than likely it's on sale or reduced in price as farmers want to move product before the end of the season. In order to get the most out of berries and fruits in the winter months I like to preserve them. Cute ball jars and delicious jam aside the tradition saves money and time when the temperature drops. I can, freeze, and preserve because running out to Whole Foods to pick up $5/pound raspberries, in January, isn't an option when living on a budget. Also, it's cold outside and Netflix, sweatpants, and cuddly dogs are hard to walk away from.
Canning has become super trendy the last few years and it's certainly a great way to make summer's bounty accessible months after you've bought it. Unfortunately it's incredibly time consuming and the materials required can get pretty pricey. By all means, if you want to invest a few hours of your weekend into preserving your produce in this fashion- go for it. I definitely do when I find myself with some extra glass jars and a free Saturday afternoon. But most days I'm a cook with little time on my hands and efficiency is most important. I usually freeze my produce because it's super fast and takes minimal energy. Also, the materials you need are cheap and can be picked up at almost any grocery store. Berries, peaches, and tomatoes can all be frozen fairly fast and packed away for later use in a myriad of ways during the winter.
- Gallon freezer bags
- Lemon juice
- Air tight tupperware
- Cookie sheets/trays
Raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, etc. are the easiest to freeze.
- Wash the berries.
- Dry thoroughly.
- Freeze in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Once the berries are frozen transfer to freezer bag or air tight container and label with the date.
Make sure the peaches are ripe but not too mushy.
-To freeze without the skins just blanch the peaches in boiling water for no more than 2 minutes and the skins should peel right off OR leave skins on.
- Wash, cut in half along the vein, and remove pit. Slice peaches into cubes or wedges.
- Lay out in a single layer on cookie sheet and drizzle with 1:4 cup ratio lemon juice and water to prevent browning.
- Once frozen transfer to a freezer bag or air tight container and label with the date.
- Wash and freeze cherry tomatoes whole on a cookie sheet then transfer to freezer bags.
- Heirloom tomatoes can be prepared the same way as peaches. Blanched, peeled, sliced then frozen on cookie sheets. Alternatively just freeze whole or slice and freeze then place in air tight containers. Always label any frozen items with the date to make sure you're eating them while they are well preserved.
The summer produce will keep in your freezer for up to 6 months. Berries can be added directly to smoothies or batters without defrosting. Tomatoes can be thawed in some hot water, peeled, and used for sauces and soups. Honestly, few things brighten up a gloomy, grey February day like a fresh peach smoothie or heirloom tomatoes stirred into pasta. I'll post my favorite recipes for using the frozen summer produce in the coming months.