I like to think of early spring as dairy and potato season. It's a little soon for fresh greens, except from the most zealous farms with over-wintering greenhouses, and by now I'm pretty sick of of winter squash, carrots, rutabagas and the like.
But potatoes, butter and cheese? I never really tire of those. And you can always find them at the farmers market in colorful arrays.
With a growing number of farmers growing grain in Vermont, it's becoming easier to access locavore staples such as flour and cornmeal. Charlotte's Nitty Gritty Grain Co. offers hybrid yellow cornmeal, as well as meal milled from its heirloom Wapsie Valley corn, which is somewhat richer in protein and minerals and coarser in texture. At Butterworks Farm in Westfield, Anne and Jack Lazor's Early Riser meal is similarly nutritious.
Find these and others in the baking or bulk-foods sections of your local market or co-op. In addition, smaller farms sometimes offer cornmeal at farmers markets, so keep an eye out next time you go.
All of these will work well for cornbread — or, should you feel so inclined, corndogs!
I love a good winter soup. Last summer, my garden gave abundant storage squash and a boatload of carrots, which we harvested just before December's first major deep freeze. These are so candy-sweet I've been digging (get it?) eating them raw, but they're also fabulous roasted or — in this case — in soups or stews.
Last weekend, I threw together this easy little blender soup, which is basically just squash and carrots and coconut milk — heart-healthy and vegan in a season during which I tend to lean on cheeses, meats and potatoes for calories.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'm useless without breakfast. And for the past few months, I've been on a breakfast ramen kick. On work mornings, I awaken to noodles, tinged orange with runny egg yolk and sesame-scented chile-miso broth. A kimchi kick punctuates each slurp.
I usually use packaged dry ramen because I can get it anywhere and it costs a quarter. But when I can, I'll upgrade to fresh ramen from Vermont Fresh Pasta (check the fresh pasta section at your co-op or supermarket). And — especially for folks who don't ferment their own kimchi — most of the other ingredients are readily available from local purveyors.
At many small farms and backyard pig pens, November is hog-killing season. My husband and I get our pork from a friend; a group of us gets together each fall to slaughter, butcher and package animals. Before the meat comes home, we clear out our freezers to make way for the new stuff. And that generally means feasting on the remnants of last year's pig. This time, we had a ham to dispense with.
October means many things in Vermont: cutting corn, hauling pumpkins and winter squash, digging potatoes, processing vegetables, cutting the cabbage patch into kraut. And picking apples.
As orchardists press cider and prep their fields for the coming cold, we wander through the trees, picking fruit. Once home, we transform our pickings into pies or preserves. Any way you slice it, harvest is a busy time.
So how about a seasonal cocktail? Here's one to celebrate the apple, making use of the fruit in three ways — with Malvados apple brandy from Mad River Distillers and ice cider and fresh cider from Champlain Orchards.
Apples x Apples x Apples
Makes two cocktails
2 ounces apple brandy
2 ounces ice cider
Juice of one lemon
A few leaves each of sage, lavender, thyme
1 teaspoon maple syrup
Fresh apple cider, to top
Muddle the brandy, lemon and herbs in a pint glass or cocktail shaker. Strain the mixture into another glass or shaker; add ice cider and maple syrup and stir well.
Fill two Collins or rocks glasses with ice to the top; pour mixture over the ice and top off with fresh apple cider. Jostle with a spoon or cocktail stirrer to mix. Garnish with fresh herbs.
Wild grapes are kind of a pain to work with — each individual fruit is more than half seed and skin, so you need to collect a lot in order to do anything with them. Picking the fruit from the stems is tedious and requires many hands, or many hours. Still, I love their decisively sour character, their subtle musk and saturated, grape flavor. And gathering them is often a small adventure, requiring climbing trees or braving vine-choked thickets, basket in hand, just as the autumn leaves begin to turn.
I'm inclined to deny autumn an early start. But as peak produce season shifts into foggy nights and cool, dewy mornings, I've been processing summer vegetables with undeniable urgency. In the last week, I've canned tomatoes and kimchi-kraut, and partnered with friends and neighbors to squirrel away dilly beans and salsa, too.
On Sunday, a girlfriend and I made this spicy, fresh-flavored pico de gallo, using garden tomatoes and garlic, plus poblanos and onions that I grabbed from Putting Down Roots Farm at Chelsea farmers market last Friday. It's fab the moment you make it, so ladle some off and enjoy it right away. But given a few days to develop, the salsa's flavor deepens to a tart, extra-spicy (and extra-healthy, probiotic) mélange.
For folks who are new to making their own fermented foods, this is a really nice newbie recipe. Unlike kimchi or even sauerkraut, it's a snap to make, and the resulting salsa is familiar and accessible to every palate.
Once you've fermented it at room temperature for several days, stick it in the fridge. It'll last about a month, for continued summer-y enjoyment, even after the first frost.
Many drinkers stick to clear, clean liquors like gin or vodka when the weather is hot. But with ample ice and a shot of tart fruit, whiskey can make a cocktail as light and refreshing as any greyhound or gin fizz around.
A few months ago, Stonecutter Sprits released its Heritage Cask Whiskey According to co-owner Sas Stewart, it's "distilled like bourbon, aged like Irish whiskey and finished like Scotch." Whatever the process, it's a smooth, woody spirit with a vanilla nose and notes of dark fruit and clove, with an off-dry, spicy finish.
Since the bottle retails for about $60, I like to savor it as a sipping whiskey. But it also makes a fine cocktail.