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.
Making pesto is one of summer's most joyous pleasures. It's a snap to prepare — the recipe below takes 15 minutes — and eating it is always a special treat.
I'm a fan of the classic Italian blend of basil, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts and Parmesan. But taking that recipe as a basic equation — green leaves + (garlic) + oil + nuts + (something creamy) + (a splash of citrus) + salt — opens up endless combinations of deliciousness.
So ask yourself: What green leaves do I have on hand, and what would they combine well with?
Ever meet a dilly bean you didn't love? Well, you can pickle peas, too. One of my girlfriends made lactofermented snap-pea "pea-kles" last summer, and they're still flavorful, crispy and sour a full year later.
So, with a few pounds of extra sugarsnaps on my hands, I threw some into jars with fresh onions from Cedar Circle Farm, a little wild chamomile (also called pineapple weed, this grows all over my driveway, and in compacted soils everywhere) then covered them in salty maple brine.
Lactopickling is super simple — my pea-kle ordeal took about 30 minutes including boiling and cooling the brine — but it's critical to follow a few important rules.
After spending the holiday weekend visiting family in New York, I returned to a garden overgrowing with kale and broccoli rabe and bushing basil that demanded picking. The thing about leafy greens that need picking is this: If you don't pick now, you'll have less to pick later. So I picked and picked and picked, half-wondering what I'd do with so much roughage.
Then I remembered a recent conversation with my cousin, who reminded me that kale can be tenderized with a bit of rough handling, so I ripped up a bunch, and twisted and squeezed it. With some chopped herbs and a splash of oil and vinegar, a hearty, summery salad was born. And, if you're one of the hundreds of Vermonters who receives piles and piles of kale in your CSA share, you can make it tonight in 10 minutes or less.