Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What's going to market: winter squash and peppers

After patiently waiting for the weather to cool and patiently waiting for the ripening bloom, we have finally been rewarded with red peppers that previously we could only dream about.
The largest of the red bells harvested this year are only slightly smaller than the Sugar Pie pumpkins we also brought in.  These peppers are almost too big to stuff however may be fine if cut in half and made into two servings rather than just one.
As an experiment, we also had planted butternut squash and nestegg gourds.  The squash is finally starting to ripen.  These will be excellent in creamed squash soup or baked with a bit butter.  The nestegg gourds are destined for the back of the barn where they will rest undisturbed to dry until ready for next year's fun.
For those wondering what a Sugar Pie pumpkin is, the Sugar Pie is one of the smaller pumpkins that was bred to stay meaty and sweet.  One small pumpkin produces enough mash to make a pie or two (read more here).  High in vitamin A and loaded with fiber, pumpkins can be used for making breads, soups, even as a filling to ravioli.  Pie continues to be the favorite around here with soup a distant second place.  (perfectly wonderful pie recipe can be found at Libby's)

Sidebar:  Although 1/2 cup is equal to one serving of squash and your average pumpkin pie has approximately 2 cups of pumpkin, this is not to say that by eating a quarter of a pie is like only eating a single serving of squash...although this is not wrong headed, the other lovely gooey may not be all together that good for you in the end.  Just sayin'...

For those who are wondering: although you can keep winter squashes quite a long time in a cool, dark (dry) place, many people will freeze or can them instead.  If canning winter squash, including pumpkins, remember to can the cubes and not mash the pulp.  Even the best home pressure canner cannot guarentee that a densely packed pumpkin mash will evenly heat.  Therefore the FDA as well as the National Center for Home Food Preservation recommends that these vegetables be canned as cubes then pressure sealed.  (Read more here.)  As a general rule of thumb, figure one pint per pound of raw winter squash.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Octoberfest: apple time in New York

September swept by with never a moment's peace to sit quiet and tell you the news!  The first week we were busy making peach jam from the bounty presented from our neighbor's orchard.  All the while, we did our best to stay ahead of the tide of tomatoes that were now presenting themselves.  Bushels and buckets of these red beauties were harvested as quickly as possible but I would be the first to admit that it was had to stay ahead. 
The Beefsteak tomatoes all ripened within the first two weeks of September.  It was hard to resist the temptation to pick them early.  By leaving these to ripen on the plant, the beefsteak develops an indescribable rich full flavor that compliments nearly any food it's paired with.  It was a perfect summer for growing tomatoes: hot enough to encourage growth, wet enough to make luscious fruit,  steady weather without too many extremes which cause the fruit to split or get yucky in other ways.
After one of the more severe late summer storms, we found that many of the plum tomatoes had literally been blown from their attachments.  Plum tomatoes were scattered clear to the garden fence line!  Fortunately this is a type of tomato that will continue to ripen and keep its flavor after being removed from the plant.
Apricots, peaches, then plums all ripened and were ready by the early weeks in September.  The first apples, mostly the yellow varieties, began making their appearances at the market by the second week.  The area orchards are now busy picking the crops that will appear in supermarkets within the next week or so.  What doesn't end up in a pie today, is being prepared and froze for later this winter when a cortland tart or turnover is just the treat to warm up with.