By Joe Cowan
Director of Operations
It is mid-August, and here in New England, the cold of fall is looming. The farmers markets nearby are still booming, though. At our local market, the feeling of abundance is as palpable as the coming colder nights. By now people have had many tomato and basil salads, many fresh carrots for dinner, and asparagus is mostly an afterthought. In essence, the demand for these summer treats is lessening, but the supply of vegetables will be strong through October.
This supply creates a great opportunity! Asking your favorite farmer what surplus produce they have is a place to start if you want to preserve food for the winter. If you are lucky and have a good relationship with your farmers, you can have this discussion well in advance, say, in early January. Most farmers do their yearlong planning right after the holiday break and will be buying seeds and mapping out beds. At that point, you could ask your favorite organic farmer to put in a few extra plants of your favorite vegetables. They’ll most likely be happy to oblige, as they’ll have a guaranteed market for a portion of their annual crops.
My go-to is tomato sauce. I used to ask Lorraine and Rogers to grow an extra 30 to 35 pounds of canning tomatoes like San Marzano or Roma. I can’t live without homemade tomato sauce for mid-winter sourdough pizza and pastas, as well as stews and anything else I can think of. Nothing in the grocery store comes close to the wondrous flavor of your own sauce, made without any preservatives.
My other go-to vegetables for preserving are spicy peppers: red jalapeños, Thai chilis, cherry hots and others. They are easy to turn into fermented hot sauce or to dry in a bunch for a summertime flavor kick for a February dinner. The easiest and most reliable way to preserve food is in the freezer, and that is where I put all my tomato sauce. Some other ideas for the freezer include: homemade pesto with extra basil, juiced watermelons, asparagus, bone broth soup, dried fruit in vacuum-seal bags, blueberries, and many more.
Whoever coined the term ‘comfort food’ is a genius. I can’t think of a better way to describe this quick and easy family meal, and I have lost count of the number of times I have cooked it. It’s versatile, requires minimal preparation, which you can do in advance, and above all, it’s wonderfully satisfying and won’t have you reaching for pumpkin spice muffins an hour after dinner.