Friday, July 25, 2008


It's that time of year. The summer sun fights bedtime, trying to outlast the moon before giving way and peeking below the horizon. The sunflowers in my sidewalk strip jump a foot each day and my kids take turns measuring themselves against the sturdy stalks.
The tomatoes
. . . let's not talk about those. The Romano beans race up the windmill, struggling to get to the top but falling just short. Birds scamper under the overgrown butterfly bush, dragging away bugs. The wading pool is out and in use. The boys seem to be living on wasteless popsicles. The parks are full and our bikes resting from trips back and forth, buffeted by warm breezes.

We've halfway through summer and it is time again. Time for what?

Why ever little locavore knows. Time to put up food for winter. (I love writing that. It makes me feel like Laura Ingalls Wilder). If you want to eat seasonally, but can't let go of the strawberries of spring, the cucumbers of summer or the winter squash of fall, you stock up. Freeze. Can. Dehydrate.
Heather has been canning tomato sauce. Abbie is freezing corn. Eco Burban Mom made pickles. Jennconspiracy made apricot chutney and all kinds of alcoholic delights (for those really cold nights). And I've been jamming.

Last year, I made an amateur's effort at stocking up for the dark days. I ran out of dried strawberries and dried tomatoes within a month. The frozen corn ended up mushy and hardly edible - though we did eat it . . . on top of pizza. I froze pasta sauce that was beyond delicious and gone by January. I've missed my homemade chutney for months now. However, I managed to hit it just right with jams and dried apples. Just right.

And then there's the squash.

Here is where I claim some experience in prepping for colder weather and where I issue a warning to you first timers out there. When you find yourself - cheeks stung by fall's first frosts, hair blown by its gusty winds - romantically wandering through the farmers' market, ogling the jewel toned array of winter squash, buy less.

That's right. Less.

Less pumpkins. Fewer candy roasters. Not so many butternuts. A tad less banana squash and Sibleys. Pass on a few of those Potimorrans. And skip some of the Hubbards.

Sure. They were wonderful. Last year, I decorated my kitchen, my front steps, my porch with these autumnal beauties. Once Halloween and Thanksgiving slipped away, I hacked them open, one by one, baking and pureeing the rich coral colored flesh and incorporating the seeds into my homemade granola. I stocked a full dorm-sized freezer full of squash last winter.

Gradually, we ate through some of it. Savoring the rich soups and souffles. Plumping up on pumpkin pies, pancakes and baked pasta. Munching on muffins. The frozen squash stores shrank and eventually migrated into the kitchen freezer so that I could turn the other one off, save a few kilowatts.

But guess what. It's still there! Last night, I opened the freezer, digging for room and found four huge containers full of lurking squash. Count 'em. One, two, three, four. So even though summer is not a time when you'd normally revel in winter squash, that's we're doing it. We've got to eat it up before those toddler sized delights lounge once again under my favorite farmers' canopy.

I won't make the same mistake, though, this year. I won't let myself be seduced by something pretty. By the warm oranges, auburns and greens. By their stocky comfort. By their seasonal sex appeal. I will resist. I will be strong. I will not be squashed this year. . . . I think.

One Local Summer Meal: Pumpkin Mac & Cheese

The pasta wasn't local but everything else is both local and organic. The pumpkin cheese sauce is easy (and thankfully uses a fair amount for pureed pumpkin). I do everything on the stove top instead of the oven as it uses significantly less energy. I don't have a recipe but here are basic directions: Melt 2 Tablespoons local butter, whisk in 2 Tablespoons of flour and cook for about 1 minute. Gradually add a splash of milk, some squash puree and shredded cheese until the mixture reaches a consistency and flavor you like. Flavor with salt and pepper. Feed to my kids - who not only eat this but love it.


The Green Routine said...

I can't wait til I see my first pumpkin here in Florida. It'll be at least a couple of months still unfortunately. I plan on expanding my garden and planting some this year, after the watermelons are done in.

Donna said...

What a great way to use up frozen pumpkin! I may have to try it... next week!

Do you have any uses for frozen zucchini puree?

Burbanmom said...

You know, I just finished making pancakes for supper and was SO WISHING I had some home-canned pumpkin puree to put in it!!!

I've been putting up so much food this year that hubby and I'm going to have to break down and get a chest freezer for the garage. So far I've got zucchini out the butt, green beans, corn, asparagus, pickles and am just starting to can tomatoes. We eat LOTS of those and I figure I'll need to put up about 80 - count 'em - EIGHTY jars of tomatoes to make it through the year.

Ugh. Makes me appreciate my grandmother who HAD to do all this to make sure her family of 10 survived the winter. And to think she did it in a house with no A/C, on a woodburing stove, in the middle of August!

Damn we're spoiled.

arduous said...

You are TOO funny GB. Enjoy your pumpkin mac and cheese. Maybe I'll try it ... ya know, in NOVEMBER!! :)

Melissa said...

this is a good warning for me...I tend to get a little carried away sometime, so I'll try to keep this in mind - otherwise I can just see myself coming home with fifteen different squashes!

Bobbi said...

Your pumpkin cheese sauce sounds heavenly! I can't wait to try that. We are still a few weeks away from pumpkins in KY, but we do have lots of summer squash. I bet this recipe would work with squash as well. Thanks!

I'm canning jams and preserves at my house: blackberry, blueberry and raspberry.

abbie said...

I am SO going to try that!

I have an excellent recipe for butternut squash pie. I was going to post it in the fall... but if you want a sneak preview to use up your stores... I might be willing :)

eco 'burban mom said...

I stick yellow squash of any kind into all sorts of things, my kids never notice. Though, I have never tried squash in Mac n Cheese. That is a true test! I will certainly try that one.

Now, do you have a whiz bang blueberry ideas? My crew picked 13 POUNDS today at a u-pick. See, there's a benefit to having a large family! Many hands make light work!

Blogging Molly said...

try the pumpkin gnocchi recipe on I was pleasantly surprised - delish, and easy. just the way i like my food.

Green Bean said...

Green Routine: Yes. We still have a couple of months, I guess, until they show up. I guess we better get eatin'. Ironically, you remind me that even though I promise not to get squashed this fall, just about the only think I planted that is doing really well this year are two varieties of winter squash. Learn to love it I guess!

Donna: I first tried it because I only had white cheddar and my son complained that my homemade mac and cheese didn't look like what the kids at his school had in their lunch boxes. A little pumpkin and viola! Orange. As to zucchini puree, I'm afraid you're on your own there but I look forward to finding out what you do with it.

Burbs: If only you lived across the street instead of across the country, you could run over for a jar of frozen pumpkin puree. 80, huh? At least you've done the calculations. I'm guessing we're probably in the same range. It's amazing how much work this is - mostly enjoyable work - but you are right. Our grandparents and great grandparents spent had no choice. And if they made less than 80 jars of tomato sauce, no tomatoes til summer.

Arduous: Yeah. Whatever! You'll be in London in November or I'd offer to feed you some when its seasonally appropriate.

Melissa: Yeah, that was pretty much me last year. It was a pretty picture in fall but too much of a good thing is . . . well, actually still good.

Bobbi: Oh, I'd never thought of using summer squash. You just solved Donna's problem! As to the canning berries. Good for you! I keep meaning to do that and then I eat them before I can can 'em.

Abbie: Oh that's super nice of you. I don't have any stored butternut. Does it have to be butternut or will any winter squash do? I've got Sibley, Pottimoran, Hubbard and some unidentified stuff that is definitely pumpkin of some sort. Yum!

Eco Burbs: Try it and let me know. Your kids are older too so I'd be interested to see if they like it. As to the berries, way to put those boys to work!! Blueberries do freeze really well and are great in pancakes, muffins and smoothies all winter long. You could also dry them with your new dehydrator? I made blueberry jam last year and the boys liked it but it wasn't my thing. I'm more of a strawberry or blackberry jam girl.

Molly: Awesome!! Always looking for new pumpkin recipes. Sounds delicious.

Beany said...

I got really sick of the overabundance of squash last winter where I actually started to hate it. What else is in the winter buying club? More types of squash!

I had canned some tomato sauce last year but it was all gone by January...clearly tomatoes are popular in my household. I should grow beefsteaks or something next time.

I've been following all the food preserving posts with great interest. I love it when people post their mistakes or miscalculations.

Isn't this what women used to do before the automobile and the internet? Pop over to their neighbors homes and cook? Now I'm popping into blogs unannounced and enjoyed these feasts everyone is cooking up. What fun!

kale for sale said...

Good advice! I don't want to admit it but I still have two winter squash from last fall. I keep threatening to bake them but they are so cute I can't bear it. I'll have to print and carry this post with me this year and read it three times before I buy any winter squash. Regardless of its artistic factor.

Tameson O'Brien said...

That recipe sounds great - I'm definitely going to give it a try.

The great thing about having livestock - sheep geese and chickens - is that they will happily make use of an overabundance of squash. I too am a sucker for the orange globes and I go all out with squash accumulation in the fall (and hay too but that's another topic). My family eats litterally tons of squash - in baked goods, grilled, pureed, baked, you name it we love it, but my animals do too. I have no qualms whatsoever of throwing extras (and dead jack-o-lantern carcasses) to the animals. They love it, feel like it's a treat and I don't feel like it's being wasted (or have to force myself to cook with it when it's over 80 degrees - yes I know I'm a heat wuss)

Burbanmom - there were longstanding traditions of either having a summer kitchen (more typically in the south) or moving the stove "out" every summer. In my wicked old house we have doors that completely shuts the kitchen off from the rest of the house. We are spoiled, but as much as you imagine.

Depite the doors on my kitchen I only cook outside from May through October, but I seriously can't handle anything above 80 - I melt.

abbie said...

Any winter squash will do. I'll email you the recipe when I get a chance. It comes out just like a pumpkin pie, but better!

jennconspiracy said...

I just brought home a big pile of lemons from the place where I buy my olive oil. Time for lemon chutney!

ib mommy said...

My youngest is a mac & cheese girl. I'd love to be able to sit at the table with a smug look on my face as she snarfed down a bowl of mac & cheeskin.

If y'all are willing to share the butternut squash pie recipe I'd like to give it a try. I have a volunteer squash vine from the compost and I'm pretty sure they're gonna make faces at me if I try to feed it to them.

Donna said...

You guys are funny! OK, I printed out the pumpkin mac recipe and I'm planning on trying it sometime soon. I'll report back how it goes.

EBM, I don't know how many pounds it translates into, but last year I froze about 8 quarts of blueberries and we ran out months ago. My son eats them straight out of the freezer.

ib, I've got some volunteers in my compost, too, and I'm pretty sure I'll see some scrunched up faces if it turns out to be winter squash!

Green Bean said...

Beany: Great point! I never thought of that but that is exactly what women used to do. Sure, we're doing it cross-country instead of across the street. But we are learning from each other and sharing knowledge. And the one thing I've learned for sure - it doesn't seem possible to can enough tomato sauce.

Katrina: Ha! You still have 2 whole ones. You are even worse than me. Well, maybe. The containers of frozen squash I have are big. REALLY big. Though I did pawn off a smaller one on a friend today. ;-)

Tameson: Oh man! Yet another reason to get chickens. That is actually my goal for next spring - talk to my backyard neighbor to make sure it's okay, build the coop and get some hens to pepper with leftovers. :)

Abbie: You rock! I can't wait to try it.

Jennconspiracy: Lemon chutney!! Post the recipe. I've never heard of it but I do have a lemon tree loaded and ready to go.

IB Mommy: I'd love to hear if this works with your daughter! Go check out Abbie's site. She said she's also got a winter squash bread recipe. I'm ALL over it!

Donna: Tell how it goes, will ya? As to the blueberries, yeah, we ran out too soon of those. Frozen local blueberries rock.

lamarguerite said...

Thanks for stirring up memories of the days long gone on my grandmother's farm. Making jams, and canning, and storing apples in the cellar. Most vivid are the aromas, and the sense of community from all the women gathering in the kitchen, and taking turn, helping each other in their kitchens.

Jennifer (of Veg*n Cooking) said...

Hahaha! I read this post after spending the weekend freezing excess summer squash given to me, wondering, "am I going to be able to eat all this?"

On top of that, we planted two butternut squash plants, there are only two of us here, the thing is going nuts, and we're starting to get a little bit nervous. But we are learning...

Robj98168 said...

Jamming? Pffffttttt woman, I am rob- The king of the Jam. So far I have made Loganberry, Strawberry and apricot. Blackberry is up next. I freeze zucchini, and Donna yes- use your frozen zucchini puree for zucchini bread
I never have heard of freezing winter squashes before. Brilliant.

She-Ra said...

wow - that sounds ymmuy! I'd love it if my picky one would actually eat it... maybe I'll try it come fall and the squash! Though it is possible that I could have some squash still buried in the freezer. Hmmm... might have to go digging!

Green Bean said...

La Marguerite: My book club discussed, just this week, how much more enjoyable it is to do this work with one another. That is a true sense of community

Jennifer: You have my sympathies but, just so you know, even though I said that I will learn, I too have some squash vines going bonkers out front. So far, I've spotted about 5 banana squash (big ones! I might add) and some Potimarron pumpkins. Guess what we'll be eating this winter. I'm still learning . . .

Rob: Jam show off!!

She-Ra: If you can't dig up any in your freezer, you know where to come to look for some.

kimberly said...

That pumpkin mac and cheese sounds great; I'll pass the idea on to my sister, who is always looking for ways to get veggies into her two boys.

I've never tried freezing winter squash; I've just tucked a few away in the cool corner of my basement, where they will keep for a couple of months, but not all winter long. I'll try freezing (a little) puree this year.

jennconspiracy said...

Chutney recipes are up and pictures forthcoming...

amy said...

i made this today...thanks for the idea. i used some home canned sibley squash my friend game me....

to please my adult palate (because the kids and i eat the same thing at lunch when we eat together) i used sharp raw cheddar and added a 1/4 t of cayenne pepper. mmmm.

if you make too much sauce (as i did), throw it on leftover brown rice and mix in some cooked greens (both leftover from dinner) add bread crumbs and or parm on top. dinner done for tomorrow! : )

Green Bean said...

Kimberly: I tried the same strategy of a cool garage corner until I lost one to mold and decided I need to do some triage.

Jennconspiracy: Awesome! I'm so making that. Thanks for the recipe. I've got a couple more weeks until my lemons are ripe.

Amy: What a nice friend you must have! ;-) And I must tell you that I just eat the sauce by the spoonful rather than saving it for another meal. I know I should but damn its good.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...