Stop! Harvest Time

ApplesThis is a great time of the year to be a food lover in Quebec. Even if you live in the heart of Montreal you are still within minutes of any of number of fantastic farmer’s markets and within driving distance of dozens and dozens of farms. Getting fresh produce from these spots rather than a grocery store is a great way to get items that are tougher to find, get things in large quantity, save a buttload of cash, and get to know your local farmers.  If you happen to have some free time on a weekend this is the best time of year to make huge batches of food and jar them, freeze them or preserve them. I am lucky enough to have a backyard so I also have a nice little garden and an apple tree that is becoming pretty productive. Another plus is that I’ve got a four year old and a seven year old so, you know, free labour!

Everyday life is hectic. Everyday life with two young kids is chaos. So I get that during the week you need to take steps to save time and a trip to the grocery store is convenient. But if you can set aside just two Saturdays this fall to stock up on freshly harvested produce and get cooking you will reap the benefits of it for months to come and you will know everything about the food you bought and how it was grown. Is there any better eating than that? I don’t spray my apple tree at all so I know that when I make an apple pie for my kids, ok well, for me and sometimes I save some for them, I know I am giving them a treat that does not have garbage in it. Alright, maybe the sugar but you gotta live a little too you know. Most people haven’t got an apple tree in the yard but drive fifteen minutes outside of the city and you’ll find orchards everywhere. Do a bit of research and you can easily find the spots that don’t spray their fruits with all kinds of crap. Apple picking as a past-time here can nearly rival sugar shacks in popularity at this point. Most people stick with the basic apple recipes when acquiring a massive amount of apples but it is a very versatile fruit that works really well in dishes with meat. Don’t get me wrong, I will push my frail grandmother right the heck over for the last slice of apple pie. So, yes make some pie. They freeze well too. But if you’ve got the freezer space go crazy. Make a pork and apple stew, make an osso buco with apples and fennel, or minced pork stuffed apples. I admit, I never actually tried that last one. It just came to me now but it sound pretty damn good and I may have to give it a shot.

Tomatoes are another fruit(ya that’s right fruit!) that are extremely versatile. They freeze really well and keep most of their nutrients in the process. I grow a ton of them so I don’t go out and stock up but this is something that is definitely worth a Saturday trip to Jean Talon Market to buy obscene amounts of them and get to work. I do freeze some whole and they keep fine like that. Taking the skin off that point is simple too, you just need to run them under some hot water and it comes right off. There are plenty of ways to get creative with tomatoes as well but I love having simple tomato bases for sauces on hand throughout the winter so if you’ve got a bunch of jars, or are willing to buy a bunch, this is my favorite thing to do. You just need to remove the skin, get them in the jar, add some salt, some fresh basil and a few bay leaves and you are all set. Take a look around though in cook books and you’ll find recipes for things like tomato bread, homemade ketchup and all kinds of fancy things.

Hot peppers I go nuts for hot peppers. I always grow some habanero peppers and some chili peppers. It is with a heavy heart and great sadness that I tell you now that my garden did not produce one single habanero pepper this year. On the bright side that means less work for me because I can make exactly nothing with a yield of zero peppers. I’ll get my garden back for this don’t you worry. No fancy compost next year for you jerk! Luckily for me my father in law got a massive yield of habaneros this year. I had planned on sneaking some of them Ukrainian Ninja style which involves cabbage, vodka, self loathing and a ski mask, but it looks like he is willing to share some peppers with me. I’ll keep the vodka on ice in case he changes his mind. Obviously, the main thing I make with peppers as hot as those is a nice hot sauce. If I get my father in law’s permission I will one day soon share this hot sauce recipe with you all. Keeping with my theme of being a helpful, friendly blogger I am going to give some free advice here. If you make hot sauce, especially with peppers this hot, WEAR GLOVES. I know what you are thinking,”Oh the Phatman made a batch and then scratched his eye, hahaha, burny…” Well thanks for laughing at my expense, and yes I once did not wear gloves but no I did not touch my eye. Think a little more south of the eye. That’s right. Even after washing my hands before going to the washroom I experienced what can only be described as…well it’s too painful to even say it really. Worst. Day. Ever. So, long story short, wear protection or forever live with the nickname Firecrotch.

I did manage to get a nice batch of chili peppers out of of the garden this year which are bar none the nicest looking plants you can grow in a garden. An important tip when growing peppers with little kids around; make sure they don’t pick and eat any of them. You’re welcome. I freeze some of these peppers whole but mostly I dry them out and crush them along with some finely minced garlic and onion which I toast in the oven to make a nice, sexy chili flake mix. I also like to keep some whole peppers dried out too which are great for tossing into a sauce or stir fry,

Soups are a fantastic thing to make come harvest time too. Squash comes in many varieties and is fantastic in a potage style hearty soup. A friend of mine makes some killer ravioli stuffed with roasted squash that I am dying to try to make myself. Squash is plentiful this time of year around here and inexpensive and really healthy.

One of the things I grow every year without fail is swiss chard. swiss chardI’ve never tried to freeze it since we eat it so much throughout the season as it grows but this year I seem to still have quite a bit so I am going to give it a shot. It is much like spinach so I imagine if I blanche it real quick, chop it and freeze it then it should keep just fine. Have no fear if it’s a fail I will keep you posted.

Fall season in Montreal never seems to last long. One minute we are in our bikinis, or mankini in my case(hello ladies!), and the next we are in our parkas. So get your butt to a market ASAP and make like a squirrel and store up some food for the brutally cold, long Montreal winter. If you have a garden don’t let extra produce go to waste! Get some friends over on the pretense of watching football and get them to work!

Stay phat.

Categories: Phood Philosophies

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