I think newspapers should use that big war-announcing font to print the same headline one fatefully chilly morning each fall: FROST! Urbanites might not note this seemingly trivial incremental inch toward winter, but on local farms, it’s breaking news. Unlike spring’s gradual warmth, which gently teases life out of sleeping seeds, or summer’s sun, which creeps imperceptibly higher and bids plants to do the same—the season’s first frost, which strikes mercilessly about the time of our fall printing, is by far agriculture’s most dramatic moment each year.
In a single night, when the mercury first dips its blood-red toe below the 32-degree mark, summer’s crops are finished. Sure, a few tomatoes picked green can turn a pinkish red in the safety of the barn, but August’s beloved plants, the ones that yielded bushels of eggplants, zucchini, beans, corn, cucumbers, basil, mint and the rest, they’re all dead by morning.
But great eating from local farms is anything but over. Many foods harvested on what I call First Frost Eve store beautifully, filling cellars, baskets, and ovens into winter. Apples and pears abound in fall, as do sweet winter squash of every shape, color and size. The cabbage cousins—kale, collards, cauliflower, broccoli and especially frost-sweetened Brussels sprouts—abate my addiction to green things for a few more months at least, as do leeks, which I sauté in butter and eat by the brimming bowlful. Potatoes and sweet potatoes warm me from within while roots (carrots, parsnips, turnips) are
sweet as summer’s fruit. And speaking of fruit, extraordinary local grapes, especially the Concords that one friend rightly says “taste like purple,” are so good I forget peaches and plums, and sometimes my own name, too.
Greens (Chard, Collards, Kale & Mustard)
Mushrooms (Farmed and Wild)
MEAT AND SEAFOOD
Chicken & Eggs
Milk & Cheese
SAUTÉED APPLES, BRUSSELS SPROUTS AND DELICATA SQUASH
by Ethan Kostbar, Rose Water Restaurant, Park Slope
This versatile fall sauté pairs easily with meat and with meatier fish such as cod, bass, tuna and halibut.
1 T. olive oil
3 winesap or other cooking apples, sliced 1/4” thick
10 Brussels sprouts, halved
1 delicata squash, peeled, halved, seeded, and sliced into 1/4” half-moons
Splash apple cider
1 T. butter
1⁄4 t. salt
Preheat oven to 350°.
Heat oil in a large, oven-safe frying pan on medium-high heat. Add Brussels sprouts and cook a few minutes, until a bit browned, then transfer pan to oven for 4 minutes. Return pan to burner and add squash and apples. Sauté over medium-high heat until all ingredients begin to soften, 3 to 4 minutes, then add apple cider and butter, and season with salt.
GRAMMA HALSEY’S PUMPKIN PIE
by Dorothy Halsey, Halsey Farm & Nursery, Water Mill
2 c. cooked winter squash
2/3 c. white sugar
2/3 c. brown sugar, packed
1 1/3 tsp. cinnamon
1 t. ginger
2/3 t. salt
1 1/3 T. flour
3 eggs beaten
1 1/3 c. milk
1/4 t. each, nutmeg, cloves and allspice
Preheat oven to 400°. Combine ingredients in large bowl. Mix thoroughly. Pour mixture into unbaked pie shell. Bake one hour in 400° oven. Makes 1 large or 2 small pies. Pie is cooked when knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
Winter squash varieties can be sunshine, blue hubbard or butter- nut. To cook squash, wash squash, prick top and side many times with a fork. Place on a foil-lined pan in a 350° oven. Cooking time varies depending on size of the squash; usually about an hour. It should be fork tender when done. Cool and cut baked squash into sections. Remove seeds and skin. Put flesh in food mill. Can be used for pie, soup, casserole or frozen for winter use.
Adapted from The Little House Cookbook by Barbara Walker
No farmer’s feast of a century ago was complete without mashed turnips. Often they sat side by side on the table with mashed potatoes and squash.
Wash and peel 3 lbs. turnips. Slice thin across the grain. Simmer, covered, in a large pot with 1⁄2 c. water, until tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove cover for last few minutes to cook away excess water. Add 3 T. butter and salt and pepper, and mash.
PORK LARD PIE CRUST
Adapted from Bruce Aidells’s Complete Book of Pork
‘Tis the season for pie—apple, pear, pumpkin, mincemeat, or savory dishes like quiche—and even if it weren’t, my pie-loving boyfriend has suffered enough of my lazy crisps and cobblers. Trans fats are officially unwelcome in NYC, so I’ve pitched my vegan, Crisco-heavy crust recipe for this authentic labor of love made from the real thing: leaf lard, which I now consider a health food and now buy at the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket.
21⁄2 c. flour
1 t. kosher salt
1 T. sugar (for sweet pies only)
3⁄4 c. rendered lard (see below), cut into small pieces and frozen
4 T. butter, cut into small pieces, combined with the lard, and frozen
To render 6 lbs. lard, cut into 1⁄2″ cubes and put into a large pot or Dutch oven. Bake at 350° until fat begins to melt. Stir every 45 minutes until the cracklings (which are delicious) float to the top. This may take up to 4 hours. Strain. Will keep, refrigerated, for 6 months.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt and sugar (if using) and stir well. Add frozen butter and lard, tossing with a fork. With a pastry blender, cut the fat into the flour until it resembles a coarse meal. Working quickly, drizzle in 6 T. ice water, tossing with the fork (don’t use your hands, which would soften the lard) until the dough forms a shaggy mass. If the dough is too dry, add more ice water, 1 T. at a time.
Without kneading, quickly gather into a ball that just holds together. Divide in half, shape into 2 disks, and wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes or up to one day.