October. It's really fall now. It's dark more than it's light, the leaves are turning colors and piling in the street, I've put away the kids' summer shorts for good now (I think), there is much discussion around here of jack-o-lanterns and Halloween costumes, my knitting needles can't keep up with all the projects I want to do (well, that's usually the case anyway!), and the supply of fresh vegetables is rapidly declining. This year a warm spring and wet summer made everything ripen about two weeks early, which means everything is done two weeks earlier than usual in the fall. Frost predicted for this weekend means that tomorrow's market is surely the last opportunity I'll have to stock up on tomatoes for sauce. I also plan to take the kids apple picking this morning while the weather is mild and there are plentiful apples to pick.
Late summer and early fall are, in my opinion, the best for local eating. Before the first frost, there is an abundance in our CSA box and at the farmers' markets. I don't can, but we have a chest freezer in the basement, so it's possible to eat local produce, if not exclusively, for at least most of the year. And because I spend quite a lot of my time thinking about and preparing food for my family, here's a list of five fall foods we've been enjoying of late:
1. Corn on the cob. Until there's a hard freeze, you can get fresh corn in Wisconsin at the markets. In fact, the cool nights late in the season make the corn sweeter. My kids love corn on the cob, especially Anya, whose favorite thing lately is to sit on the porch and peel it "like a banana!"
2. Apples, apples, apples.
Oh, how I love apples. I love that there are a zillion varieties to suit everyone's taste. My favorites are the ones that are crisp and somewhat tart, like Jonafree and Honeycrisp. I love that you can go apple picking and fill a whole bag in just a few minutes. I love to make applesauce and eat it for dinner with potatoes fried with cabbage (and occasionally spicy sausage), or for breakfast on top of pancakes with whipped cream. And there's nothing cozier in the evening than a mug of warm apple cider with a cinnamon stick.
3. Tomato sauce.
I know tomatoes are really considered a summer fruit (or vegetable, whichever way you look at it) but up here they don't really get going until the middle of August or later. I bought them by the huge bagload through the month of September and made lots of sauce. Some we ate with fresh noodles, some we made into tomato soup, some went on pizza, and a lot went into the freezer.
4. Pumpkin spice cupcakes. It's rare that I make pumpkin spice anything, to tell you the truth, but this week after some festive jack-o-lantern carving with new friends in the neighborhood, we accidentally brought home a little pie pumpkin that never got carved. So I sliced it in half and baked it and scraped out the flesh and purréed that in the blender and then flipped through Martha Stewart's Cupcakes until I found a pumpkin recipe to try. I added chocolate chips and left off the frosting, and they were pretty good. The kids sure inhaled them!
They like jack-o-lanterns, too. These pictures are actually from a couple of weeks ago; we got started on Halloween early this year.
5. Squash soup. But it's got to be made right, with a little sweet, a little spicy, but not too much of either. One recipe I use a lot calls for carrots, onions, squash, broth, some yogurt and a touch of maple syrup. I usually throw in a bit of ginger, too.
What about you? What are your favorite fall foods?