Tag Archives: harvest

That Dreaded Time of Year…

When someone tells me “you’re from Pittsburgh, you should be used to the winter by now” I cringe.  I hate cold weather.  I hate snow.  I hate short days, little sunshine, trees with no leaves, tough morning commutes, long sleeves, coats, and being cooped up.  I always have.  I always will, there’s no getting used to it.  I’ve never been a fan of fall either, it just means things are dying and the winter is coming.  Although self-diagnosed, I’d venture to say that I have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  This year I’m going to try to embrace the season, or at least the season’s cooking, indoor activities, and maybe even some outdoor activities too.

Not that it’s all I like about summer, but summer food certainly has helped sway my preference towards that season.  Fresh tomatoes, bbq, watermelon, salads, plums, peaches, apricots, basil, cilantro, and ice cream all have very special places in my heart.  Fall and winter flavors, although I certainly enjoy them, to me, don’t equal summer. I’m not one of those people who can’t wait for pumpkin spice to come back.  This year, though, I’m going to give it a go and embrace the fall and winters, and the flavors they bring.  I’ve already made pumpkin pancakes, although this hardly counts as using seasonal ingredients because the pumpkin I used came from a can.  This is just the beginning though.

My garden does have fall veggies that I planted in August (many of the seeds I got from Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh-Main’s First Floor seed bank).  I didn’t plant pumpkin or squash, but I have beans, leeks, green onions, lettuce, celery, and several herbs.  I also have a rosemary plant that I brought inside for the winter, as rosemary has the same climate preferences as me.  I’ll also need to buy many of the fall flavors and ingredients from the grocery store (or farm, as we’ll be visiting local farms this fall, more on that later).   But where do I start with putting fall and winter ingredients together in a fall and winter kind of way?  Where do I start with anything I want to do, with books from the library of course!

My selections to start with:

Autumn nights, winter mornings : a collection of cold weather comfort foods – Barbara Scott-Goodman

Winter food : seasonal recipes for the colder months   Jill Norman

The Winter Harvest Cookbook by Lane Morgan

Of course part of embracing the fall and winter will be enjoying the traditional celebration foods of those months, and the celebrations themselves.  Turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie, cookies, and all of the casseroles that various family members prepare this time of year are excellent, not to mention the celebrations that they’re served at.  That’s another element of embracing the season, to focus on all of the festivities and traditions that happen this time of year.  I love any excuse to spend time with my family, which luckily for me live nearby.  Thanksgiving, Halloween, Christmas, and New Years are all holidays that we celebrate together.  My oldest daughter’s birthday is in November too.  There are plenty of reasons to be around friends and family.  But what about going to the dreaded outdoors in the cold, the rain, the snow, the wind?

Again, I’m going to try to be at one with even that aspect of these seasons.  Luckily, here in Pittsburgh there are lots of great farms with fall festivals.  There are 2 that are within a 15 minute drive of our house.  We’ll be doing the pumpkin patch, hayrides, and buying apples and apple cider (fresh apples are an excellent part of the fall). Here is a list of local fall festivals to enjoy!

Now, being outdoors in the fall is one thing, but in the winter is quite another.  But, then again, I do have 2 daughters who will be happy to get out and play in the snow.  My goal is to take them out to play in the snow a bit more this year than last year.  I’m going to be realistic, it will be cold and uncomfortable, but seeing their faces as they make snowmen or throw snowballs should make up for the temperature.  Plus we’ll get to enjoy hot soup, tea, chocolate, and coffee when we come inside.  Well, okay, the coffee is for me, not the kids, but you get the idea.  We’ll be building some fun family traditions and memories.

While I read all year round, winter is a great time to settle in with your preferred warm beverage and enjoy a good book.  I already have one holiday favorite, I’d love to learn about some new ones,seeing that I’m trying to change my attitude about this time of year.  Please share some of your favorite seasonal or holiday books, and I’ll be sure to check them out!

I’m also choosing seasonal and holiday books for my children, in an effort to help them better enjoy the festive season.  Making seasonal and holiday reading a part of their holiday tradition will certainly make this time of year more special for them!  Please visit your local Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh location where the children’s staff will be more than happy to recommend some great seasonal, age appropriate books for your kids!

You know what, with all this stuff, the fall and winter actually seem like something to look forward to.  Spending time with loved ones, different flavors and ingredients, and some great activities and traditions!  I don’t know, it might actually be downright tolerable.  Cheers!

-Scott M.


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Plenty to Celebrate

It seems that a lot of people are mourning the loss of summer right now.  I’ve never been a fan of the excessive heat and humidity, but I can understand the reluctance to let go of activities we traditionally associate with warm weather.  So rather than packing away your gear with a heavy heart, why not find ways of extending your favorite hobbies into the colder months?

For example, even though you may be scrambling to collect the last of your harvest right now, your gardening days don’t have to be over when you run out of zucchini.

Fallscaping: Extending Your Garden Season Into Autumn by Nancy Ondra

A Gardener’s Guide to Frost: Outwit the Weather and Extend the Spring and Fall Seasons by Philip Harnden.

Speaking of which, those of us who enjoy cooking (and eating!) local, seasonal foods have been looking forward to that harvest.  In addition, dropping temperatures signal the return of baking season.

The Taste of the Season: Inspired Recipes for Fall and Winter by Diane Worthington

Autumn: From the Heart of the Home by Susan Branch

The Fearless Baker: Scrumptious Cakes, Pies, Cobblers, Cookies, and Quick Breads That You Can Make to Impress Your Friends and Yourself by Emily Luchetti

And people who love the outdoors know there’s no reason to head inside yet.  Hiking, birdwatching, and many other activities can become fresh again with the change of seasons.  (In fact, depending on your sport, the ability to wear more protective gear and clothing can be a plus!)

Fall Color and Woodland Harvests: a Guide to the More Colorful Fall Leaves and Fruits of the Eastern Forests by C. Ritchie Bell

The Bumper Book of Nature: A User’s Guide to the Outdoors by Stephen Moss

Backyard Bird Secrets for Every Season: Attract a Variety of Nesting, Feeding, and Singing Birds Year-Round by Sally Roth.

So even though summer’s days are numbered, autumn gives us plenty to celebrate.


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Hallowe’en, A Question

Halloween brings tricks and treats tomorrow, darkness falls an hour earlier on Sunday with the return of standard time, and the 2008 presidential election concludes next Tuesday. For someone who can’t help pondering questions about how we got here, the next few days offer abundant incentive for contemplation.

Halloween. My 1960s childhood Halloweens included costume parties with games like bobbing for apples, treats my grandmother made (popcorn balls and caramel apples), and trick-or-treating for UNICEF. But how did these ways of celebrating come to be? How did an ancient Celtic festival mix with Roman harvest traditions and the influence of Christianity, and bring us to a hugely popular and very commercial holiday?

(Just how commercial? The National Retail Federation reported last month, “Halloween celebrations rise as consumers look to escape everyday realities — total Halloween spending to reach $5.77 billion.”)

The library was designed to indulge wandering interest. I wasn’t actively looking for anything when I walked by a small alcove display on the First Floor. Halloween: An American Holiday, An American History caught my attention, and I checked it out. (Serendipity, a term coined by Horace Walpole in 1754, is the guardian angel of the library.) Halloween: An American Holiday, An American History claims that its readers will “Discover the fascinating & diverse origins of the traditions, celebrations, & superstitions surrounding America’s fastest-growing holiday in the only book that tells the whole story.”

In a public research library like CLP – Main, I was sure this would not be the only book attempting to tell the whole Halloween story. Taking that claim as a challenge, I hand picked a few books to help fill out the history of Halloween. (Hallowe’en is shortened from All Hallows’ Even, the eve of All Hallows’ Day, now known as All Saints’ Day.)

The Halloween Encyclopedia by Lisa Morton

The Pagan Mysteries of Halloween: Celebrating the Dark Half of the Year by Jean Markale

Halloween Merrymaking: An Illustrated Celebration of Fun, Food, and Frolics from Halloweens Past by Diane C. Arkins

Wishing you well, whatever and however you celebrate!


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Preserving the Harvest

Every season carries certain food associations. I never want summer’s abundance of sweet corn, peppers, beans, and tomatoes to end. Maybe that’s why early autumn makes me think of dill pickles, sauerkraut, chutney, and relish.

When I was a kid, every summer around Labor Day my family drove from western to eastern Washington state to load our car with peaches, pears, and cucumbers. Back home, we began our week long project of putting up jars of preserved produce. I fell under the spell of the kitchen haze, steam scented with dill and apple cider vinegar for the cukes, or burnt sugar if hot sugar syrup poured over peaches and pears dripped on the hot stove top.

My husband and his daughter also cherish a tradition of late summer canning. Their ritual includes recipes from a book that resides on this library’s shelves, The Joy of Pickling: 200 Flavor-Packed Recipes for All Kinds of Produce from Garden or Market. Since moving to Pittsburgh my husband and I have missed sharing in this glad preparation for the dark months ahead. With that in mind we made one of the highlights of our recent trip to the Pacific Northwest a Saturday pickling reunion. With The Joy of Pickling in hand, my husband, daughter, son-in-law and I set out for Seattle Tilth’s Harvest Fair Farmer’s Market. After perusing the bounty, we bought 18 ears of corn and 1 1/2 pounds each of green and yellow beans as the foundation for two pickle recipes.

The product of our kitchen labors included Zydeco Green Beans (page 110),

and Corn Relish (page 297).

If you’ve never canned food yourself, you might be curious about my enthusiasm. True, canning involves organization, special equipment, effort, and a lot of heat and steam. But the rewards include unique, savory treats to keep or give as gifts, knowledge of your winter foods’ origins, and creative satisfaction when your winter taste buds take a taste of late summer.

Sharing the work of canning with friends is the best way to get started. Call it a Pickling Party, or form a society of Puckery Produce Preservationists. The Joy of Pickling or another similar guide will provide the necessary theory of home canning, and step by step instructions for canning in general and pickling in particular. Another important resource is The USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning.

Here’s to you, successful home pickler convert!


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