Posts Tagged ‘squash’

Fall Harvest

Now that the days are sunny, windy, and nippy, with brilliant blue skies and thick, puffy white clouds; the nights frosty; the leaves changing colors and the bugs long dead and gone (yay!),  everyone you meet seems pretty chipper.   Mainers really make the most of this fleeting, wonderful time before winter approaches.  Mainers love their autumn, and with good reason.  They decorate their homes in homage to Fall with pumpkins, Indian corn, gourds, welcome flags with Fall motifs, and autumn-themed tschotckes from the dollar store — and this is before Halloween when decor gets really elaborate.  The farm stands are awash in color:  gourds and pumpkins, apples and cider, and mums and asters.

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Hayrides and corn mazes and pick-your-own apple orchards are everywhere.  Communities have “harvest suppers” in which farms donate their produce to church ladies and Town Halls, and they have meals made of local produce, poultry, and pork that feed hundreds, either free of charge or to raise money for various causes.  Hunters are centering their rifles and shotguns and practically chomping at the bit for deer hunting season to commence.  It is the last hurrah before bad weather and short days set in.

And of course the cider presses are working overtime, squeezing the juice from heirloom cold-hardy apple varieties you’ve likely never heard of:  William’s Pride, Macoun (a common Maine favorite), Beacon, Chestnut Crab, Duchess, Snow, Wealthy, Black Oxford, Fireside, Liberty, Lodi, Milden, Paula Red, Northern Spy, Pristine, Snowsweet, and Wolf River.  Many of the orchards have on-site bakeries where they sell fresh apple cider donuts.  The aroma is intoxicating!

Today I drove past Weston’s Farm in Fryeburg, Maine, where I took all these photos,  and just couldn’t help myself:  I had to buy their appealing selection of pumpkins, squash and gourds.

 

 

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If you’ve never tried Delicata squash, do anything in your power to find some.  You might never eat any other kind of squash (including butternut squash!) again.

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Delicata is the sweetest and most moist of all squash varieties I’ve tried.

 

I just had to buy some pumpkins so I could make some fresh pumpkin pie.  (The variety I bought is meant for pies, versus the type that is meant for carving jack-‘o-lanterns.)

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Pumpkins that are good for carving (and Halloween)

This paler variety of pumpkin is better for pie-making.  The rind is somewhat thinner.

This paler variety of pumpkin is better for pie-making. The rind is somewhat thinner.

There is also ugly blue Hubbard squash which is a old-time favorite in Maine; I hope to try it soon.

There were several types of Hubbard-like squash, which is a sickly blue-grey that resembles the color of mould.

There were several types of Hubbard-like squash, which is a sickly blue-grey that resembles the color of mould.

 

When I saw their wicked pink banana squash I got very excited.

Pink Banana Squash

Pink Banana Squash

I had tried it 2 years ago and loved it, but hadn’t been able to find any since.  It’s not hard to see why:  few people want to buy a squash that weighs between 30 – 40 lbs!  The one I chose weighed 29 lbs.  I’m taking it to my hometown this weekend; I figured its size would delight my grandchildren and then I can split up more manageable portions amongst my daughters and daughters-in-law.

Heavy!

Heavy!

1-2-3, Hoist!  It's so big it hides my head

1-2-3, Hoist! It’s so big it hides my head

I knew my husband would roll his eyes when I came home with this.  But both of us always love the unusual, and once he was convinced it wouldn't go to waste he thought it was pretty neat.

I knew my husband would roll his eyes when I came home with this. But both of us always love the unusual, and once he was convinced it wouldn’t go to waste he thought it was pretty neat.

 

 

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Farm Stands and Shopping

My local pumpkin stand

I rely heavily on local farm stands for my produce, mostly because they are closer than the nearest supermarket, which is 45 minutes away; but also because the  farm stand food is truly fresher and tastes better and I like to give the locals my business.  This time of year some farms also offer hayrides and labyrinth corn mazes to explore.

In autumn there are tens of varieties of pumpkins (some kinds are better for pie, others for jack-0-lantern carving), gourds and squash (bumpy, smooth, multi-colored, sweet, mild, large and small) and apples (my hands-down favorite is Honeycrisp), but besides the more common varieties there are also “heirloom” or historical apples native to New England.  There is one farm stand that sells their own milk in old-fashioned glass bottles, as well as  fresh eggs,  honey, and homemade cheese (the cheese is unfortunately not kosher).

What makes the farm stands unique, however, is the way they sell the fruits of their labor.  Usually no one is around.  The  produce is sold by the peck  or the piece (i.e. 3/$1.00) rather than by weight.  You simply leave your money in a basket or cash box and make your own change with the money that’s already there.  The honor system is alive and well in the White Mountains of Maine and New Hampshire.

Yes, we do have supermarkets in rural Maine.  Hannafords is the name of the largest chain store and they are pretty well stocked.  My house sits halfway between two Hannafords:  45 minutes to the west, in New Hampshire; or 45 minutes to the east, in Maine.  Both of these locations also have Walmarts, including one Super Walmart which is also fully stocked with groceries.

Amazingly Hannafords does have a “kosher aisle” that consists of 8 packages of Kedem Vanilla Wafers, 3 jars of gefilte fish, 2 boxes of matzo, onion soup mix, and 4 yarzheit candles.  Yesterday I spoke to the the stock manager in charge of the wine department and asked if he could get kosher wine.  He said occasionally (meaning Pesach time) they get Manischevitz.  I asked if any other brands were available and he said once they got Baron Herzog, but in that understated Maine way of saying things, he said “it wasn’t a big seller.”  He assured me that if I wanted it he could get it, however, and he’d place an order for a few bottles which should be in on Friday’s truck.

In New Hampshire, where taxes are lower, alcohol is sold in State Liquor Stores which are run exclusively by the State.  Not only is liquor much cheaper there (many people come from other New England states to stock up), they occasionally get kosher wines  such as Bartenura, Herzog, and Recanati and the prices are more reasonable than in cities with a large Jewish population.  But the supply is random, tenuous, and you can’t place requests or an order for more.

So far we’ve been bringing up our own supply of hard cheeses and meat; I can get Empire chicken at Hannafords by special order for about $1 more per lb.  If one is willing to pay a premium, one can order virtually anything , including perishables, via the Internet at all sorts of kosher food websites.  The point is, we are not starving.

The long distance to major shopping, and with no neighbors to loan me a cup a sugar, ensure that I plan my menus carefully and that my pantry is well stocked with emergency supplies, especially in the event of really bad weather.

In fact, we see this as an opportunity to eat better.  The stresses of the last few years, plus having “treats” around when the grandchildren would visit resulted in a loss of self-control.  I’ve got 60 lbs to lose and that is one of the many goals I’ve set for myself in Maine.  We’ve gotten rid of all junk and snack foods, relying more on whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and are exercising more.  I’m not doing anything drastic so the weight will come off slowly, but I hope to be a little bit thinner and feeling better about myself the next time I visit my “home town.”

As far as other types of shopping, we live about 45 minutes from a major outlet center in New Hampshire.  No sales tax!  While I’ve raided Children’s Place and TJMaxx a few times for my granddaughters, I haven’t really shopped for myself.  It’s funny, but once you live away from the city, you don’t really need much, and when you try to live with what you need versus what you want, shopping is not such a temptation.

There are two stores I love, however.  Reny’s is in Maine and it’s like an old-fashioned Woolworth’s department store.  The prices are great and it feels like I’m in a 60s time warp.  The other store is in New Hampshire and called Christmas Tree Shops.  I wonder how many Jewish tourists avoided this store because they thought it sold nothing but Xmas decorations? In fact it’s like a giant A to Z or Amazing Savings (or Pic ‘N Save if you’re from California).  You never know what you’ll find but it’s always cheap and fun.  I’ve found all sorts of Israeli food there (such as crackers with “Pas Yisroel” written in bold letters) and Elite chalav yisrael chocolate bars for $.89!

That said, the most-visited store when you live in Maine is the hardware store.  There are both a Lowes and Home Depot next to the outlet center in New Hampshire, but big-box building supply stores are shunned by locals, who resent all that they stand for.  Even though the prices at small hardware stores are necessarily higher, Mainers support them vigorously.  Rural hardware stores are crammed to the gills with anything and everything.  Only the proprietor can find what you need, which he does with dogged determination and helpfulness.