This was our final CSA week of the 2008 season. It was also the last week for many farmers markets. Luckily, one of the markets near us stays open until Thanksgiving, so we can wean ourselves more gradually off of fresh produce. The produce itself helps with that. Everything, it seems, is giving way to squash and root vegetables.
Our share this final week was all squashes (including pumpkins), 16 of them in total: four pumpkins, four butternut squash, four buttercup squash, two delicata squash and two sweet dumpling squash.
This brought our pumpkin total to 10 (or eleven, if you count the one that rotted). I really had to start using up pumpkin, and a lot of it, so I decided to play around and make up a pumpkin custard. I halved one of the pumpkins and baked it upside-down in about half an inch of water for at least an hour. While the pumpkin baked, I oiled and seasoned the seeds (salt, cumin, and cayenne) and baked them, too. The pumpkin spent the night in the refrigerator. After baking, the flesh was soft enough that the pumpkin halves lost all structural integrity and collapsed to almost flat. The next day, it was cool enough to hold easily while I scooped out the flesh and mashed it. It made 3 cups. I mixed in 3/4 cup of maple syrup, about half a cup of milk (which might have been too much liquid), 4 beaten eggs, and spiced (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamom). The whole thing went into a 1.5 quart casserole, and in 350-degree oven for close to 2 hours. Because the casserole was so deep, it took a long time for the middle to heat sufficiently. It was delicious. It would have been even better with whipped cream. And all of the ingredients except spices (pumpkin, eggs, milk, and maple syrup) are local!
We used up the last few greens in our refrigerator creatively, in a dish of pasta with parsley pesto and spinach. The parsley was from week 19, and had kept remarkably well. The spinach was from the farmers market. We chopped it, steamed it, and stirred it into the pasta-with-pesto, along with some balsamic vinegar. Parsley doesn’t blend as easily as basil, so if I were to make the pesto again, I’d blend the parsley with the oil until it broke down, and then add in the cheese, garlic, and pine nuts. I wouldn’t buy parsley for the purpose of making pesto, but it is a tasty way to use up a whole bunch at once.
My husband went to the mid-week farmers market in search of greens, and came home with one bunch of napa cabbage, one bunch of collard greens, one bunch of chard, one head of lettuce, and ten Baldwin apples.
We first tried Baldwin apples a few years ago, after seeing the Baldwin apple monument in Woburn, MA (less than 15 miles away). It has become one of our favorites. It has a relatively dense texture, typical of heirlooms. Its flavor is strong: tart, sweet, and very apple-y. Most of the Baldwin trees in New Englad were killed by ice storms in the 1920s (I have no idea where I learned that, so it might not be true). Not only are we fans of Baldwin apples, we’re also fans of West County Cider’s hard Baldwin cider. West County Cider is made in Colrain, MA (about 100 miles away), in the Berkshires.
We bought fresh cider at the very last weekend farmers market. We also bought a 10 lb bag of Northern Spy apples, another heirloom. They’re less tart than Baldwins, so they come across as more sweet and juicy. Like Baldwins, they’re dense. That makes them store well. Our plan was to store them for weeks until we were ready to make applesauce. Then we realized that we like them for fresh eating much better than the McIntosh that are filling our refrigerator, so we’ve been eating them instead.
The Cortland apples aren’t in the fridge, because there isn’t space for all the apples, and cooking apples don’t need to retain texture like eating apples do. Unfortunately, a couple of them have developed rotten spots. I cut one out and diced the rest of the apple to fill the cavities of the two delicata squash, which I then baked. (I seasoned the seeds and baked them, too, just like pumpkins seeds.) I should have also filled the cavities with cider or broth to moisten and soften the squash as they baked. The apples did not break down and do that job as I’d anticipated and hoped. The baked stuffed squash still looked lovely. The skin of delicata squash is thin and edible, so being able to separate the flesh from the skin (which is easy when it’s soft) wasn’t such an issue.
The second purple cabbage was still in our crisper drawer, where it had patiently waited since week 10! At first I had no idea what to do with it. Then in week 13 we got potatoes and I figured out that purple colcannon was a good thing. So I saved the other cabbage for potatoes that I thought were coming imminently. We finally got them in week 21. The outer leaves of cabbage had some mold. I peeled them off (4 or 5 leaves total) and the cabbage underneath was still in very good shape. So I made the colcannon again, but using the whole head of cabbage and about two pounds of potatoes. I also used plain yogurt instead of milk. The yogurt picked up the purple from the cabbage even more than the milk did, so instead of the mixture being purple and white, it’s pale purple and dark purple. Hooray for natural fun colors! Hooray, too, for another recipe that uses all local ingredients (except the spices)!