Mmmm, Tastes Like Summer

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December 17, 2008 at 8:40 am

Rob Gardner

So, it was the thin, powdery snow.  It needed clearing even if it had not yet ended.  I returned to the bungalow for a nice hearty platter of sliced tomatoes, arugula, cucumbers, roasted red peppers; along side, fresh beans and greens. 

We used all the tricks in our winter arsenal.

Somewhat preserved: I’m still going strong on fall’s red peppers that I roasted an marinated in equal parts vinegar and water, kept in a jar in the upstairs fridge.  A little soft now but tasting fine.

In season: God love the hearty little radish, who pokes its green leaves out of ground just about frozen.  And those green leaves can be damn tasty, so do not just throw them out.  Do, do, I warn, wash the greens good.  For one thing, your farmer might not think you so clever as to eat the radish greens; for another, even with a wash, radish greens collect tons of grit.  More on the greens below.

Canned: tomato sauce.  See below.

A crime against nature: poly vinyl hoophouses don’t seem so magical by appearance.  Just a lot of heavy looking plastic with something holding it up.  Some farmers have a half barrel of hoop barely a foot off the ground, others have  actual walk-in houses.  The trapped heat of these structures keeps ground from freezing.  Cold capable plants can grow even in our climate.  From such structures emerged the tomatoes, arugula, and cucumbers we ate last night.  Were these the finest of the breed’s?  I’d say not, but they did taste better than supermarket fare.  Moreover, they had distinct flavors: the cukes with a pronounced cuke-ness; the tomatoes more sugary–that I liked.  It tasted different.

From the freezer: One day this summer we did a meandering ride from Urbana to Chicago.  Somewhere east of Kankakee we found a farmer selling crowder peas by the bushel in his front yard.  $20 got us a lot of beans.  We used some then, dried some that were already on the drier side and froze the rest.  It’s easy to work with frozen fresh beans as they need no soaking prior to cooking.  Moreover, they have that taste of fresh, plumper, brighter.

Let me backtrack real quick on something.  I listed all of the fruits and veg obtained over the weekend, but I forgot to mention the pork.  I’m real glad that Robin’s gathered Indiana’s C&D Pork into her winter market market fold.  It’s pasture raised for happy pigs.  C&D makes just excellent bacon, thick and meaty.  We got several packages.  C&D also got us and several others to buy their hams through the vehicle of sampling and a simple recipe.  Crystal spreads her her thumb and forefinger about an inch apart, “about this much water…frozen ham…ten hours in the slow cooker…”

So, about four of those slices of bacon, chopped, rendered a bit (keeping the meat from getting too crisp); an onion sweated in the bacon grease.  A jar of home-canned tomato sauce.  Bring to a boil, reduce.  Add package of beans.  Add more water when you see there is not enough liquid–the beans should be about an inch under water (so to speak).  About five minutes before serving, I added the radish greens picked from their stems. 

Leftover: Polenta made the day before from Ted’s Grain’s cornmeal, spread on a sheet and baked. 

Winter.

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