Change is in the air, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. About a week ago, we experienced our first frost in eastern MA, leaving any of the garden’s remaining summer-worn plants a floppy mess. The chard is slumped over, the pole bean plants are already beginning to brown and blacken, and the nasturtium vine’s looking more like spaghetti than the thriving edible flower producer it was until the very end.
That’s not to say the harvest is entirely over. Even in the Learning Garden, we still have some Napa, carrots, broccoli, radishes, kale, lettuces, pac choi, and hearty herbs like rosemary, thyme, and sage, kickin’ around. But education and volunteer programs are a few short weeks from finishing up until next spring, and LG harvests are too light to continue weekly sales to the restaurant.
Even my preservation workload is dropping fast. This morning I struggled to write out a list of items to purchase at this weekend’s farmers market since I’ve put up just about everything I set out to put up. A look at the calendar reminds me that I only have another month of fresh and local produce to enjoy before I’m back to weekly adventures at Whole Foods.
Our journey to “the end” is welcomed with open arms, though. As Waltham Fields’ farm manager Amanda Cather pointed out in her latest “Notes from the Field: Hail the Frost!,” there is much to celebrate at the end of the season. With the death of crops (… and weeds, bugs, diseases, etc) comes renewal, for both the land and the growers. I’d say this also goes for the “locavore” preservationist.
I was in grad school during the fall/winter of 2010 and 2011, which meant the majority of my time was divided between school and work. I continued purchasing local food through October, but my gardening and food preservation really hit the brakes in early September of those years. This fall I did not return to school, and so I was able to put up loads of autumn-inspired foods while pursuing jobs of interest. I am extremely happy to announce that, after many months of searching and applying, I have accepted a part-time position as the emergency food pantry coordinator for the Elizabeth Peabody House in Somerville, MA. I will be sure to share details about the position and the program when appropriate!
In the meantime, I do still have a few more recipes to share with you, this one included. I’ve been tempted to try out (and indeed have tried out) some recipes this season that feature robust flavorings like cloves and allspice. I’m always weary about these recipes; I often find I can only eat a little of these foods before the spices seem to overpower the dish. So when I set out to create a recipe for apple mincemeat, to be used in handpies, muffins, crisps, steel-cut oats, and “quick desserts” (warmed mincemeat + chopped walnuts is dee-VINE), I took caution. I used just 2 teaspoons of each ground spice- cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and ginger.
Similarly, the addition of citrus (in this case, a lemon or an orange) should be to your liking. If you love marmalade, chances are you’ll enjoy bits of citrus in this mincemeat, which seconds as a sweet chutney. If marm isn’t really you’re thing, you may prefer to only add the juice and finely-grated zest (amount to your liking) of your citrus selection.
Makes about 11 pints
- about 9 lbs baking apples, cored, peeled, and coarsely chopped
- 2-3 cups brown sugar (depending on your preference for sweet)
- 1 cup raisins, chopped
- 1/2 lemon or orange, thinly sliced, finely chopped, OR juiced with or without finely-grated zest
- 1/4 cup vinegar
- 1 cup water
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon*
- 2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 2 tsp ground cloves*
- 2 tsp ground allspice*
*Whole spices can be used but should be tied up in cheesecloth and removed from the mincemeat prior to canning.
Combine all prepped ingredients in a large, non-reactive pot. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and allow to simmer, uncovered, until the mixture browns and thickens slightly, about 20-30 minutes; again, stir occasionally to prevent sticking and scorching. Ladle hot mincemeat into hot jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles, wipe rims, and adjust two-piece caps; process in a boiling-water bath canner for 30 minutes.
Recipe adapted from It’s the Simplest Things.