As the leaves turn and summer – somewhat reluctantly – gives way to fall, there is a sweet moment across the agrarian farmscapes of the Northeast. A precious time between the hot sticky days of summer and the bitter cold of winter where the last of the heat-loving crops and the first frost-sweetened storage vegetables can briefly be found side by side on our tables. While farmers are still busy bringing in the bulk harvest and Real Pickles is in full swing preserving it, autumn provides an opportune time to reflect on the growing season, our continuing production season, and offer up a few tasty tidbits.
Because Real Pickles uses only organic and Northeast-grown vegetables, our success and ability to deliver high quality ferments is linked, hip to hip, with the seasonal accomplishments of the growers with whom we work. The word from our farm partners is that, overall, it’s been a good season. Like any year, there have been setbacks alongside the successes. Back in the spring, many early plantings got off to a slow start with a long stretch of lingering cool weather. A hailstorm in May resulted in crop losses for some of our growers. Still, farmers exceeded our expectations for cucumbers this season and pallets of storage crops are coming in the door like sheep to new pasture. And unlike 2016, when many New England farmers struggled with the impacts of drought, 2017 has brought sufficient rainfall.
So far this season, we have worked with: Red Fire Farm (MA), Chamutka Farm (MA), Old Friends Farm (MA), Riverland Farm (MA), Next Barn Over Farm (MA), Harlow Farm (VT), Three Crows Farm (VT), Full Bloom Market Garden (MA), Atlas Farm (MA), Kitchen Garden Farm (MA) and Picadilly Farm (NH).
The Real Pickles staff recently took an opportunity to visit and tour Atlas Farm in South Deerfield, MA where we got to see the meticulous details that go into running a 100-acre certified organic, diversified vegetable farm. Atlas grows significant quantities of green cabbage, Napa cabbage, red cabbage, carrots, beets, onions, cucumbers, dill, and cilantro for us. Taking the time to get out of the kitchen and visit one of our principal growers during our (and their) busiest season was a challenge to organize, but we enjoyed getting to know one of our farms a little more deeply. It also served to underscore the value of interdependence as we continue working towards a stronger regional food system.
Just as our commitment to local sourcing links our success with that of our growers, it also drives our production schedule – when cucumbers are available, we make dill pickles, and when there is a lull in our processing of fresh vegetables we are allowed time to pack up thousands of jars worth of fermented food. Cucumbers for our dill pickles are no longer coming into the production kitchen at this time of year, but storage crops like cabbage, beets, carrots and onions are now arriving in earnest. The bounty is impressive.
Fall is constantly inspiring us to find creative ways to incorporate our ferments on the harvest table. For the home cook working within the constraints and pleasures of seasonality, fall is a wonderful time.
For us here at Real Pickles, fermented vegetables serve a vital role in our meals at home. Sometimes we are aiming for a quick snack with a healthy dose of probiotics and will eat a few forkfuls of Organic Turmeric Kraut straight from the jar. Other times, we incorporate the ferments into a meal in a more creative way. One simple but interesting technique is pairing cooked vegetables with their fermented counterparts as in this Beet Borscht recipe, which uses Organic Beet Kvass and fresh beets.
A spicy squash soup is a great way to use a number of our ferments, incorporating Organic Tomatillo Hot Sauce for heat and Organic Beets or Organic Ginger Carrots as a garnish. Most fleshy winter squashes will work nicely – kabocha provides a particularly nice texture.
In the Northeast, we have no shortage of unusual and delicious apple varieties. This holiday season, we look forward to serving apple and sauerkraut stuffing (recipe below). Like the savory kimchi pancake, cooking the sauerkraut brings out additional flavors but removes some of the probiotic benefits, so you may want to heap some cold kraut on your plate, too!
Serves 10. Vegetarian
• 10 cups torn pieces bread of choice – whole grain sourdough works well
• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 cups chopped sweet yellow onions
• 2 cups chopped apples, choose a tart variety like Jonagold or Cortland
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• ¼ cup roughly chopped mixed fresh herbs – sage, parsley, rosemary and thyme work well – or 4 tsp dried
• 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 2 cups broth of choice
• ½ cup shredded Gruyère cheese
• ½ cup Real Pickles Organic Sauerkraut
• ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 275°F. Spread bread on a baking sheet and bake until dry, about 30 minutes. Let cool. Transfer to a large bowl.
Increase oven temperature to 350 degrees.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and apples; cook, stirring often, until just starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and cook, until tender, about 5 minutes more. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add herbs and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Scrape the mixture on top of the bread. Melt butter in the pan, and pour over the bread. Add broth to taste, cheese, sauerkraut and pepper to the bread mixture and stir to combine. Transfer to an oiled baking dish. Cover the stuffing with foil.
Bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until golden brown and all liquid is evaporated, about 20 minutes more.
Recipe adapted from EatingWell Magazine’s Test Kitchen