I see signs of summer’s impending departure all around — hurricanes wheeling up the coast, pumpkins piled in front of the grocery store, and rusty leaves peppering the canopy of green. I cannot say I’m sorry, because even though summer brings us the very best of local fruit and produce, we are lucky to live in a state where every season brings something beautiful.
Soon it will be autumn, and then it will be time to think about using up the last of our garden bounty and stocking up for winter. This time of year, I always think about my childhood affinity for the “Little House on the Prairie” books, which I read over and over again. Pa and Ma Ingalls would salt cure hams in their hollow tree chimney and store potatoes in the cellar for winter. It was an absolute necessity for them borne out of a need to survive the long, harsh winter. They had no grocery store on the corner; no farmers market in town.
My mother and I spoke over the phone last night, and she mentioned something about my Grandmother Nair I had never heard. She said Grandma used to strip her tomato plants of all the green fruit at the end of the season, then store them between sheets of newspaper in a basket, which was kept in a cool, dry place. And they ripened there! Supposedly, Grandma once enjoyed her own ripe, garden tomatoes at Christmas. But this was the same woman who could keep a poinsettia alive and blooming for years.
During the same conversation, Mom asked me for help finding a recipe. I found that appropriate seeing as how I’ve published so many of her recipes that she’s jokingly threatened to charge me royalties. Mom said she had a wonderful summer squash custard pie made from the grated flesh of squash that had grown too large for cooking the standard way. Someone removed the seeds and grated the flesh, then baked it into a custard filling. I did a little digging around online, but most of the summer squash pie recipes I see call for steaming and pureeing smaller summer squash. Does anybody have a recipe like the one my mother seeks?
I’d love to hear about some of the winter storage methods that have been passed down through generations here in the South. Let’s share advice about how to keep food over, other than canning or freezing. For one thing, I’ve heard onions can be hung in a pair of old pantyhose, with a knot tied between each one. What else?