Making the Most of the Autumn Harvest Bounty

by Lisa Vitello

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Fall is in the air! While we often think of summer as the time for harvesting fruits and veggies from the garden, for most gardeners like me, September and October are the time of greatest plenty. Apples, pumpkins, squash, potatoes and more are all coming on fast and strong. Even for those who don't grow their own produce, the local markets are generally brimming with harvest goodies, in many cases, locally grown. This is the time to take advantage of the lowest produce prices and stock up.

Here are a few of my favorite ways to "put by" the bounty of Autumn:

Yams - These sweet treats will start showing up in bulk boxes at your local market and big box outlet store as the holidays approach. I like to cook up a big batch and either freeze or can them. To freeze, boil the yams until tender and slip off the skins. You can either mash them or cut them into chunks (whatever your preference), put them into quart or gallon size freezer resealable bags and throw in the freezer. Use as you would fresh or in recipes. Canning yams would require a pressure canner.

Cranberries - Again, these seasonal fruits will appear just before Thanksgiving. Take advantage of these fresh berries when they become available! I like to buy them in the big bags from Costco and throw the bag in my freezer. When I have some time, I will make fresh cranberry jelly for holiday dinners (And, year round. We love turkey!). Here is my favorite recipe:

Honeyed Cranberry Jelly

1 cup water
1/2 cup honey
10 oz. fresh or frozen cranberries (enough to fill a two cup measuring cup)
1 tsp. Pomona's Universal Pectin in more honey

  1. Bring water and honey to a boil in a heavy saucepan.
  2. Add cranberries and bring back to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes. (If you like whole cranberry jelly, go to step 5 now.)
  3. Remove from heat and put cranberries through a sieve. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the sieve, as this sauce is very thick and some will cling to the bottom of the strainer.
  4. Put the sauce back into the saucepan. Bring it back to a boil.
  5. Stir pectin into another 1/4 cup of honey and then stir into the boiling sauce. Boil for five minutes.
  6. Pour sauce into a hot pint jar, seal and let cool, then store in the fridge. Or, double or triple the recipe, pour into hot jars, seal and process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes. Cool and store in a cool, dark place for future use.

Pumpkin - I grow my own pie pumpkins. But, if you don't, there will be lots available at local pumpkin patches and farmer's markets very soon. Pumpkin is so versatile! It can be used in breads, soups, casseroles and, of course, pie. Pumpkin is a "winter" squash, meaning that it will be harvested in the fall and can be stored for many months, under the right conditions (dark, dry and cool but not too cold). While I will definitely store some pumpkin away for future use, I also like to process some of it right away so that I have it handy and ready when I want to use it in a recipe.

Pumpkin is another good choice for freezing or canning. To freeze, remove the stem, slice in half and scoop out the seeds. Place in a baking pan, cut side up, with about 1/4 inch of water in the bottom of the pan. Cover with foil and bake for one hour, or until tender. The flesh will now scoop easily out of the skin. I like to puree it in my food processor, and then spoon into quart sized freezer bags and freeze. Pat them flat so they won't take up too much room in your freezer. For canning, again, you will need a pressure canner. It is no longer recommended that either pumpkin or yams be pureed before canning. They should only be canned in chunks.

Easy Tomato Basil Bisque

1 can condensed tomato soup
1/2 cup pureed pumpkin
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. dried basil
1 TBS. honey, or to taste
salt & pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a heavy saucepan and heat through. Perfect with a thick slice of hot homemade bread and freshly churned butter (but, that's another article!).

I hope this has given you a few ideas for making the most of the Fall harvest. There is nothing like being stocked up and ready to prepare tummy-warming comfort food when winter's cold arrives. And, preparing these foods from scratch will end up costing pennies compared to what it would cost to buy them pre-made from the grocery store! Now, that's a bounty in itself.

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