A Menu of Thoughts
A TIME FOR SETTLING IN
Photo-Country Canning, Gerald Koser
By the time November has arrived in our area, the Laurel Mountains of Pennsylvania, we have gotten a peek at winter; the first snow has fallen, leaving a light dusting that resembles confectioneer's sugar.
To easy ourselves into colder weather, we have already made preparations. We delight in the stored autumn harvest.
Quart and pint jars line canning shelves: a medley of pickles, beets, relishes, golden peaches, and stewed tomatoes is keeping company with homemade ketchup and tomato juice. Spicy applesauce and assorted jams and jellies have been put by, and the freezer holds blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries.
Bottles herbal vinegars sit on the old pine cupboard's shelves, We can choose from bottles of oregano chive, and thyme, or purple basil vinegars.
In addition to herbal vinegars, we have also harvested and dried culinary herbs. During the summer months we gathered herbs, and then tied and hung them upside down to dry. Now they have been preserved and labeled in glass containers covered with circles of gingham fabric and secured with grosgrain ribbons. When a low, sullen sky brings snowflakes whirling our way, our appetites develop a zest for robust meals. That is the time for hearty stews and simmering soups, flavored with basil, thyme, savory, and oregano.
Now that the herbs are dry and the holiday season is here, I like to make bouquet garni for friends. It is easy to do and is especially welcome for the cook who delights in unique seasonings. Three herbs--bay leaf, thyme, and parsley--are dried and crumbled and placed together in a four-inch square of cheesecloth. All the edges of the cheesecloth are brought together and secured with a string.
The advancement of winter in our community means preparing food for the birds, as well. We fill our bird feeders, and the black-capped chickadees return once more. I marvel at their fortitude! When the wind blows gusts of snow, these tiny creatures will peck away at the suet and fly to the feeder in sub-zero temperatures.
The return to the hearth is natural in winter; we are ready for crackling fires in the fireplace. Soon smoke is seen curling from chimneys, and the scent of wood smoke pervades the chilling air.
November can be a month of melancholy moods. But the Thanksgiving holiday arrives and lifts our spirits. We need a time of gathering and celebrating in November when a bleakness falls on the landscape. Not all November days are dark and raw; the mornings can awaken us to the surprise of azure skies and crisp days. The wet, windy days are balanced with Indian summer weather calling us to gather bittersweet bouquets, set the harvest table, and invite friends for a savory country supper. And because of our preparations, we are ready.
Taken from An American Thanksgiving, Ideals Publishing, Nashville, Tn. 1990; pg 122-123