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Connecting to the Past by Kerrie Flanagan

without comments

This is my favorite time of year when the cooler temperatures nudge out the heat and the lush green foliage prepares to dazzle us with red, gold and orange colors. The garden is in full bloom, bursting with ripe vegetables and fruit.

Tomato plants bend from the weight of the plump red vegetable, green jalapenos dangle from tiny plant limbs, onions burst from the ground, ripe raspberries dangle from branches of the bush and cucumber and zucchini vines creep around the garden, hiding their green vegetables under big leaves.
 
As I harvest all the fruits and vegetables of my labor, I feel connected to women before me—my mom, my grandma, her grandma and so on. Preparing my crop for the winter has a different meaning to me then it did to them. For some of them it was a matter of survival, for me it is a way to slow down and enjoy the results of my hard work. It is also a way for me to provide food to my family that I know is void of chemicals and pesticides.

In this fast paced world, it relaxes me to wash and cut tomatoes, onions and jalapenos for salsa or to mix together chopped raspberries, green peppers and jalapenos with sugar to create a sweet and spicy raspberry, jalapeno jelly.

I have learned about the canning process by talking with other women of my mom’s generation. They share tips and insight with me many of it passed down from their mothers. Like only use small jars for jelly and make sure to take the seed out of the tomatoes for spaghetti sauce.

I love filling the warm mason jars with the jelly, salsa or pickles and then submerging them in a boiling water bath. When the time is right, I lift the steaming jars out and line them up on the counter. With great anticipation I wait for the popping sound, signaling to me that the jars are properly sealed and ready to put away.

As I think about it, I know I have it easier than my great-great grandma with my Pampered Chef chopper and my food processor, but in the end result is exactly the same. I have food from my garden that I tended, nurtured and preserved which provides me with food I can feed to my family in the coming months.

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Raspberry Jalapeno Jelly

½  cup chopped Green bell pepper
1 cup raspberries (fresh or frozen)
½ cup chopped Jalapenos (no seeds)
3 cups of sugar
¾ cup cider vinegar
3 ounces pectin

  1. Combine first five ingredients in a large saucepan
  2. Bring to a boil
  3. Boil for one minute
  4. Remove from heat; let cook 5 minutes
  5. Stir in pectin
  6. Strain mixture through a fine strainer to remove pepper chunks
  7. Pour liquid into sterilized jars.
  8. Cover tightly and store in cool place for up to 6 months.
    **Tastes great on crackers with cream cheese.

Kerrie Flanagan is a freelance writer and director of Northern Colorado Writers, a group that supports and encourages writers of all levels and genres. Learn more about NCW at www.NorthernColoradoWriters.com. Visit Kerrie’s blog at www.the-writing-bug.blogspot.com.

Beet Street’s Homegrown Blog

Inspired by the Harvest Season, and our upcoming Homegrown Fort Collins program, we will be featuring the Homegrown Blog for the next couple of weeks.  Look for daily stories, comments and recipies about community harvest, and cooking with local food.  We are opening this special edition of the Beet Street Blog to our community, and will feature a different guest blogger everyday.  Let’s celebrate the bounty of Northern Colorado!

Homegrown Fort Collins celebrates the harvest season and its contribution to community and local culture. The goal is to educate, celebrate, and enjoy food with a focus on local. The old adage, ‘you are what you eat,’ resonates stronger than a parent’s stern warning to their children. The harvest of a community in many ways reflects the essence of the community, and has been at the center of festivals throughout history. Beet Street’s Homegrown Fort Collins will help us take a closer look at what’s around and develop a stronger sense of place and appreciation for our local harvest.

For a full schedule of events, please visit Homegrown Fort Collins!

‘Harvest Vegetable Pizza’ by Jennifer Fochek

with 2 comments

This harvest season marks the first anniversary of my return to Colorado.  After several years’ absence, I longed to feel a connection to my city and the people around me.  One of the first things I did to begin the process of making the place I had chosen to live feel like “home” was to go out to the local farmers’ market.  As a person whose life tends to revolve around food, I could think of no better way to ground myself in a new community, support the local economy, and meet some fantastic people.  Bringing home gorgeous produce was icing on the cake.

To celebrate the arrival of this year’s harvest season, I thought it would be fun to prepare something that incorporated Colorado’s fall bounty.  I settled on a harvest vegetable pizza, something that would be warm and comforting as the days grow shorter and the nights become crisp.  Never one to pass up a good opportunity for a “foodie” field trip, I put my ingredient list together and headed out to 

Berry Patch Farms in Brighton to experience some of the best produce Colorado has to offer.  I wasn’t disappointed!  I walked around their produce barn in gape-mouthed amazement, admiring the incredible colors and unique varieties.  Blue potatoes, yellow carrots, and purple beans are certainly new to me, as are Delicato squash, cipollini onions, and kohlrabi.  Talk about food heaven.

Berry Patch Farm visitors have the opportunity to pick certain fruits and vegetables straight from the fields depending on the season, so I ventured out for raspberries and strawberries.  Once I had a full flat of fruit, I gathered up the ingredients I needed for the harvest vegetable pizza (and everything else I couldn’t resist in the produce barn) and headed home.  After a bit of chopping, roasting, kneading, and baking (see recipes below), I had a perfect fall meal.  The carrots, onions, and squash were delicately sweet, and I loved the hint of smokiness from the charred tips of the vegetables.  For as wonderful as the pizza tasted, the texture was out of this world; the crust was tender, the vegetables were perfectly roasted, and I really enjoyed the mix of creamy ricotta with more traditional mozzarella.  Knowing that all of the delicious produce incorporated into the meal came straight from Colorado fields made the experience even more satisfying.  Happy harvest, everyone!

Harvest Vegetable Pizza (adapted from Martha Stewart) 

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil (for drizzling)
  • Flour (for dusting surface)
  • 1 recipe Basic Pizza Dough (below) or 1 pound store-bought pizza dough (fresh, or thawed if frozen)
  • 8 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
  • 1 recipe Roasted Fall Vegetables (below)
  • 1 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese, whisked to loosen
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.  Brush a large, rimless baking sheet with oil or line it with parchment.  (A pizza stone can be used instead of a baking sheet, if desired.)

On a lightly floured surface, roll and stretch the dough to fit the baking sheet or pizza stone.  Transfer the dough to the baking sheet or pizza stone.

Sprinkle the dough with half the mozzarella.  Scatter the vegetables on the dough and dollop with ricotta; top with the remaining mozzarella.  Drizzle with olive oil; season with salt and pepper.  Bake until bubbling and golden, 20 – 25 minutes.  Cut to serve.

Roasted Harvest Vegetables (adapted from Martha Stewart)

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1 ½-inch pieces
  • ½ pound red new potatoes, well scrubbed and quartered
  • ½ pound medium red onions, peeled, quartered, and layers separated
  • ½ pound carrots, halved lengthwise (if thick) and cut into 1 ½-inch lengths
  • 2 – 3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and place vegetables and garlic on the baking sheet.  Toss with oil, 1 teaspoon of coarse salt, and 1/8 teaspoon ground pepper.

Roast until vegetables are tender and beginning to brown, 40 to 50 minutes, tossing them halfway through.  (Vegetables can be roasted up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated.  Drain any accumulated liquid before using.)

Basic Pizza Dough (adapted from Emeril Lagasse)

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup of warm water (105 to 115 degrees F)
  • ¼ cup of light-bodied white wine
  • 1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon of honey
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon of flour

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine the water, wine, yeast, honey and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, stirring until combined.  Let stand until the mixture is foamy, about 5 minutes.

Add 1 ½ cups of the flour and the salt, mixing by hand until everything is incorporated and the mixture is smooth.  Continue adding the flour, ¼ cup at a time, working the dough after each addition, until the dough is smooth but still slightly sticky.  You may not need all of the flour.  Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth but still slightly tacky, 3 to 5 minutes.

Oil the mixing bowl with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.  Place the dough in the bowl, turning to coat with the oil.  Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 ½ hours.  Punch down the dough before rolling out the crust.

Blog written by Jennifer Fochek, author of Sweet and Saucy, http://sweetandsaucy.wordpress.com

Beet Street’s Homegrown Blog

Inspired by the Harvest Season, and our upcoming Homegrown Fort Collins program, we will be featuring the Homegrown Blog for the next couple of weeks.  Look for daily stories, comments and recipies about community harvest, and cooking with local food.  We are opening this special edition of the Beet Street Blog to our community, and will feature a different guest blogger everyday.  Let’s celebrate the bounty of Northern Colorado!

Homegrown Fort Collins celebrates the harvest season and its contribution to community and local culture. The goal is to educate, celebrate, and enjoy food with a focus on local. The old adage, ‘you are what you eat,’ resonates stronger than a parent’s stern warning to their children. The harvest of a community in many ways reflects the essence of the community, and has been at the center of festivals throughout history. Beet Street’s Homegrown Fort Collins will help us take a closer look at what’s around and develop a stronger sense of place and appreciation for our local harvest.

For a full schedule of events, please visit Homegrown Fort Collins!