By Abbey Smith
If any month in Surprise Valley is easy during our year of local food (Local Food Experience), it is October. The wave of summer abundance still ripples through our kitchens and pantries, and the fall harvest is at its peak. Each evening in September and October we are canning or dehydrating food for our winter’s supply. With all this work, we don’t feel inspired to cook big elaborate meals. The fall rhythm we’ve established is to cook a larger batch of food on the weekends–such as a pork roast or whole chicken in our new outdoor kitchen smoker, or a big pot of stew. This food is then the base of several meals throughout the week. We are snacking on raw cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, dehydrated slices of pears (amazingly sweet), hard-boiled eggs, or homemade low-sugar jelly mixed with yogurt.
The chickens are laying. Our new milk cow from Alexandre Family Farm, named Lady Lexie Lou, is providing us with lots of milk, topped with inches of beautiful cream at the top of the milk jar. We are harvesting greens and root vegetables from the garden, sacks of apples and pears from the old fruit trees on the ranch. Spencer filled his deer ranch owner tag, so we have beef, pork, chicken and venison in the freezer. Even though our garden onion,squash and potato crops didn’t result in much this year (we supplemented with sacks full of potatoes and onions from our friends at Shakefork Community Farm and squash from Bidwell Canyon Farm), it is an abundant time. It is hard to imagine that there could be a time of scarcity ahead. But we know it is coming, so our family is behaving like little squirrels storing away food for the winter. The idea keeps me consistently hauling myself off the couch after reading to Maezy before bed, and heading to the kitchen to slice, strain, boil, mix and mash until late at night. At first it was hard, but now the food preserving is as simple as sweeping the floor or wiping down the counters after dinner. A chore that must be done, and can be done with ease.
In this time of ample fresh food right in our valley, we’ve discovered new recipes that we likely never would have without the Local Food Experience challenge. It is bringing together new food combinations. All of these producers sell products on the Modoc Harvest food hub. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Surprise Valley Cool Cucumber Smoothie:
- Ingredients: Bidwell Canyon Farm cucumbers, melon, Springs Ranch honey, Oz Garden basil, optional: Springs Ranch apple
- Blend and enjoy–adjust amount of basil to taste. Incredibly refreshing and filling.
- Canadian Thanksgiving:
- We’ve been eating like it’s Thanksgiving this month (Canadians are so smart to celebrate in October).
- Get a Triple 3 Farm chicken, cook it in a smoker, slice it and spread slices with Maezy’s Amazing Springs Ranch wild plum jelly. So much better than turkey and cranberry sauce!
- Surprise Valley Summer Soup:
- Pull out your Instant Pot, add Bidwell Canyon Farm zucchini, tomatoes, pepper, with Oz Garden thyme, Springs Ranch oregano and other spices. Cover with five and a half cups of bone broth made from Springs Ranch grassfed beef. Cook on high for 35 minutes.
- This is an awesome base for many meals. You can pair with a salad, or directly add chunks of cooked meat and veggies, then reheat for a hearty stew.