Fall awakens a natural instinct to stock up and hunker down

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By: Rachel Shenk

Rachel Shenk/La Bonne Vie

As I walk at the park after work, a deepening chill seeps through my jacket and up my sleeves. I am glad that I decided to wear gloves. Darkness creeps up slowly and I’ll be home before it has taken over the sky.

In the brisk air, I smell the smoke of wood fires. Before me, squirrels scatter carrying walnuts. I’m glad that autumn has finally arrived. With colourful pumpkins and squash, with gourds of all shapes and sizes, with mums and asters blooming and the last of the tomatoes and peppers on the vine, I’m starting to feel like those squirrels. I’m looking for things to store.

Apples, tomatoes, peaches and more have made their way to the storage shelves. Onions, potatoes and sweet potatoes sit piled in baskets. But this not only happens with food. I also start collecting yarn for knitting, cinnamon sticks and cloves for crafting and a list of good books that I can read once the weather turns ugly. (And it will! We do live in northern Indiana!)

Back when we lived on the farm, we had to make sure we had a good pile of firewood for the winter. Many Saturdays were spent heading out to the woods with the Belgian workhorses, Poke and Polly, hitched to the wagon and a good axe and chain saw laying in its box.

If I can just stockpile a few things, I know that I will make it through until spring. I will feel safe and cozy within these four walls.

The trips back and forth created a growing stack of logs leaning against the house. We knew that wood would keep us warm through the coming blizzards. That knowledge was our security blanket. Today, we try to save up wood in our garage for those frozen months.

Every fall, I feel the same way. If I can just stockpile a few things, I know that I will make it through until spring. I will feel safe and cozy within these four walls.

So that’s why I peel and chop, simmer and cook, stir and ladle until it’s time to can and store away. These jars will preserve the colour and the flavors of summer when the earth is sleeping in its muted blanket of snow.

These days, as the sun glides in and out of dramatic grey skies and all the colours seem a little brighter, I’ve been going mad with squash. Most recently, I took an acorn squash, cut it in half and seeded it, then cut each half into eighths. I brushed each wedge with melted butter, sprinkled them lightly with salt and pepper, drizzle a little honey over them and laid a sage leaf from my garden on top of each one. Baked in the oven at 375 degrees for one hour, I served them sprinkled with their own cleaned and toasted seeds. They definitely passed the flavour and colour test.

So go to the market and get yourselves some squash and come up with your own recipe. Here is one I came up with.

Stuffed Acorn Squash
Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 4 small acorn squash
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • ½ large red pepper, diced
  • 1 medium sized onion, chopped
  • 1 lb. bulk salt and pepper sausage, browned
  • 3 cups cooked brown or black rice
  • ½ tsp. pepper
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup craisins
  • a little honey

Directions

  1. Cut the squash in half, scoop out seeds and set aside for toasting.
  2. Place cut side down on foil-lined baking sheet. Add a little water and bake in 375 degree oven until just tender.
  3. Melt butter in a frying pan, add peppers and onions and sauté until tender. Mix with cooked sausage and rice, salt and pepper, and craisins. Mound in center of squash. Bake in oven until heated through.
  4. Drizzle with a little bit of honey, sprinkle with a little bit of cheese and put back into the oven for another five minutes.
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