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september 2010

Fruit Season Primer

Fruit Season Primer

by Rachel Turiel

The first thing I ever “put up” for winter was applesauce. I was new to Durango, and being just sprung from college, quite frankly, new to my own life. It was the dawn of October: golden aspens, green chile perfume, and apples glowing like lights on every street.

 While other people my age were groaning up switchbacks on their mountain bikes, I was roaming around town stuffing my backpack with apples like some crone from the old country who didn’t really understand about supermarkets. I took to this foraging like a career.

 Dan and I met this same autumn, and early in our courtship we exchanged—unplanned—homemade peach bread (his) for a jar of plum preserves (mine). We were like two skiers swooshing down a black diamond on a first date, thinking “Man, she can ski.” Except in our nerdier case it was “He knows where to pick peaches and what to do with them.”

 We packed the best apple “eaters” into the fridges at our respective rentals, hoping the assorted roommates would appreciate the worthiness of a 30-pound bag of apples crowding out their perishables. We made huge batches of pink applesauce, which we poured steaming hot into plastic containers from the Mexican restaurant at which Dan worked, the hot plastic surely exhaling phthalates right into our sauce. Shudder.

::our kids, carrying on the apple tradition::

That applesauce became so indispensable--on pancakes and toast--we've made it every year since. Not having your own apple tree is not a problem. Even on a poor fruit-set year like this one, there are trees around the county that are stacked with fruit. Take a neighborhood walk, a country drive, an alleyway stroll. You will find apples, and maybe even a pear, plum or peach tree as well. When you find a good tree, knock on the door. It never hurts to ask.


::a trio of sibling spies alerted me to this neglected pear tree in my neighborhood. A note was left and Steve called me that night, giving me complete rights to his pear and plum tree!::

Perching in an apple tree is like a game of twister. When the spinner points to the clump of polished ruby apples just beyond reach, it seems I’ll collapse if I stretch another inch. But when an image of barren January flashes before my eyes, I’m always more elastic than I thought.


~ because fruit is naturally, wonderfully sweet, none of these recipes call for sweetener~


Most of our apples go to applesauce. Applesauce is versatile enough to turn plain yogurt healthfully sweet, top pancakes, join peanut butter for sandwiches. We don’t sweeten our applesauce, nor do we peel the apples, which would remove a significant amount of the vitamins, fiber and phytonutrients.


::applesauce, so simple, so tartfully sweet::

Chop apples small, simmer with just enough water so the apples don’t stick to the pot. Cook down for approximately one hour (depending on how chunky or smooth you like it). Let cool and then pack into freezer bags or can with water bath canner.

FYI: never put hot foods into plastic containers. The heat can release harmful phthalates and BPA into your food.

 Drying fruit

Something happens to dried pears that turns them into the tiramisu of plain old fruit, which is to say, they are so sweet and caramel-y and delicious that your kids will think they’re getting a very special dessert when you serve them dried pears, and they are.


::slicing pears onto drying racks and Rose undoing my work:: 

Here in the sunny Southwest we dry fruit outside on oven racks (removed from oven) covered with flexible screen (available in bulk at the hardware store) to keep flies out. Cut pears (or any fruit - apples, peaches, plums) no thicker than 1/4 inch and lay out so pieces of fruit aren’t touching. Pears will dry outside in 3-4 sunny days. Bring inside at night.

 Apple Cider Vinegar

Buy a gallon of unpasturized apple cider (available at Turtle Lake Refuge or Farmer’s Market). Transfer to gallon glass jar if possible. Remove cap and cover top with cheesecloth or mesh to keep flies out. After one week it will become hard cider via natural fermentation. Leave it out three more weeks and it will become apple cider vinegar!

 Fruity frozen yogurt

Pull any dessert out of the freezer and my kids will start salivating, even if it’s an unsweetened frozen yogurt.

Mix: 2 cups pureed (cooked or raw) fruit with 2 cups plain yogurt. (Add 1/2 cup honey and your kids will be really happy). Freeze and serve.

 Freezing fruit

To freeze fruit raw, slice thin and uniform and lay slices on cookie sheets in the freezer. Once frozen place in a ziploc bag The fruit should shake out of the bag for rather than clump together. The fruit may lose it’s color if frozen raw rather than blanched, but you also preserve beneficial enzymes. 

 Storing apples raw

The best place to store apples is the fridge (unless you have a root cellar with 90% humidity). Place apples in a plastic bag, sprinkle water in the bag, poke several holes in the bag and seal. Add water every week. Apples will keep for 1-2 months like this.



Rachel Turiel fell in love with local food when she tapped a Durango box elder tree for syrup in 1996. San Juan Table appears on the Edible San Juan Mountain website every Monday. Rachel also writes a blog, 6512 and growing, about growing children, chickens and vegetables at 6512 feet.

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Harvest Season Boot Camp


Harvest Season Boot Camp

~working the harvest~

by Rachel Turiel

Eating local in September is as easy as lying down in your garden, opening your mouth and shaking the produce directly in. Or traipsing down to the farmers market and exchanging your hard-earned cash for a farmer’s hard-grown vegetables.

 Every weekend we make grand plans--like to leave the house, in the car--but I can’t seem to commit because, the tomatoes are ripening. Last week it was the 30 pounds of ripe, Colorado peaches keeping me tethered to home as if I just birthed a house full of fuzzy-skinned newborns. In the garden the zucchinis are hitting like sneaker waves while the chard flags me down with it’s dinner platter-sized leaves.

::still going:: 

If local food is your particular brand of heaven, September is like passing through the holy gates to the divine buffet table. In June, July and August, every scrap of the garden goes into our bellies, but in September with frost pressing its nose against the windowpane of life, we get busy.


::September's work::


::view to a freezer::

People have had all sorts of bewildered praise for the amount of food I’ve put up, but when you see ... (want to read on? click "read more")

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Zucchini frenzy, week 2

  Zucchini Frenzy  

by Rachel Turiel    

Are you sick of zucchinis yet? I always plant 6 or so zucchini (aka crookneck, patty pan) plants, which is 3 too many for one family. But in an arid climate with a blink-and-you-missed-it growing season, it’s gratifying (and just slightly nauseating) to wander around the garden and discover that the ten zucchinis that were just little slips of infants yesterday are now overfed, rambunctious toddlers. But, how successful you get to feel, toting your groaning basket of green and yellow fruits into your kitchen. My earnest children, who’ve never heard the lock your doors during zucchini season jokes, scurry around the garden, lifting up the ginormous, scratchy leaves and exclaiming “another one Mama!” as if the plant is spitting out lollipops.


::Rose, 3, with the daily catch:: 

Since I’ve been stalking zucchini recipes on my blog, people have sent me all manner of delicious ideas to celebrate the abundance. Ideas like pecan cheesecake zucchini tart, or chocolate brownie zucchini mousse. I'm getting a little suspicious, like perhaps the conventional wisdom says: if you add enough sugar and butter, you won’t notice you’re actually eating a rubber sandal. Dan claims it’s the moisture content that makes zucchini desirable in cakes, rather than a history of mothers trying to tuck vitamins into sweets.

::Col, 5, contemplating zucchini (maybe not so much like lollipops after all)::

::maybe he was contemplating the never-ending zucchini kitchen chores:: 

 Our family’s favorite way to eat zucchini is to cube or slice it lengthwise, drizzle with olive oil, fresh garlic and salt, and then roast it on high heat. The zucchini browns on the outside and gets sweet and gooey on the inside, like a roasted marshmallow. In roasting, much of the zucchini’s 95% water content evaporates and the zucchini seems to sigh in relief, becoming it’s true, sweet and nutty self. We can knock back two roasted zukes a day without even knowing it. It freezes well like this, and if you mix roasted zucchini into a bag of frozen corn kernels it’s sort of like tucking vitamins into sweets.


::it thaws out well::


::well enough to bake onto pizza::


If you slice the zucchinis long and thin, like this:


they can stand in beautifully for lasagna noodles, or tortillas in a Southwest casserole.  

If you do grate your zucchini for freezing, you don’t have to blanch it first as you do most other vegetables. To freeze grated zucchini: salt the grated, raw zucchini, let it stand for 20 minutes in a colander, press out the liquid and seal it in a freezer bag.

 When freezing, remember to suck the air out of the freezer bags before sealing. My kids love when I make a big, gaspy production  ... (read on by clicking "read more")

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iron horse chef: the finals

Iron Horse Chef: The Finals

It was The Ore House against Cyprus. It was Ryan Lowe, the hip, young and locally minded chef that is thoughfully steering the Ore House into the 21st century. And it was Vera Hansen the seasoned pioneer of the locavore movement and the creative mind behind the curtain at Cyprus Cafe.

But a more accurate and telling description would be that this was a contest between two of the nicest and humblest artisans you can imagine. Chef's that smile. Chef's that really don't seem to possess the self importance gene. And mind you, this writer has worked in many kitchens, all of which can still stir

feelings of stomach distress ... especially when I think of Stan the Silent Baker literally stepping over me to get to the walk-in after I slipped and cracked my head on the greasy floured-dusted tile floor (It was bleeding. My head, that is.). But I digress. But may I add that it was the middle of the night? It wasn't the dinner rush.

It was like, 4 a.m.



Vera's ingredients: Duck Fat. Lemon. Housemade yogurt. Sugar. Pomegranet Molasses (of course ... right? never go anywhere without it)  (Vera also brought along a selection of spices including cardamom, nutmeg, rosemary, oregeno and basil).

Ryan’s ingredients: goat vodka, balsamic vinegar, homemade pickles, corn flower, worcestershire sauce  (Ryan also brought along a selection of spices including cumin, celery seed, nutmeg, cayenne and cinnamin)

Each chef was then given one secret ingredient that until that moment, was unknown to them. The unknown in this case was a whole chicken from Napier Family Farms. The chef's would need to "break it down" before incorporating it into their menus (see the video on our Facebook page of Vera breaking land speed records in Whole Chicken Chopping - note: the clip may note be suitable for some Vegans ... and those prone to seasickness.


want to see more pics ... and read more ??? click on "read more"


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Turiel: chokecherries, week 1



Love the one you're with

~a season of chokecherries~

by Rachel Turiel

If you walked into my kitchen right now, you’d wonder where we’re hiding the bodies. Sticky red juice pools suspiciously on the tile floor. Col, 5, clicks legos together while incriminating crimson splotches bloom and spread on his shirt. Rose, 3, is on hands and knees licking the reservoir of sticky liquid off the floor while the adults cringe and then shrug, exercising that reflex that develops precisely when your second child is five days old. There’s more pressing matters, like keeping a hand moving on the wooden spoon that stirs the latest batch of bubbling chokecherry syrup.



::chokecherries simmering in water::

Last August my friend Sage returned from the Pacific Northwest, frothing with stories of gorging on   

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