Winter is upon us—time to slow down, stay in and conserve energy. And just as it’s a great time to take stock of another passing year, it’s also the perfect time to take stock of our pantry reserves and think about winter food recipes. Rather than buying tomatoes and berries shipped from thousands of miles away, consider how we ate in winter not long ago: Take advantage of the seasonal foods, which include some tasty fruits, savory greens, nourishing root veggies, hearty meats and an abundance of fresh mushrooms; turn to pantry staples such as beans, grains and pasta; and relish the canned and frozen goodies made when summer’s bounty was at its peak.
Human beings have learned to preserve food in a miraculous variety of ways. Through fermentation, for example, we turn our extra veggies into sour, pickled gems; our fruits and grains into tasty wine and beer; and our fresh milk and meat into fine, aged cheeses and charcuterie. Low-tech canning equipment helps us enjoy the summer-fresh flavor of tomatoes, corn and green beans long after the harvest has ended. Freezing and drying round out our arsenal of food preservation techniques, as almost anything fresh can be frozen or dried for later use.
If you want to honor the cyclical nature of the seasons, this is the time of year that creativity in the kitchen is most valuable. Try to relish sun-dried tomatoes and frozen homegrown corn as you would their vine-ripened and freshly shucked counterparts. Look for inspiration in dried herbs and spices, and in long-keeping storage items such as root veggies, winter squash and apples. Think about the foods you wish you’d canned, frozen, pickled or stocked up on this summer, and add them to next year’s list.
If you eat meat, consider the seasonality of animal products, too. Fresh eggs are less abundant in winter, so consider replacing this breakfast staple with high-protein grains instead. Rely on cured or frozen meats, or wild game such as duck and turkey, bagged in season. Winter is the obvious time to eat beef, bison and venison, too, as the animals have fattened themselves up to make it through winter. If you’re lucky enough to live in ice-fishing territory, try to get your hands on fresh-caught crappie, pike or walleye. If you don’t hunt or fish, you may be able to source wild game and fresh fish at markets featuring local products. Local Harvest can help you search for organizations in your area.
Try these winter recipes to warm you up when it’s chilly outside.
Winter is perfect for roasting and baking—you’re already pent up indoors and you won’t mind the heat from the oven. Savory roasted duck, tangy sauerkraut and flavorful roasted root vegetables will keep you warm during the winter cold.
Beets are one of the sweetest and most nutritious vegetables. Baked beets have a nice, natural sugary flavor and pairs well with our béchamel sauce recipe.
These baked figs are delicious when baked with balsamic vinegar and topped with delicious mascarpone cheese.
What’s in Season?
The following foods are in season now in many parts of the country. Use seasonal recipes to gain the best flavor from each ingredient.
Salad Greens: lettuce, spinach
Cooking Greens: Asian greens, beet greens, collards, kale, mustard greens, Swiss chard, turnip greens
Vegetables: beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, leeks, onions, parsnips, potatoes, pumpkins, scallions, sweet potatoes, turnips, winter squash
Fruits: apples, cranberries, figs, pears
Wild Edibles: cattail shoots, chickweed, garlic mustard, onion grass, watercress
Nuts and Seeds: hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, walnuts; pumpkin and winter squash seeds
Mushrooms: black trumpet, candy cap, cauliflower, chanterelle, truffles, wood blewit, wood hedgehog