Harvest, Exchange, Celebrate: Share Food, Recipes with Friends

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Harvest bounty graces any fall table.
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Glorious colors of autumn's bounty embellish the harvest table.
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DeWitt and Susan share a stunning array of harvest goodies, including chutneys, jams, soaps, and lavender sachets.
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Conjuring up the heavenly scents of fields in Provence, lavender is a harvest favorite, great for potpourris or attractive bundles all on their own.
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Ripe peppers dance with exotic spices in the making of salsas and chutneys.
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Fruity vinegars, such as pomegranate, add some zest to your pantry.
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Harvesters gather around a table to compare soaps and vinegars, jams and jellies.
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Attractive harvest or kitchen-themed aprons make thoughtful gifts for friends who love to cook.
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Friends discuss favorite jam and jelly recipe ingredients.
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Glorious colors of autumn's bounty embellish the harvest table.

Your garden has produced bushels of the best tomatoes ever. Or your favorite organic strawberry grower had a bumper crop. And all the cherry varieties–from Burlat to Utah Giant, Rainier to Royal Anne–were superb. After you preserve these, you begin to think of how to share them: family and friends, house gifts, groups you belong to.

When it comes to sharing food, our roots go deep–back to prehistory. We wouldn’t be here if our ancient ancestors hadn’t shared gleanings, hunt, and harvest. Now many of us share for friendship, the pleasure of putting by, and tradition.

A group of about twenty friends and I have been carrying this tradition forward for fifteen years with an annual Harvest Exchange at the home of DeWitt Durham and Susan Gere in the San Francisco Bay area. DeWitt makes vegetarian black-bean chili and frybread, and friends bring homemade cider, beer and wine. We come together to share the bounty, celebrate the season, and keep the homemade and handmade alive. Through the years, we’ve seen the kids grow tall, new gardens established, and changes in careers and homes.

We enjoy trying new recipes and bringing back old favorites. We can’t live on mustard, pickles, applesauce, or cherry jam alone; we need chutney, salsa, herb vinegars and oils, and exotic spice blends. We don’t all make potpourri and soap or bath scents and salts–but we appreciate their grace notes.

Bob and Joanne’s Peach Chutney
Makes about 4 pints

My friends Joanne and Bob have also made this recipe with nectarines, a tasty variation. The chutney is most versatile if prepared with mild curry powder. Serve it with roast chicken or duck, with cream cheese and crackers as an appetizer or snack, or as an accompaniment to hot Thai or Indian curries.

3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup white-wine vinegar
12 firm, ripe peaches, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup onion, minced
1/2 cup red or green sweet pepper, minced
1 tablespoon crystallized ginger, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1. Combine sugar, water, and vinegar in a pan large enough to hold the peaches easily. Cook over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil, then simmer 5 minutes until syrupy.

2. Toss peaches with lemon juice and add them to syrup. Simmer 10 minutes. Remove peaches to a bowl with a strainer and set aside.

3. Add remaining ingredients to syrup and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook until reduced by about a third. The mixture should be thick.

4. Add peaches and cook an additional 5 minutes. Ladle chutney into hot, sterilized canning jars and seal with ring lids.

For use within a few weeks: Cool to room temperature, then store in the refrigerator.

For storage of several months: Water-bath the chutney, following canning-jar manufacturers’ directions.

Per serving: 87 calories, 20g carbohydrates,
1.16g protein, 1.9g fiber,
0.32g fat

Dewitt’s Balsamic Mustard
Makes about 6 half-pint jars

This mustard is simplicity itself, yet it delivers loads of flavor and texture. For many of us in the exchange group, this has become our house mustard.

1 cup yellow mustard seed
2 tablespoons dry mustard (such as Colman’s double superfine)
1 cup water
2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
(about 6 percent acidity)
1/4 cup Champagne vinegar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
8 garlic cloves, sliced thin

1. Grind mustard seed in a spice mill until it has the consistency of corn meal. In a small bowl, mix it with dry mustard. Stir in water and let mixture sit for 4 hours, stirring occasionally.

2. Put mixture in a food processor and add balsamic vinegar, Champagne vinegar, sugar, salt, and garlic. Blend until smooth.

3. Pack mustard in sterilized half -pint jars and seal with ring lids. Allow to mature in the jar for a week before use. The mustard will keep, refrigerated after opening, for months.

Per half pint: 173 calories, 19g carbohydrates, 8g protein, 5g fiber, 9g fat

Renee’s Scented Basil Jellies
Makes 4 half pints

Renee grew several varieties of basil one year especially so she could share these delicate jellies. They’re unusual, delicious, easily made, and beautiful with clear, jewel-like tones of rose-pink, garnet, or champagne. The jelly is scrumptious served with cream cheese and crackers or bagels. Use it in savory dishes by mixing half-and-half with Dijon mustard for a glaze for chicken or pork. Certo brand liquid pectin is widely available in supermarkets.

1 cup packed fresh cinnamon, opal, or lemon basil leaves
2 cups water
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
Pinch salt
3 cups sugar
3 ounces liquid pectin

1. Rinse basil leaves and gently pat dry with paper towels. Chop coarsely and place in a large saucepan. Crush leaves, using the bottom of a glass.

2. Add water, bring to an active boil, and boil for 30 seconds. Remove from heat; cover and let stand for 15 minutes to steep.

3. Strain 1 cup of liquid from saucepan through a fine strainer into a clean saucepan over high heat. Add vinegar, salt, and sugar all at once; stir, then bring to a hard boil. When the boil cannot be stirred down, add pectin. Return again to a hard boil that can’t be stirred down and boil for exactly 1 minute, then remove saucepan from heat.

4. Skim foam and pour hot jelly into 4 sterilized, half-pint jelly jars, leaving half-inch headspace. Seal at once with sterilized ring lids or melted paraffin.

Store at cool room temperature and refrigerate after opening.

Per serving: 80 calories, 21g carbohydrates, 0.32g fiber, 0.05g fat
1 serving = approximately 2 tablespoons

Gerda’s Granola
Makes 8 cups

Gerda is a nutritionist who says you can practically live on this granola. It’s an ideal breakfast because it provides high-protein energy before a long hike or bike ride. Entire families become hooked, but beware: Teenagers can go through an entire recipe amazingly quickly! Gerta likes this with almond or hazelnut milk and encourages cooks to substitute different kinds of seeds and nuts.

2 1/4 cups old-fashioned raw oats
1/2 cup unhulled brown sesame seeds
1 1/2 cups walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup almonds, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup pine nuts or pecans, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup canola oil
Scant 1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Pinch of cloves
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup yellow raisins

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.

2. Mix oats, seeds, and nuts in a large bowl.

3. In a small saucepan, combine remaining ingredients (except for raisins). Warm the mixture over low heat for 2 or 3 minutes until the honey is watery. Stir well.

4. Mix the wet and dry ingredients. Spread mixture on two jellyroll pans or large, low baking pans. Bake 20 minutes, stirring at least once about halfway through. The granola is done when it’s golden brown and walnuts are nicely toasted.

5. Add raisins and let granola stand at room temperature until cool and dry, stirring occasionally. Store in tightly sealed containers in a cool place for up to a week. For longer storage, it’s best to refrigerate.

Per half cup: 308 calories, 29g carbohydrates, 6.67g protein, 4.5g fiber, 22g fat

Carolyn’s Lavender Lemon Verbena Potpurri
Yield varies

The clean, lasting fragrance of this potpourri doesn’t require fixatives or fussing. It’s simple, keeps its scent until the next season, and looks lovely in sheer, purple-toned gift bags. Two lavender plants (Grosso de Provence and Fat Spike Dutch) and one lemon verbena plant will give me enough material for about two dozen 4.5-by-7-inch potpourri bags. The secret is to dry the lavender and lemon verbena completely.

Equal parts lavender buds and lemon verbena leaves
Dried rose petals, if available
4.5 x 7-inch potpourri bags

1. Cut lavender stems when they are still in bud with a few open flowers. Lie flat in a cool, dark place with good air circulation.

2. Harvest lemon verbena stems with few flowers. Spread flat in a cool, dark place with good air circulation.

3. Remove buds from the lavender and leaves from the dried verbena stems. Toss together with rose petals, if you’re using them. Pack into potpourri bags.

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