The last tattered rags of summer are still hanging in the garden; our temperate climate may keep the peppers and squash producing until well into autumn, but the dizzy peak is past us. The ghosts and ghouls and princesses have had their night of revelry, and the stone fruits begin to shed their leaves, turning golden, amber, red and rust. Here is November, the precursor to winter, such as it is on the western shore. Rain seems more possible than it has in months. The night temperatures drop, and cold settles into the damp creekbottoms, coaxing the first flush of oyster mushrooms from rot-softened logs.
Walk out into the cool, clear air. Take stock; of the garden, of the pantry, of the heart and the hearth. It is a season for reflection, as the year begins to wind down. And a time for preparation.
No matter what your seasonal proclivities, the fall is a time of gratitude. A timely seasonal reminder, larger than metaphor, the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter invite us to reflect on the blessings that surround us, no matter their number or their name.
In the months to come, the gift-giving which is an important part of many traditions will fill the attention of family and friends, consumers and advertisers. At times, it can seem to blare a little loud. The root of the tradition is sound, the desire to express gratitude, to be generous, to give freely. But sometimes in the hustle, the spirit can be hard to find.
For reasons of economy, for reasons of ecology, for reasons of personal or aesthetic preference, the homemade gift is one that never fails to satisfy. No matter what form it takes, something made by hand communicates love.
For if time is our most precious and our most fleeting resource, the time it takes to create even a small handmade gift is a testament to the recipient, which shows them that they are valued, worthy of your time and attention. All gifts do this, of course, but some do it more directly or more gracefully than others.
In this issue of the journal, we offer up some homemade gift ideas, to center the time-honoured traditions of giving firmly at the intersection of hands and heart. This is what it’s all about. Take a look at some of these easy, satisfying DIY gift ideas, and let your own creativity flavor and infuse them with that most precious of essences.
Some of these take a few weeks, so get started now in order to have plenty of time to finish without stress as the holidays approach. We’ll have some more DIY gift ideas next month, too, for those that run out of time….
And, for those who choose to stay away from alcohol, there are as many options as there are recipes. While you might never pluck a jar of jam or salsa from a supermarket shelf to give as a gift, the very act of making something by hand infuses it with meaning. Suddenly the food in the jar becomes not just a commodity, but an expression of love and effort. It's like magic. And what better time to spread a little of that around?
You can give almost anything from the homemade pantry as a gift, it's true. But to give you a little seasonal inspiration, we present this recipe for delicious spiced pears. Pears are at their peak right now, available on trees and on the shelves of local markets. They look beautiful in the jar, round and shapely, and they melt in the mouth. A succulent treat to eat, straight from the jar, or sliced over cheesecake perhaps?
Don't forget that the pears are canned in what is essentially a simple syrup, although in canning terms, we would say a light syrup, or a heavy one; these distinctions refer to the concentration of sugar in the syrup. The liquid that remains when the last pear has been eaten is an ambrosial infusion of pear and spice--do something with it! Pour it over a pound cake, add it to sparkling water, use it on buckwheat pancakes. Et cetera, delicious et cetera.
Yes pears are a delight in the jar, a delight to mouth and eye. They look so pretty through the glass jar, floating golden in their juices, serene and plump as Buddhas. But pears are just the beginning.
The canning jar is the ultimate gift wrapping; reusable, versatile, and ever so handsome. Here are some more thoughts on using canning jars for making homemade gifts -- which kinds work best, what to put in 'em.
We'll give you a hint--it's more than just preserves and pickles!
In the spirit of giving, and continuing education, we have yet more to offer for this holiday season. The gifts of knowledge and self sufficiency will continue to be useful long after the wrapping paper has been disposed of. In light of this, we are especially pleased to announce a new series of classes that we are launching.
The old adage says, Give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day; teach a man to fish and you will feed him for a lifetime. The same thing applies to sauerkraut, obviously.
Envisioned as the perfect gift, one that educates and empowers, our next series of classes is one rooted in the idea of giving. For those on your list who want to get started with preservation of all sorts, we are offering a series of classes to be held at the Alba Schoolhouse in the new year. Choose one that you think will most suit your friend or loved one. Or heck, choose ‘em all, if that special someone has been reeeaaalllyyy good. We’ll give you a lovely card to present the gift, with simple instructions on what the recipient needs to do to complete the registration process.
Classes will be held on Saturdays in January and February, from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm.
We are offering a slate of classes that cover all the basics for the homestead kitchen. From sauerkraut to cheesemaking, kombucha and kefir to jams and pickles, this series aims to lay a broad foundation, grounded in knowledge and safety, but soaring with fresh ideas and inspiration. Join us yourself, or Give The Gift of Learning to another. Better yet, come together with a friend, and share in a delightful day of preservation.
Look for an announcement in November with class descriptions, dates and online registration!
In all the giving and gifting, it can be easy to lose track of one’s self. No matter how joyful the season is, there is often a fair amount of stress associated with the preparations. In addition, the holiday parties and gatherings often lead to overindulgence, of one sort or another. Take care of yourself.
One of the best ways to reset and heal a stressed-out system is to feed it bone broth.
Bone broth is packed with healing nutrients, easy to digest, soothing and nourishing. It's a perfect pick-me-up, good for bodies under stress, or just those who crave the hearty, rich flavor.
Simple and easy to make, bone broth can be made with beef, chicken, pork, or other bones.
It’s been a busy summer for the roadshow crew at Mountain Feed, and make no mistake, we have been loving it. From our wide-ranging series in collaboration with the Santa Cruz Farmer’s Markets, to the myriad Festivals of Fermentation up and down the coast of California, we’ve been keepin' them doggies rollin’.
This month, we’ll go on up the coast to the Urban Epicurean Fest in San Francisco. Highlighting the bounty of the Bay Area, this festival is a celebration and an exploration of all that our area has to offer for the holiday season.
The focus is on local craftspeople, as well as farmers, gardeners, brewers, winemakers and chefs. It’s a perfect place to pick up some locally prepared food, crafts, and wines, or to round out a stocking that needs a little extra stuffing.
We’ll be there, of course, showcasing our wares, as well as teaching a few classes--Kombucha on Saturday, and Fermented Pickles on Sunday. (Pickles can be so much more than cucumbers; these will be an assortment of seasonal vegetables.)
But wait--this just in! Our classes are already full!
It just goes to show what a hunger there is for this sort of knowledge. Luckily, we've got some great resources for you; articles, videos, other classes. It's all right here!
So swing by the Urban Epicurean Fest, if you'd like to check out the scene--it promises to be bustling and bursting with local products and producers, who will be on hand to answer questions. We'll be there in full swing, with awesome wares, expertise, and good cheer. That's how we roll...
Wherever we meet you, whether it is at an event, in the Ben Lomond store, out at the Farmer's Market or at a class, we are glad to make that connection. There's a natural community of interest around what might be called the Homestead Arts; the canning, fermenting, preserving arts; the art of living well and lightly, and it transcends politics, economics, and other divisive boundaries.
This November, as we gather to celebrate and give thanks, we will certainly be thankful for you, our customers, our partners and our friends. This store, this website and the team that takes the whole show on the road--none of it would be possible were it not for the continued support and encouragement that we receive from you. Although we are often in a position of teaching, it is also true that we learn from you every day; your questions, problems, and interest guide and inform us.
We are profoundly grateful. So we lift a glass to you and offer up a toast.
To be doing this work that we love, and which we feel is important, is absolutely a gift. It is one that we give, and one that gives back to us. In this season, which is set aside for giving, and the counting of blessings, and the promotion of goodwill among all people, may you be nourished and uplifted by the community which surrounds you, of which we are truly happy to be a part.
We drink deep.
We leave you this month with a collection of our favorite products for gift making and giving, so you can make the most meaning out of your holiday gifting this year. Enjoy...
It’s part of our mission here at Mountain Feed to help you make delicious, sustainable, homemade food more often. Stop by and say hello on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest. Or, as always, you can do it the old fashioned way and come by the store to speak with one of our in-house experts.