Preserve the goodness

The signs of autumn have been slowly creeping up on us. Subtle changes in the air and summer green turns into bright oranges, browns, yellows and reds. It is this time of year when you diner plate starts to resemble the season. There are a variety of fruits and vegetables that are ready for harvest in the fall. With so many choices it’s hard to go wrong with your fresh food selections.

One of the favorite meals in my house is curried curried coleslaw with raisins and apples, along with side dishes of mushrooms with warm spices, sausage stuffed acorn squash, and sweet potato pie. Most of the ingredients for stir fries are available for harvest, as well as items for your fall and winter soups. Autumn is the time of year when I get creative with mixing fruits, vegetables and squashes. By just mixing and matching colors, anyone can create unique and delicious meals for family and friends.

Making fruit butters is a great way to try out new fruits, and, also, to enjoy some time with your family. We recently discovered the joys of pumpkin butter. The slight pumpkin pie taste spread on a slice of toast is a gentle reminder of the crisp weather. And it’s something we can eat during the summer when we feel nostalgic in the hot temperatures. Apple butter is a staple of this time of year. But you do not need to limit yourself to those two types; experiment with your favorite fruit or squash and create a pleasurable evening snack. The rule, when it comes to making butters, is to add half a cup of sugar to every one cup of pureed fruit.

Jellies and jams are another way to enjoy the season. Just about any of your favorites can be turned into a conserve, jelly, jam, marmalade, or preserve; even your hot peppers. They also make wonderful gifts for the upcoming Holiday season. I suggest making mint jelly, pear jam, spiced grape jelly, and winter jam. Try lemon and orange marmalade, jalapeno jelly, and tomato marmalade for something a little different. cherry-raspberry conserve can be served over pork chops.

Chutneys are fruity, spicy and exotic and make a wonderful complement to your meats. Mixing your chutney with marmalade will help you serve some unique hors d’oeuvres. Bake a whole piece of brie topped with an apple chutney and walnuts, and serve apple wedges or crackers to please your pleasantly surprised guests. Boil chicken breasts with peach chutney for a scrumptious main course.

Basic chili, chicken Creole, corn chowder and vegetable soups are a great way to warm you up through the cooler nights. A cranberry-pecan stuffing is an interesting way to dress up your roast chicken, or try a little ham, pine nuts, mushrooms and fennel stuffing instead.

If you enjoy eating meat, now is the time to try goose, duck and lamb with the vegetables that are ready for harvest; or, if you are more into vegetable main courses, try a red onion and zucchini pizza or shepherdess pie. Side dishes are important to any evening meal. Bountiful Bean and nut salad, pepperonata with raisins, mighty mushrooms or roasted peppers in oil can complement most main dishes.

Desserts are also a staple to any fall meal. What better way to enjoy a cool night than bundling up under a warm quilt, sitting on your porch and gazing at the brilliant stars, than having a plate of apple pie to help keep you warm. Or maybe apple and cranberry pie in front of a low burning fire. Pecan or pumpkin pie served at your table in the company of close friends, or some spiced apple rings while watching television with your children. Even just a mug full of hot cider will be a great companion in the changing days.Autumn can inspire many different meals. All of which, you are sure to enjoy the colors, textures, and warm spices that engage your senses. Allow your nature surroundings to dictate your meals. Take a look at the world around you; does that changing oak tree catch your eye? Match your dinner to the colors and discover new mixtures of food items, some of which you may never have tried before. Just remember when you are experimenting: only try one new vegetable at a time to ensure that you will enjoy the rest of the meal.

Erin M. Phelan presents her wonderful recipes, taking full advantage of the autumn vegetables, most of the suitable for home canning and preserving. Fall is Erin's favorite season and in this article one can see why she wants to preserve the goodness of the Fall season.