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Prepping for Winter and Butternut Squash Posole

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This is the eighth in a series of weekly farm reports from our own Tom Hirschfeld, complete with recipes, cooking and gardening tips, and wisdom dispensed.

Today: Tom goes stir-crazy, preps for winter, and makes butternut squash posole.


Saturday Night Fever

- Tom

It is rare that things work out as I plan. It is the nature of things after all. Like this year, for example, early in the growing season the radishes, peas and turnips didn't germinate. I have never not had them come up, but the spring rains hit at the wrong time and flooded them out.

We also had the Great Chicken Massacre of 2011, where not only did a raccoon get his fried chicken on but so did a coyote. While I don’t like it in the least, it happens and I have learned not to worry about these things all too much -- after all, it's not like I can’t go to the grocery. Thank goodness my very survival doesn't depend solely on what I raise or grow.

Unfortunately though, this was the least of it.

pantry organized

My wife calls it man-o-pause. It is when I bring everything to a halt, drop everything I am doing, no matter how important, and decide I need to organize for days. I am grouchy while I do it and it is everyone else who has brought on this trauma to my world because I am certain I am the only one who puts things back in their rightful place.

The problem is this isn’t a once in a lifetime event, but rather a once a year occurrence. Fortunately it isn’t a monthly man-struation either but it still drives Amy and the girls crazy.

I get crazy. I do things that I wouldn’t normally do, but it's not like I am hitting anyone broadside in their gullet in a fit of hormonal discombobulance. Instead it starts with me tearing up sometimes at stupid things like the cooking scenes in the Adam Sandler movie Spanglish. This is just a crack in the emotional iceberg though.

Peppers  autumn squash

It usually happens early on a Saturday night, when I sort of get that old childhood warm and fuzzy feeling for the in-between hour, as I call it. It was when my parents hadn’t left yet to go out on the town but there is nothing good on TV so I would watch really bad TV shows like Rick Dees' Solid Gold or Hee Haw because there was nothing else for a twelve-year-old to do. Thing is these days the memory of these dated and horrible shows are etched weirdly in my memory with some bizarre eccentric fascination for days gone by.

But now it is that weird Saturday witching hour but I am an adult. I am standing at the cutting board, Amy is reading and the girls are playing and I am thinking about these shows (warm and fuzzy forever connected to them) and listening to the radio, making pizza for family night and just about any song that comes on, say, some lame ass John Denver or Abba song and I just can’t help but well up and get all sappy. I turn and wipe my eyes hoping no one sees me or I pretend to cut an onion but onions are not an ingredient in anything I am cooking. Through all this, and all the while, I am thinking how lucky I am and how great life is and how I damn sure didn’t think I could ever be this happy.

Butternut Squash

This, though, is just the manic fever of happiness and not the disease. It is just the foreshadow. No, the disease becomes full blown on Sunday morning when I wake up and my giddy buzz is sapless and gone and I decide today is the day to reorganize the pantry, get the house in shape and bark out orders damn it, get some testosterone back.

It is the day I find the dried hominy corn I bought that I thought I could rehydrate easily only to find the only way to rehydrate it is with culinary lime and it is a five hour process just to make the lime in which to slack the corn. (I am not even sure this stuff is squirrel feed. Why did I buy this again?)

It is the day I drag the trash can into the pantry and, while the girls stand in the doorway curiously watching a daddy they rarely see, their other daddy, their arms straight to their sides, with a look of utter disbelief in their sweet little eyes as I pitch the candy that is way too old to have a place on my shelf and I see Vivian mouthing, “the horror, the horror”, as if I was Brando in Apocalypse Now and she was gonna sacrifice me like a sacred cow if I don’t stop the insanity.

But I can't. I will organize not only until Amy, Viv and Lynn can’t find anything but till I can’t either. The thing is it really isn’t about organization but more a mental cleansing of some sort, a taking stock for winter or like taking a squeegee to a window pane and watching as, with one swipe, a year's worth of gunk disappears and you can see clearly now.

curing garlic

Tom's Tips on Prepping for Winter

1. I am not a big canner. I can a few things like bread & butter pickles, pickled beets and occasionally some relish or chutney, but for me it took a long time to
figure out what we would eat and what we wouldn’t. In other words, I stopped over-canning. Learn from your past and don’t be afraid to throw things you aren’t eating into the trash. I mean really, if it is marked 2009 and you haven’t eaten it, you aren’t going to.

2. I do store a lot of produce that are long storage items, like garlic. Soft neck varieties store better than hard neck and all garlic needs to be planted in the fall (now
in colder areas up north) for the next year's harvest. I store onions but not if they bloomed. I air cure both garlic and onions on my screened-in porch before bringing them into the house for winter. You need to cure them so the paper skins form between the garlic cloves and for the onions it builds the papery skin which helps to protect the onion.

3. Butternut and other squash should be allowed to fully mature on the vine in order for the skins to become thickened and tough. After picking I then let butternut squash sit out side on the screened-in porch, shaded, for two weeks to cure them before bringing them in and storing them in the basement. The curing here is done to build sweetness.

4. I store beets, carrots and cabbage in a fridge dedicated to being a root cellar until I eventually put in a root cellar.


Butternut Squash and Hominy Posole with Green Tomato Pico de Gallo

Serves 6

For the pico de gallo:

2 green tomatoes, small dice, about 1 cup
1/3 cup red onion, peeled and finely diced
1 tablespoon cilantro, minced
1 garlic clove, peeled, trimmed and minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced
1 1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

For the posole:

1 onion, peeled, trimmed and small dice
1 poblano pepper, seed, cored and small dice
3 garlic cloves, peeled, trimmed and minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons coarsely ground Mexican oregano
3 tablespoons red chile paste (directions to follow)
15 oz. can tomato sauce
1 1/2 cup butternut squash, cubed into 1/2 pieces
1 1/2 cup canned white hominy
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Want more life on the farm? See Tom's meditation on fall: On Growing Roots and Braised Pork Roast

curing garlic and onions


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Comments (26)


almost 4 years ago TheWimpyVegetarian

This is great, b!! This totally brought back memories of my mom doing her annual cleanings! Every time I read it, I burst out laughing!!!


almost 4 years ago TheWimpyVegetarian

I love this vegetarian version too! Perfect for a fall day, and it's going on the menu. I love this article too - and agree with healthierkitchen: the image of your daughter as you tossed the candy is priceless.


almost 4 years ago Oui, Chef

I'm with you, my friend. For me, they cleaning mania occurs on a day when I'm home alone and have something really important to do that I am struggling to put off. There is nothing like a good pantry cleanse to procrastinate like a champ. Man-struation made me laugh out loud! - S


almost 4 years ago LoreneFL

Have a glut of butternut squash from the garden plus all the talk of Chimayo (lived up the road for several years) has brought on an urge for red chili, so definitely will be making. Have never used canned posole - might try to find dry but this looks like a real winter keeper. Thanks!


almost 4 years ago Alissa Carter

Thanks for the tips! We're trying to work our way through loads of blackberry jam and pickled parsnip at the moment - it's a slow job, but thankfully not unpleasant! I've also been picking and freezing blackberries like there's no tomorrow, which is wonderfully satisfying :)


almost 4 years ago jenmmcd

Was looking for the next butternut squash recipe to try and this is it! It will be dinner tomorrow night. Esp excited about a great use for all my green tomatoes on these cold days.


almost 4 years ago Penelope

I do not know why but I think i am going to cry now, not kidding...hmmm soup and finishing putting together my new digs after the move from MN to CA. (I did bring the squash from my garden) I am sure I will feel better after that, Thanks


almost 4 years ago lalahartma

This looks great! Also, I love your idea of a secondary fridge as a root cellar!


almost 4 years ago lalahartma

I think I may have to use your idea of a secondary fridge = root cellar!


almost 4 years ago barbara's delights



almost 4 years ago Bevi

Ah, Chimayo. I brought some dirt back with me, over a decade ago, and gave it to my ailing friend.
As to organizing and cleaning, I had an episode a few days ago that had me sliding all over my kitchen floor. When I pick up my crate of assorted squashes next week, I'll be sure to cure them using your screened porch method, and then track down some canned hominy.


almost 4 years ago Droplet

As a kid I used to collect those pretty european paper serving napkins that you may or may not have seen. And every time I was sad or lonely,I'd go pull out the box and start organizing them. There isn't much organizing you can do when you are a generally organized person, but nevertheless it brings you some peace. And onions are man's second best friend because they always cover for us.


almost 4 years ago jmddc

Recipe looks great and, for a change, I actually have chiles in the (recently reorganized) pantry. I think we all go through these cleaning spells. We just snap and cannot rest until it is done. My insanity is not limited to the kitchen but that's the place it feels best. My husband attacks the garage and ends up pulling everyone into his project. We do it just to make it end.


almost 4 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Just before I moved, I insisted (well, it was a bit stronger than that) that the son and the daughter drive home from college for a weekend to help me clean out the garage. Go ahead, call me manic.


almost 4 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

I once walked into my sister's house when she was in mid-closet-cleaning rant. "You people had better hope I never die, or there'll never be another square of toilet paper or paper towels in the whole house," she was hollering over her shoulder out of the closet where the backup supplies of both were usually kept. Apparent everything BUT the paper goods was crammed in there. When she caught sight of me, she yelled, "I'm not sure Bob even knows you can BUY toilet paper at the grocery store!" It's the garage that used to unhinge me. Now I have no one but myself to rant about and to. And no one but myself to eat a pot of your lovely posole. Just picked up some butternuts the other day, trusting I'd find something interesting for them. Thank you once again.


almost 4 years ago la domestique

I am a huge fan of posole- the spice, the texture and taste of hominy, and the warming feeling I get from a big bowl of the soup. I've never had posole with butternut squash, and can't wait to give it a try.


almost 4 years ago thirschfeld

la domestique I think you will like this especially with the texture and taste of the squash.


almost 4 years ago aargersi

Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

I (and my poor roomies) can totally relate - I went psycho ballistic on the pantry in June, and drew it out into a 3 week process. It is nicely organized now though! The hominy sounds delish - my sister buys me this sun dried red New Mexico chili powder from Chimayo that is fabulous in just such dishes.
Will try this soon!


almost 4 years ago thirschfeld

I have been to Chimayo, eaten the sacred dirt from the floor of the chapel and have Amy's cousin send me the holy Chiles of Chimayo via the mail, love em.


almost 4 years ago healthierkitchen

I bought some when I was there in August! Will use that!


almost 4 years ago thirschfeld

Healthierkitchen you still will want to through in a few anchos to round them out. The chimayo can pack some heat and the raisiny edge of the ancho tames that.


almost 4 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

A friend in California used to bring me some each year. I've just about used up what I had. I miss it and her.


almost 4 years ago Midge

You do feel so righteous in the midst of one of those organizing fits. I made butternut squash soup last night and was thinking I'd try it with some Mexican flavors next time and this looks like just the ticket. Thanks for another great column.


almost 4 years ago thirschfeld

thanks Midge. The squash this year from the garden have been outstanding.


almost 4 years ago healthierkitchen

Love this vegetable version and I can totally relate to the organizational frenzy. Love the image of your daughter as you toss the old candy. A bright spot to my otherwise rather unpleasant morning. thanks!


almost 4 years ago thirschfeld

thanks, I like it too. I made a pork version a while back and I am not sure I like it as well as this one. Hope your day gets better.