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How to Cook Locally In Winter

6 Ways to Make Your Winter Cooking Seasonal and Delicious

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Winter cooking can be a challenge. Cooking locally and seasonally when markets are teeming with piles of heirloom tomatoes and bushels of luscious peaches is easy. But what about when markets slow down or close completely? Even as temperate regions provide seasonal winter produce like hearty greens and root vegetables, seasonal winter cooking means a narrower range of ingredients if you want to avoid produce that has been flown in from a different hemisphere. Use these six tips to adjust your winter cooking to the season.

1. Embrace Winter Produce

Photo © Molly Watson
If you're reading this, you're probably already well along this road, but it's an important element. What's in season in winter, you ask? Root vegetables harvested in late fall and early winter store well for winter eating; winter squash are the same; apples and pears kept in cold storage last well into winter; many hearty greens and cruciferous vegetables actually taste better - sweeter and less bitter - if harvested after being exposed to some chill. Find yummy recipes for winter vegetables with these resources:

2. Try New Recipes

Photo © Molly Watson
It's obvious, but the best way to keep your winter cooking interesting is to find new ways of preparing what is in season, so what better time to cook up those recipes you've been meaning to try? Looking for ideas? Indian cuisine, in particular, has many ways of cooking potatoes, cabbage, and cauliflower, not to mention dried beans and lentils. Whether Indian food appeals or not, you'll find some of my favorite winter recipes here:

3. Think Beyond Produce

Photo © Molly Watson
Local meat and poultry are available, as are artisan cheeses. Now is also a good time to buy locally or regionally produced pantry goods like dried beans, pasta, and rice or preserved items like pickles and conserves. And along the coasts, plenty of seafood - especially shellfish - is at its best.

4. Break Out the Condiments

Photo © Molly Watson
Whether you treat yourself to a jar of the locally made jalapeno-raspberry sauce at the gourmet food store or finally try the spicy pickled okra your aunt gave you for Christmas, take this time of the year to experiment with new flavors and dress up familiar dishes with new tastes.

Go winter cooking crazy and take full advantage of the season's produce by making your own Spicy Lemon Chutney to serve with roasted meats, a jar of Preserved Lemons to add to salads or stews, or a batch of Horseradish Cream to swirl into soups.

5. Keep a Kitchen Herb Garden

Flat-Leaf Parsley (Italian Parsley)
Photo © Molly Watson

Fresh herbs brighten up any dish. By planting an indoor herb garden, you'll be able to add quick notes of color and flavor to your winter cooking at a moment's notice.

Many people have good luck with thyme, rosemary, oregano, mint, and parsley in windowsill pots. Some of my favorite herb-heavy recipes include –

6. Plan Ahead

Photo © Molly Watson
As Barbara Kingsolver says in her best-selling Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: "Eating locally in winter is easy. But the time to think about that would be August."

And she's right. Fat lot of good that does you now, I know. But now is the time to think ahead and plan for preserving and freezing and drying to be done throughout the next year. An equipment list and recipes for preserving or easily freeze-able items may help inspire you. Imagine, you could be eating these delicacies all winter long.

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