Greenpoint: Harvest for winter: squash and cheese and pickles

Preparing for the winter. (Margaret Hartley)
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Preparing for the winter. (Margaret Hartley)

GREENPOINT The goats are starting to dry up, just in time. We’ve had a great cheesemaking season with our little herd, and we have a winter’s supply of hard cheeses aging in the wine fridge and several jars of feta in brine in the regular fridge.

I’ll be happy to stop milking before cold weather sets in, and to get a little break before the goats start having new babies in the new year and the cycle begins again.

We’re still getting milk, and still making cheese and yogurt, but not at the must-use-up-five-gallons-right-now pace. We don’t have any specialized equipment, so I can’t make cheese in batches of more than three gallons. That makes a nice round of cheddar or gouda or tomme to age for a few months. I make chèvre and feta in two-gallon batches, and yogurt a gallon at a time. And paneer with milk that’s a little older.

Still, there were times when I couldn’t keep up with all the milk coming in. I gave some away — a couple of gallons to a friend who wanted to try making cheese, another gallon to a soapmaker. Then I froze a few gallons so we can keep making yogurt over the winter.

I think now the daily supply is low enough that I can make smaller batches of special cheeses, or even skip a few days of cheesemaking.

That gives me time to turn my attention to another overflowing abundance: garden vegetables. Right now the cucumbers won’t stop, so I’ve started making relishes and pickles.

I can’t keep up with the summer squashes. The ones that get too big get chopped up and fed to the goats. Still, I’ve got baskets of zucchini and yellow squash to process for the freezer — those have so much moisture that it’s best to cook them down, alone or with onions and garlic and tomatoes, before freezing them for winter meals. You can pickle them, too, but the cucumber pickles are better and I have no shortage of cukes.

The tomatoes are coming in a little slowly because of a certain deer who has been helping herself to several plants in one of the gardens, stripping the ripening tomatoes off the vine. I’ll have to start picking green tomatoes and let them ripen inside, away from that deer. I don’t mind the slower ripening because that gives me time to deal with the cucumbers before I turn to making salsa and canning roasted tomatoes.

Every garden year is different, with a shortage of one kind of vegetable and a bounty of another. Last year it was the cabbage bounty, and we still have jars of sauerkraut and kimchi from that. This year a rogue goat got into the garden early and chomped down lot of the young cabbages. We ended up with enough for ourselves, but none for fermenting.

Last year also brought an overabundance of hot peppers, and I think I made enough hot sauce to last a few more years. Which is good, because we don’t have a lot of hot peppers this year.

The winter squashes are nearly ready to pick, and it looks like this year’s overabundance will be in acorn and spaghetti squash. Good for storing and eating over the winter. I guess with pickles.

Greenpoint appears every other Sunday. Look for it next on Sept. 11. Reach Margaret Hartley at [email protected] or on Twitter @Hartley_Maggie. Opinions expressed in Greenpoint are not necessarily those of the newspaper’s.

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