With rainshowers a’plenty and a certain chill in the air, the weather of late sure seems to spell ‘autumn’ as we reach the beginning of September. Though summer’s crops still linger—the tomatoes and peppers are still coming into their own in the protection of the hoophouse—our resident squirrels are telling us it may be an early fall, indeed, as they have already started scurrying about to steal and store away walnuts and hazelnuts for the winter.
But, even as we say goodbye to summer, it is always a balm to look ahead to the cornucopia of the fall harvest: Soon we will see the apples and pears, squash and pumpkins, hardy kales and cabbages, that take us into the season each year. The early apples will be the first ready with the crisp, tart Honeycrisp and Akane varieties; next up come the Asian pears, along with the continuing Italian plums and last of the grapes. In the gardens, the kale, cabbage and broccoli seedlings are going into the ground to overwinter, right as the fresh garlic and storage onions like our favorite flat Italian Cipollinis are coming out of it. Cover crops have been sown in the fallow field to plow under in the spring and help enrich the soil.
The kitchen continues to bustle with pickling, preserving and canning as we put away the summer bounty. September is always busy spent crafting big batches of Nonna Pat’s tomato sauce to carry us through the winter months. We are also putting our favorite Mathilde cucumbers to delicious use this fall in small-batches of our signature French-style cornichons. Made using a traditional recipe (which we’ve shared with you below!), each jar is packed with a Grapehouse grape leaf during pickling to keep the crunchy snacking pickles nice and crisp.
From our family to yours, happy September!
These crisp pickles are incredibly fresh-tasting thanks to the addition of pearl onions, peppercorns and even a fresh grapevine leaf.
Makes about 4 pints of pickles
2 pounds garden-fresh Mathilde or other cornichon-style cucumbers
3 tablespoons pure coarse sea salt or kosher salt
12 fresh pearl onions, peeled
1 quart of white wine vinegar
Fresh tarragon sprigs
Fresh grapevine leaves
1. Gently wash and rub the spines off the cucumbers. (They should only be 1-2 inches long.) Place cucumbers in a colander and toss with the salt. Leave to drain for about 4 hours, then rinse and drain.
2. Sterilize a potful of pint or half-pint jars and their lids by placing them upside down in a pot of water, covering and boiling for 10 minutes. (Add a splash of vinegar is your water is hard.)
3. Bring the vinegar to vigorous simmer or low boil in a medium stockpot.
4. Without touching the inside of the jars, remove each jar from the water with a pair of tongs and flip it over on a clean work surface. Place ½-1 teaspoons peppercorns, ½ teaspoon mustard seeds and a large sprig of tarragon in each jar. Add a fresh washed grape leaf if available. Add 2-3 pearl onions and cucumbers to within ¾-inch of the top of the jar. Cover with hot vinegar.
5. Wipe the rim of each jar and screw on the lid tightly, removing the lids from the water with the tongs. Wipe off any excessive moisture from the outside of the jars, then store in a cool, dark place for at least one month before eating.