On Your Mark, Get Set: When Fall Comes to New England
By Marc Duquette
Pelham, NH – Last week Gillian Ferguson shared a Tomato Tarte Tatin with us and with 35 tomato plants of my own (all nearly dead this time of year in New England), I certainly share her passion for growing, tending, and eating tomatoes (See Gillian’s initial post Tomatomania). Can’t wait to try her tarte tatin recipe!
Yes, fall has arrived here in New England and the garden is looking tired. The squash and cucumber vines are dying, several veggie beds have been picked clean and will sit idle until next season, and the basil has gone to seed and has lost its tender foliage. Rather than viewing this as a somber occasion, it’s time to celebrate this spectacular time of year—autumn in New England. This is the time of year when we shine. There is the brisk air under crisp blue skies, there are shiny red apples galore, and there is the pending explosion of color that the autumn foliage will soon bring. It’s time for Old Home Day and County Fair celebrations across New England. It’s only fitting that I feature a recipe worthy of this, my favorite season.
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After reading Gillian’s post I immediately took an interest in relaying the “tarte” rather than any one particular ingredient. I am near certain that I’m the only guy in Pelham, New Hampshire that owns and uses a fluted tart pan! And it didn’t take me long to decide what to put in the tart—butternut squash. Out in the garden, the dying squash vines have left behind a random array of odd shaped beige squashes – some cute, stubby, and small, and others quite large – but all very healthy, organic, and waiting to be picked. I gathered these up and placed them near the garden patio to cure for several weeks before bringing them in to the cellar for storage. Winter squashes benefit from a period of curing – about 10-20 days in the sun, off the vine. This helps harden the skin, heal any scratches or cuts, and to scab-over the stem (leave a one to two inch stem on the squash). Doing this before placing them into storage will help extend the the life and quality of the squash. You can leave them in the garden to cure, however I gather them up, brush them off, remove the blossom end, and let them cure in a clean and dry location (see photo). So that’s my starting point, a butternut squash tart.
Squash tarts or pies, similar to pumpkin or sweet potato pie, are easy to make. They contain the cooked and pureed squash, an egg or two as a binder, sometimes cream to add a silky texture, and a variety of seasonings depending on the recipe. Tarts are usually made with pie or puff pastry dough and can be hand formed—a rustic tart—or can be made in a tart pan for a more formal, neat presentation. I have a 10 inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom so I’m going to use that. I could have chosen to go down the dessert route by adding spices like nutmeg and cinnamon and sweetening the dough a bit. This is quite common (and delicious, I might add) – all of my tarts, so far, have been sweet, dessert tarts – so I wanted to try something new—a savory tart.
With that decided, I’ll spend the next couple of days developing the recipe. How will I season the squash? What crust recipe will I use? It will be handmade, of course. Where can I source the ingredients locally? I’ll have the outcome for you this Thursday. If it turns out delicious, perhaps I’ll enter it into my town’s Old Home Day “Best of Show” Pie Contest! Hmm, I wonder if they accept tarts.
Marc Duquette is an organic gardener in the “Live Free or Die” State, check out his Marc’s Garden website here.