SAY HELLO TO AUTUMN
Living & Loving Local: Get Outside and Fall Into New Flavors and Outdoor Fun
By Robin Barr Sussman
Fall is finally here and with it comes cool breezes and brilliant seasonal colors and flavors. If you’re looking to get outdoors with the whole family, consider a nearby trip to a local farm. You can harvest your own pumpkins for decorating or pies, pick your own seasonal fruit, take an old fashioned hay ride and get in touch with farm life — if only for a day. At home, preserve the taste of early fall by canning fresh fruit or pickling vegetables. You’ll be thrilled to have these jars of gems when the dead of winter hits!
Larry and Mary Emerson have been hosting farm visitors for more than 18 years at their charming farm in Brookshire. The family-friendly spot features an eight-acre corn maze for exploring and a Pumpkin Holler building sporting more than 500 carved pumpkins, or pick out your favorite pumpkin from the outdoor patch. Fall is a prime time for riding the Dewville Express train, spinning on the carousel, or jostling in an open-air wagon ride. Farm animals delight city kids, along with pig races, a windmill park and pony rides. Some Saturday nights in October there are fireworks. Kids and families love this place; you’ll see why.
FM 362 and Morrison, Brookshire, 281-934-3276, www.dewberryfarm.com
Located in the Wallis-Simonton area just west of Katy, Blessington Farms is open to the public Saturdays and Sundays through November 17. Farm Funland includes hay rides, barrel train rides, giant slides, pedal cars, and gemstone and fossil mining. Kids and adults can interact with camels, chickens and goats, or visit the Aviary Adventure with Quaker parrots. Fishing anyone? Bring your own bait and tackle to enjoy the two-acre lake, or pick strawberries and pumpkins. Birthday parties can reserve ahead for a unique farm-friendly celebration.
510 Chisolm Trail, Simonton, 832-444-8717, www.blessingtonfarms.com
Chappell Hill Scarecrow Festival
Explore this historic community on October 12-13 and get a jump start on holiday shopping with more than 250 juried exhibitors. The Children’s Activity Corner has pony rides, a petting zoo, face painting and a barrel train.
Main and Providence Streets, Chappell Hill, 979-203-1242, www.chappellhillhistoricalsociety.com/scarecrow-festival-2019
7 Acre Wood
This old-fashioned family fun park in Conroe near The Woodlands has free admission to its Thrill at the Mill and pumpkin patch on October 26 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. But you’ll definitely want to buy tix for paintball or the hay, pony and train rides. 7 Acre Wood is also open daily until 5 p.m.
4401 North Frazier, Conroe, 936-890-2326, www.7acrewood.org
Challenge yourself in the giant corn maze, or let the little ones try their luck with the hay maze. Then stay for pig races, farm animals, a cow train, wheelbarrow races and the sugary sweet candy cannon. The farm opens at 10 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays, through November 9.
9963 Poole’s Road, Montgomery, 936-597-6062, www.p-6farms.com
YesterLand Farm Fall Festival
The Fall Festival runs Fridays through Saturdays, through November 3, with a pumpkin patch, amaze-ment park, corn maze, fireworks and animal town. In the evenings, get scared during Spooktacular Nights at YesterLand Farm with Zombie Paintball, Chuckles Funhouse, Creepy Corn Maze and the Vertigo Vortex.
15410 I-20, Canton, 903-567-2255, www.yesterlandfarm.com
PRESERVING AND CANNING
If you’ve perused a Houston restaurant menu lately, you know that preserving — a culinary method used by our smart grandparents — is trending. Quick pickling, or bathing fresh vegetables in a vinegar solution to preserve for a few months, is probably the best way to ease into the game.
Take advantage of the bounty of early fall produce like green beans, okra, squash, zucchini, cucumbers and peppers, by preserving them for crunchy snacks, salad accoutrements and meat garnishes. Celery seed, turmeric, garlic and a variety of dried herbs are common spices for flavoring pickles, but play around until you find what you like (and try our pickled butternut squash recipe at the end of this story).
Check out C&D Hardware, (314 East 11th, 713-861-3551, canddhw.com), for all the canning equipment you’ll need to get started. And for hundreds of step-by-step canning recipes for preserves, pickled veggies, and homemade pickling spice, visit the vast collection at www.allrecipes.com .
PICKLED BUTTERNUT SQUASH
What’s old is new again. This recipe for bright pickled butternut squash is inspired by the terrific seasonal salad served at Coltivare in the Heights (3320 White Oak, 713-637-4095, agricolehospitality.com/coltivare). Use the sweet and tangy squash to liven up your kale salad or garnish a meat entrée — it screams fall.
3 pounds butternut squash
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 ½ cups white wine vinegar
1 cup honey
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
8 whole black peppercorns
8 sprigs fresh oregano
In a large bowl combine squash and salt; toss to coat. Let stand at room temperature for three to four hours. Transfer squash to a colander set in a sink. Rinse with cold water; drain.
In a large heavy pot combine vinegar, honey, bay leaf, fennel seeds, garlic, red pepper, and peppercorns. Bring to boiling over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve honey; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for ten minutes. Remove and discard bay leaf.
Pack squash and oregano sprigs into hot sterilized pint canning jars, leaving a half inch headspace. Pour hot vinegar mixture over squash, distributing the whole spices evenly among jars and maintaining the half inch headspace. Wipe jar rims; adjust lids and screw bands.
Process filled jars in a boiling-water canner for ten minutes (start timing when water returns to boiling). Remove jars from canner; cool on wire racks. Let stand at room temperature for three weeks before serving. Your grandmother will be proud of you!
Yield: Four pints.