Okay so it’s late January and nothing is growing in the fields of New England. What does a restaurant that prides itself on really being farm-to-table do to maintain a menu that is true to their ideals during a long cold winter?
Local cellared roots
Well, fortunately for us more and more local farms either have, and are now using or they have installed root cellars. These farms are able to supply us with all the root vegetables, winter squashes and cabbages we need. Great local carrots, beets, turnips, parsnips, radishes, kohlrabi and potatoes are easy to come by. Many farms also have have heated greenhouses that provide us with lettuce, arugula, spinach, pea greens and even some herbs. Getting local sustainable livestock is not a problem, all of the land-based proteins used at EVOO year round are from independent small family-owned farms.
A greenhouse at Red Fire farm in Granby, Ma
However, the most important thing we do is plan for it. Throughout the local growing season starting in the late spring and finishing well after the hard frost we pickle, can, preserve, dehydrate and freeze. This is a lot of work and it comes at great expense to us. But, we made a commitment to ourselves and our community, to be as local and sustainable as possible.
Some of the items we pickled this year include: asparagus, rhubarb, fiddlehead ferns, garlic scapes, cucumbers, onions, garlic, okra, beets, green beans, peppers, jalapenos, cauliflower and green tomatoes. Some of the pickles are sweet, some are dill and some are fermented. Many pickles are canned in glass mason jars, while others are in big buckets finding their way to the inner depths of our walk-in refrigerators.
We make gallons upon gallons of apple butter, which we use in our apple crisp at EVOO, on a winter squash pizza at Za and whatever other way(s) we can come up with. Big vats of jalapeno and habanero hot sauces are made, processed and put-up. Many flats of local berries and grapes, at the peak of their ripeness are made into jellies and jams, and we canned more cherries than anyone would ever want to pit.
a stash of local goodies
pickles stored in our dining room
Some backroom storage
Pickles and Jam
Bread ‘n’ Butter Pickles and Pickled Cauliflower
We oven-dry and vacuum seal cases of plum tomatoes, so that in the dead of winter we are still able to have local tomatoes on our menu.
Plum tomatoes starting to dry
The finished product, vacuum sealed with EVOO
We shuck, vacuum seal and freeze bushels of corn. We had local corn salsa on our menu last week with a pastured MA beef empanada.
We also make buckets of kimchi, some using the traditional napa cabbage, while others are made with kohlrabi and still others are with zucchini or butternut squash.
Dried mint and basil from our Rooftop garden
Dried chives from our Rooftop Garden
Our rooftop garden often provides us with more herbs than we can use, so we dry them for use in the winter months.
Aleppo style peppers before they are dried
Dried cayenne peppers
We dry and grind locally grown chile peppers, using them wherever a little bit of heat is needed.
Running a sustainable restaurant in Massachusetts has its challenges and we have been taking them head-on for years. During our 20 year tenure it has gotten a whole lot easier, the local movement has helped us immensely. Farmers who used to look at winter as a time for a short break and planning for the upcoming season are now figuring out ways to grow, store and sell more to restaurants and at winter farmers markets. We have also learned how to plan better for the winter, making sure we take the time to preserve our short growing season’s bounty for use throughout the whole year.
If you’re into root vegetables, pickles, preserves and greenhouse greens, come on in and see how we are serving them, at the same time you will be supporting us and your local farming community.
A link to our menu: