4 - 2010

12 Days of Christmas: 10 Cellared Squashes

This year I’m celebrating the holidays with a “12 Days of Christmas” series on the abundances of our kitchen and garden. Share your experiences, too, and happy holidays!

On the 10th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me …
10 cellared squashes
9 candied bacon strips
8 oranges’ peels, candied
7 dozen pounds of pork … and fat to render

6 farm-fresh eggs,
5 daikon pickled for banh mi,
4-some gallons of beer,
3 quarts of applesauce,
2 half-gallons of sauerkraut,
and 1 quart of yogurt, homemade.

Our CSA farm season has ended, but we still have an array of fruits and vegetables waiting for us. The shelves above are in my basement laundry room, where the temperature seldom goes above 60 degrees. If winter squashes are unblemished, they can last there for a long, long time. In fact, we didn’t even grow butternut squash this year, but we finished off the last stored squash from the summer of 2008 sometime in November. The interior seeds had dried out, but the flesh was fine. I’ve read that you can store squash in these types of conditions — slightly but not too humid, 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit, in a laundry room, closet, or beneath a guest-room bed.

Also in the laundry room, I boxed up our larger green tomatoes when the hard frosts hit early in September. I was able to pull the last of them out in December, just before the holidays. Carefully wrapped in paper so that they do not touch, they ripen slowly in the dark. The flavor is nothing like straight off the vine, but it’s nice not to let them go to waste because of the weather.

We have another closet located beneath our front porch, where the temperature usually remains around 40 degrees. Here, in addition to our camping equipment and Christmas ornaments, we are storing Mr. Cheap’s bottles of homebrewed beer and the leftover apples from our CSA fruit share — and one last cabbage, wrapped in plastic to preserve its moisture.

(Reportedly, apples should be stored closer to 35 degrees, but we don’t have any space that stays at that temperature without freezing — but if you have a cold garage, it might be just the thing.)

The storage instructions I received said to check all apples for blemishes — remember the adage, “One bad apple spoils the whole bunch”? Use damaged ones immediately for eating, baking, making applesauce, or slicing and freezing for apple pie. Also, smaller apples reportedly store better than larger ones.

Do you have an urban, suburban or other household root cellar? Let us in on your tips and ideas.

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