If you had to divide the calendar into food groups, summer would be about vegetables. Especially, if you tend a vegetable garden or just like the fresh veggies that come with the season. When fall of the year comes, and the garden has been put to bed, and the balance of vegetables have been canned or frozen or eaten, what food group comes to your mind?
For me, there is no question. When the weather turns cool, my food group turns to protein. Growing up, we always had a few hogs to butcher. And that was done from around Thanksgiving to a week or so before Christmas. The timing depended heavily on the weather. A lot of the pork was kept in the meat house, and even with a huge dose of salt, it was still better for the meat if the weather was cool.
We used to rabbit and squirrel hunt in the fall, and anything we were lucky enough to get went straight to the dinner table. Back then . . . and I’m talking the 1950s and ’60s . . . there weren’t enough deer around for deer hunting to have much of an impact on a kid’s life. How that has changed.
I still like to squirrel hunt, but this has been the first year in a long, long time when I haven’t had some fried squirrel with brown broth gravy and cornbread. The squirrels seem to have vanished into thin air.
About a month ago, Linda and I were coming back from working on the cabin, and we picked up Pete Jenkins, whose vehicle had stopped running or had run out of gas. As we were coming down the dirt road, a fox squirrel ran across the road and up a tree. Pete and I both exclaimed that that was the first squirrel we had seen in a long time. I sure hope they come back. I miss them in more ways than one.
If you expect to collect any wild protein, I suggest you go deer hunting. Even so, most of my friends that hunt tell me they are seeing fewer deer than they did last year. And, if memory serves, we said last year we saw fewer deer than we had the year before that. I think someone is going to have to take a long serious look at what our coyote population is doing to the game animals. Just saying . . .
For tamer protein, you might want to become acquainted with the nice folks at Adams Custom Slaughterhouse in Amissville (540-937-7497), off South Poes Road. Flint Hill Volunteer Fire and Rescue has used Adams’ excellent pork sausage to make breakfast sandwiches for the participants in the squad’s annual trail ride for a number of years. This year, I had a hankering for some old-timey sack sausage, so I got five pounds that had not been frozen and packed it in a cotton sack. I hung it in the shed for a couple of weeks. Then we got those 70 degrees days, and I decided it had aged enough.
I could write a whole column on how good it was, but I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that my bride calls it an “acquired” taste. She doesn’t eat it. That’s OK. Not everybody likes champagne. I introduced the folks at Adams to sack sausage. Haven’t heard yet how that turned out.
To get you through the dead of winter and the early spring before your garden kicks in again, it is time to enjoy the fruits of your labor from the past summer and fall. Get a couple cans of green beans and tomatoes out of the root cellar, and peel a few of those potatoes you’ve been keeping in a cool, dark spot. Put a big armload of wood in the stove, sit down with your Rappahannock News and a big mug of coffee and enjoy the blessings of country life. There is nothing else quite like it.