Yes, it’s still winter, so what? Living in the season

Warm chaga milk, from gaga gathered in July, and sweetened with maple syrup made in March

Warm chaga milk, from chaga gathered in July and sweetened with maple syrup made in March

In the grip of winter I want nothing but more winter. In June, I want the long hours of daylight to never stop. I live in the season, and cook according to the season.

It is March and abundant may not seem to be an appropriate adjective for this season, but I look at a few recent dinners and realize that they are filled with plenty. Yellow perch roe, deer liver with cranberry relish, chaga-maple milk, and a potato and maitake mushroom casserole have all been on the table this past week. These are foods we gathered or hunted. Not all were gathered or hunted this month, however.

The connection between the seasons becomes clear. Here in Maine and the northern hemisphere the year is only complete with all four seasons. None of them stand alone. The bounty we share in March is combined with food harvested in October, and in October we are eating food from seeds sown in June. One season cannot be isolated from another; they are part of the whole, part of the full spin of all twelve moons.

The year includes times of excess, where we bag peas and greens for friends and neighbors and barter surplus at a local restaurant. The year includes times when we gather or hunt very little, and the root cellar contributes as much to our meals as what we glean in the wild. Root vegetables, or vegetables fresh from the vine, the year never leaves us hungry.

March will offer maple syrup to pour on apples we gather and bake in September. October gives piles of mushrooms, some of which will served with the Christmas venison pot roast in December. The seasons all help each other, adding flavors and, how apt, seasonings.

But right now it is March. The garden is covered in snow, the pantry is full, and the fishing is great. It is the time for beets and red meat, cranberries and perch.

I want nothing more. June can wait.

 

Potato and Maitake casserole

 

4 medium potatoes

2 cups maitake or wild mushroom, Portabella in a pinch

½ cup vegetable stock

½ cup cup medium cream

½ cup grated cheese

3 cloves garlic, I medium onion, sliced thin

salt and pepper to taste

nutmeg and allspice

¼ cup grated cheese

 

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven cook garlic and onion until soft. Add mushrooms. Pour stock over mushrooms, garlic and onions and cook on low 15 minutes

Add cream and cheese, nutmeg and allspice to taste (be cautious, a little goes a long way) and stir. Simmer until creamy, and turn off heat.

Cut potatoes into very thin slices.

Place a layer of potatoes in the bottom of an oiled casserole dish. Add a layer of mushroom mixture; keep layering until all is used up, ending with a mushroom layer. Bake at 325° for 45 minutes, sprinkle remaining cheese on top and broil for 5 minutes.

 

 

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Karen O. Zimmermann

About Karen O. Zimmermann

Karen O. Zimmermann savors chance encounters with people throughout the state of Maine, and is endlessly delighted with the tales they have to share.