Tip and tricks for winter cooking – AG Week

As a child I reveled in the beauty of a quiet snowfall knowing there may be drifts in the ditches near our house where my sister and I could build snow forts to play in. My fondest memories of being a young mother include rocking my babies beside the fireplace in the house I grew up in while watching giant snowflakes dance to the ground.

Winter can be a fun season to enjoy. Sledding parties, snowball fights and ice skating are fun ways to enjoy the winter backdrop in the Midwest. However, as many who read this know, winter can certainly prove to be a difficult time for many folks whose farms host livestock that can be affected negatively by challenging weather in the wintertime.

After a long winter day at work or play, there’s nothing better than removing the cold weather gear, hopping into a warm shower and enjoying a soul-warming meal before turning in for the night. When winter arrives on your doorstep, the best thing to do is feed it.

Keep vegetable scraps in a freezer bag in the freezer, and add to it until you have enough to make homemade stock or broth. Not sure if you are making stock or broth? Stock is thicker and richer due to the simmering of bones in the recipe which leads them to release gelatin into the stock. Broth is thinner and is typically made with meat, not bones.

Aromatic vegetables like onions, leeks, carrots and garlic have a long shelf life and are the basic building blocks of many cold weather classics. Stock up when you can and store them accordingly.

Cold weather cooking typically includes a lot of slow-cooked, warming, comfort foods. Keep brightness in your slow-cooked entrees with a splash of flavored or balsamic vinegar to round out the flavors in the dish. Using fresh herbs will also keep mixed dishes appetizing. Adding a crunchy texture like piece of toasted baguette with butter and garlic spread on top will complement any soup or stew.

Quickly pickling thinly sliced vegetables brings some excitement to slow-cooked entrees. To a tall glass jar add thinly sliced vegetables. In a small bowl combine 1 cup extra hot tap water with 1/2 cup of your favorite vinegar, 1/3 cup sugar and 2 1/2 teaspoons of salt. Mix and pour over vegetables in the glass jar.

Citrus season is in full swing in various parts of the country and should be taken advantage of. Consider adding a few fresh citrus slices when roasting fish, chicken or pork. To get the more intense citrus flavor out of zest used in recipes for seasoning rubs, marinades or baking, “perfume” the citrus zest by rubbing it together judiciously with the recipe’s sugar or salt. This action releases the natural oils in the zest giving the final product more flavor.

Bring a little spring to the table in the dead of winter by creating a fun lunch accompanied by freshly squeezed, homemade lemonade. Sugar, fresh lemons and water is the simplest creation, but will bring smiles to the faces of those seated at the dinner table. Add an orange or two to the recipe to sweeten up this refreshing drink. Add a sprig or two of fresh rosemary or thyme for an elevated take on standard lemonade.

Double your batch of soup and freeze some for later. Soup freezes nicely and that extra meal could be handy when you or a neighbor happen to be fighting off a cold or if your family needs a last-minute meal on a chilly day.

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