In a perfectly selfish world, Mother Nature could have waited one more week for the nut farmer to finish toiling in their fields.
Instead, we’ll graciously accept the hand we’ve been dealt and thank her for much needed water and wind — hopefully enough to dry the ground so we can finish by my self-imposed Halloween harvest deadline.
Can you believe it was just one week ago when Sacramento broke a record for 212 consecutive days without rain? On Sunday, Sacramento broke another record with more than 5-inches of rain in a single day, according to Capital Public Radio.
I remember Sunday’s rainfall, alright. Our Southwest Airlines captain ordered all flight attendants to take their jump seats and suspend cabin service immediately.
I’m not sure if the captain was overly cautious or my new, drunk friend in the middle seat distracted me with her wild weekend in Los Angeles stories. Either way, we landed without incident Sunday at 6:45 p.m., amidst passenger reports of atmospheric rivers and cyclone bombs in the greater-Sacramento area.
Travel during harvest is almost always between Dairyville and Corning. But this year, my dearest friend’s son married his best friend on Oct. 23 in Austin, Texas. It’s not an exaggeration to report 40 percent of all wedding guests lived in Corning at one time in their lives. The groom and two members of the wedding party are proud graduates of Corning High School.
I’m not sure what this says about Corning or Tehama County but only five of us in attendance can say we still live here. Former Corningites now reside in Idaho, Oregon, Nevada, Texas and Nebraska while some call Chico and the greater Sacramento area home.
I will reserve the story of Sean (the groom) and Evan McFadden (best man) for a future column, as it gets closer to Thanksgiving. These two fine young men are true examples of giving and sacrifice in a time when many people – young and old – expect some things in life to come at no cost.
Stew and Candles
“Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower.” – Albert Camus
After my dark and stormy drive home, I woke up to giant mud puddles and a burst of colorful autumn leaves blowing in the wind.
The end of harvest signals a time to stock up on fabulous candles and prepare hearty soups and stews. While I encourage everyone to shop local first, I must give Voluspa a mention. This candle brand comes in a family of fragrances: fresh, woodsy, floral, and spice. I enjoy Voluspa’s Forbidden Fig and Spiced Pumpkin Latte to usher in the smell of fall.
I also prepare my very favorite stew and polenta recipe to celebrate the season. I used to host an end of harvest ‘Stew and Brew’ in our barn but school sports and middle-age interfered. So instead, I’ll share my recipe with you:
Peposo (Italian Peppered Beef Stew)
4 lbs stew meat (chuck roast, cubed)
2 cups dry red wine (Merlot or Zinfandel)
2 cans (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes
1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
18 peeled, whole garlic cloves (this is not a typo)
1 TBSP coarse-ground black pepper (to taste)
salt (to taste)
I highly (as in mandatory) recommend this no mess browning method: Place meat in a heavy bottomed 5 to 6-quart pan (I use a Le Creuset or something similar). Add ½ cup water and cover with lid; bring to boil over medium heat until meat is gray on outside and you see juices and fat in the water. Uncover pan, increase heat to high and stir often with wooden spoon, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Stir until the meat juices have darkened and caramelized. If it starts to burn, reduce heat.
Add wine and all ingredients above; stir to get drippings off bottom of pan. Reduce heat to simmer over stovetop or in oven at 300 degrees for 1.5 to 2 hours or until beef is real soft. Add salt and more cracked pepper to taste. This is not a real thick stew so use a slotted spoon to remove beef.
Serve over creamy polenta.
2 cups Polenta (I use Golden Pheasant and store in fridge)
1 quart chicken broth (fat skimmed)
1 quart milk (do not use water)
½ cup Parmesan, shredded
(Make polenta when stew is ready and all your bowls, toppings are ready; not a minute before otherwise it gets too thick!)
Whisk all ingredients together and stir in saucepan over medium heat until polenta bubbles, about 10 to 15 minutes. Simmer and continue to stir/whisk until Polenta thickens. Just before serving, stir in Parmesan or sprinkle Parmesan on top of stew.
Spoon Polenta into large, shallow bowls (or dinner plates with rim) and top with beef stew. Sprinkle with Parmesan, oven-dried tomatoes or Gremolata (basically, grated lemon, garlic, parsley).
Shanna Long is a fourth generation journalist and former editor of the Corning Daily Observer. She and her husband reside in Corning and farm almonds, walnuts and prunes. She can be reached at email@example.com, instagram @sjolong.