9 Winter Must-Haves for Foodies
Winter is the perfect time to rest and digest. Hunkering down never sounded better. While we understand there’s still plenty to get done during the winter months, it also offers the opportunity to take it easy indoors. Some of our favorite winter memories involve cooking up the kind of foods that fill the house with yummy smells, and bellies with delicious meals. Here on the farm we love lists for getting organized, and we thought it’s high time we gathered a list of some of our favorite winter pantry items! Read on to find out our top picks for eating and feeling good all winter long!
1. Apple Cider Vinegar
Some people call it ACV. It certainly is easier. Whatever you call it, this stuff is magic. For us, it’s important to get ACV that’s both organic and unpasteurized (aka “raw”). This means that the vinegar still retains the probiotic and anti-microbial properties of its “mother.” Without a lengthy description, the vinegar mother is a living culture that creates vinegar using special yeasts. ACV is incredibly versatile. You can make dressings, marinades, tonics (like fire cider) and shrubs. Use ACV in any preparation where you’d use vinegar like sauces, soups, stews and dips. Brines are also a natural option—did someone say quick, winter pickles? Kohlrabi is especially good pickled in an ACV brine.
Often, the first time people have miso is at a sushi restaurant, and in that case it’s usually the familiar soup with soft cubes of tofu nestled in the bottom of the bowl. While we love a good miso soup, to limit miso to that representation just isn’t accurate. This paste, native to Japan, is a fermented probiotic, and a natural addition to soups, stews, sauces and marinades (not to mention vinaigrettes!). Miso can be made from many different ingredients like rice, barley, soybeans and buckwheat—and ranges starkly in both color and flavor. While some are more mellow in flavor (like white miso) and some are strongly akin to soy sauce (like Hatcho miso) they all have tons of potential in the kitchen.
3. Raw Honey
As always, local and organic is best. There’s evidence that raw, local honey is beneficial for the immune system. It also simply tastes great, and is wonderful on toast, in tea, with yogurt, or in vinaigrettes. In the winter, when fruit is scarce, honey is a lovely sweet treat. And, if you’ve never tried it, seek out mono-floral honeys like manuka, buckwheat, mesquite, etc. These honeys are made almost completely from one nectar source and have very unique flavors.
4. Fresh Herbs (Thyme, Rosemary, Sage, Oregano, Marjoram)
It’s no secret that less plants grow in the winter when you live in the Mid-Atlantic, and that can have us missing summer’s basil and tomatoes when the snow is falling. However, winter has its riches too! Some of winter’s best flavors come from cold-hardy, perennial herbs like thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano and marjoram. Not only do these herbs taste great, they also boast a number of potential health benefits including stimulating the immune system.
5. Sea Salts
Yes, the plural is definitely intentional here. Sea salt differs from table salt because it’s harvested from current or ancient seas rather than made in a production facility. It’s because of this that sea salt can carry a number of important trace minerals; meaning it’s actually nutritious. Where sea salt stands out even more is in flavor and texture—it’s no wonder that chefs worldwide choose it for their kitchens. Some of our favorites are smoked salts (there are many varieties), fleur de sel, sel gris, Maldon, Himalayan pink and Alaea (from Hawaii).
6. Multi-Colored Popcorn
Corn is technically the fruit (and seeds) of an enormous grass stalk, and popcorn is one of the six major types of corn (including sweet corn and others). We recommend finding organic popping corn (which by default is non-GMO). There’s nothing like cozying up in the winter months with some freshly popped corn. Movies, PJs, fireplaces and books are optional. Plus, popcorn is the perfect vehicle for experimenting with numbers 5 and 7!
7. Single Varietal Olive Oil
Just like apples, there are many different varieties of olives with different flavors, colors and characteristics. While most olive oils you find are blends, some companies produce olive oil made from a single olive variety. Some of our favorites are Arbusana and Picholine. The flavor and aroma of single varietal olive oils are unique and exciting.
What-bu? That might be what you’re thinking. And no, it’s not kombucha (although we love that too!). Kombu, for the unfamiliar, is a sea vegetable that’s long been popular in Japanese cuisine. One of its hallmark uses is in a pot of beans, where some sources claim it can help make the beans easier to digest. Either way, kombu is delicious and nutritious, boasting an array of minerals and vitamins. It’s a great addition to stocks, soups, bean stews and more.
Whether it’s vegetable stock or bone broth, stocks are an absolute gem in the winter kitchen. You can make your own—or buy it. Stock is now readily available in supermarkets (even frozen) and specialty kitchens (some focus on just making stocks and broths!) across the Mid-Atlantic. Best of all? Almost all of the items on our list of winter pantry must-haves are either needed to make stock, or are fantastic with stock. What’s on your list? Let us know on Facebook , Instagram or in person the next time you see us!