As far as I’m concerned, there is no better time of year to be cosily ensconced in the kitchen than late September onward. At this time, the gradual shortening of the days, a process that began right after the June 21st summer solstice, begins to make itself apparent and the air is becoming more crisp and cool. The late afternoon sunlight slants in through the kitchen window during the preparation of dinner, and the first turning leaves brighten up the trees in the garden. Any day now, I will be able to see my breath as I take last night’s vegetable scrapings out to the compost pile first thing in the morning. Best of all, the local farmer’s market at Trout Lake is well stocked with earthy delights in the form of abundant squashes, corn, and sharp-tasting local apples.
This is the time of year that the Dutch oven my mother gave me when I left home to attend university once again takes up a place of honour in my kitchen. This massive, cherry red cast iron cooking pot is covered in dents and chips, and according to my husband resembles a small meteorite that has entered through Earth’s atmosphere. It weighs just about as much, too! But when it comes to preparing delicious foods and filling the kitchen with savoury aromas, this sturdy pot is unparalleled.
For those of you not familiar with this formidable cookware item, the term Dutch oven refers to a large, lidded pot with handles, and sometimes legs (especially on the outdoor variety, used for cooking over open campfire flames). According to http://www.chuckwagonsupply.com, the name Dutch oven may date back to the early 18th century, when an Englishman named Abraham Darby began making pots for export to the New World colonies by means of a metal casting process he had picked up on a trip to Holland. Alternative theories of the pot’s origin suggest that the name may come from early Dutch traders, who peddled the cookware, or from “Dutch settlers in the Pennsylvania area who used similar cast iron pots or kettles.”
Whatever its true genesis, though, there is no disputing that this heavy pot’s tendency to be even-heating makes it the ideal vessel for simmering such succulent and aromatic dishes as corn and seafood chowders, rich beef stews, chili con carne, stewed chicken with vegetables, slow-cooking lamb dishes such as osso bucco, and pot roasts–the types of food that fill the house with irresistible aromas and provide the body with the sort of central heating that the soon-to-be arriving brisk Autumn days call for.