Friday, 3 July 2009

Oh to be in England now that fruit time’s here.

While the populous prepares for summer holidays abroad; sweetness abounds in the kitchen gardens and allotments of England. It’s fruit time and whether it is our climate or latitude, lack of distance traveled or old varieties grown, there is nothing like it available though out the year from the supermarket. Soon, I will wake each morning and tipsy-toe through the dewy orchard grass to pick my breakfast apple. Firstly, in August, the early super-sweet Worcester-types of Discovery and Pearmain, then later the sub-sweet and crispy Laxton's Superb and Ashmead's Kernal (developing nicely above) and as the earth grows cooler under foot the strongly individual Pitmaston Pine Apple.

July brings abundant soft fruit. I grow five varieties of gooseberries and have inherited a jostaberry patch (a cross between a gooseberry and a black currant) at the allotment. I start thinning by picking in June, allowing these early sour fruits to be used for preserves and stewed for dessert concoctions. Sweet pickled green gooseberries are wonderful with lamb. My family and friends are all too familiar with my favourite leg of lamb recipe, La Coscia della Sposa or the Bride’s Thigh, a marathon of three day marinating and massaging (hence the bride's thigh), short wood smoking and slow cooking resulting in butter-tender, aromatic meat, which I serve with said gooseberries and a rich meaty redcurrant gravy. An easy (ish) version of this recipe can be found in Marlena De Blasi’s Regional Foods of Southern Italy.

I had the fortune, in the allotment stakes, to be neighbours with Jack, a brilliant and intuitive vegetable gardener, who grows the most delicious currants, and who slightly madly doesn’t like to eat them! His loss is my bonanza through his generosity. He is great company, a good teacher of technique and his fennel is the best, succulent and delicious. Using his raspberries, I made the sorbet recipe below, Jack: “you have them, I don’t like the pips” I’ll make him some High Summer Fruit Spreading Jelly in return, recipe below.

As a child, summer meant ‘pop’ through a straw. Both of the following recipes include small amounts of pop instead of water, because I find they impart that summer taste from childhood. I can’t drink modern pops, too sweet, surely the sugar industry has been lobbying the drinks companies, or is it my imagination that these lovable nectars have become ultra sticky since my 1950’s memories.

Finally, a quick mention of fruit alcohol, as it is tasting time for the 2008 brews. Last year I made cider for the first time and then promptly forgot about it, a good move as it turns out. While entertaining some cider-loving friends from Devon, I remembered the bottles and our guests were impressed by it’s quality, ( here I'm pausing to puff my chest out with pride) it's complexity and (get this) it's sophisicated taste. I just wish I could remember how I made it! We have also been polishing off the 2008 Merlot, not a keeping year as the fruit never developed the sweetness required, but easily quaffable.

By the way, an apology, my recipes are always in mixed measurements, metric, imperial and the useful American cup, can never decide on just one unit which must make following both frustrating and infuriating!

Raspberry Sorbet
One kilo soft ripe raspberries
One cup of Barr’s Soda Cream With A Twist Of Raspberry
Poach very ripe raspberries until they turn to juice.
Add two tablespoons of Cassis or Kircsh to the well-sieved liquor
Pour into ice cream churner. Refrigerate.

High Summer Fruit Bread and Butter Jelly
Half a kilo very ripe raspberries
Half a kilo red and white currants
Half a kilo mixed other red juicy summer fruits (I used ripe cherries, gooseberries, plums, jostaberries and strawberries)
Two cups of Barr’s Dandelion and Burdock
Two large leaves of Borage
One teaspoon raspberry balsamic (optional)
Poach all the above ingredients (except balsamic) until all turns to juice. Turn into jelly bag and strain (don’t be tempted to squeeze bag) Measure liquor (should be about a litre) and add sugar to taste (approx 12/14 ozs ie 60% fruit juice to 40% sugar depending on sweetness of fruit for a sweet/acid balance) Add balsamic. Bring to a rolling boil for a minute or two. This should reach setting point within that time due to the lack of water used. Bottle in sterilised jars. Spread on real bread and butter. Enjoy, sitting out under blue skies.


Rob (ourfrenchgarden) said...

Hi Fay

All seems well at Casa Northwood or Chez Northwood depending what mood takes.

So, I'm hoping you'll be having a good fruit year, what with proper summer weather etc...

I'm going to see if I find Marlena De Blasi’s Regional Foods of Southern Italy.

Aside, you mentioned Patricia Wells salad Cro Magnon in Bistro. I have that book and never noticed it, but hey, it's there on p.42 in my copy. (((A small world just shrunk))).
There is a superlative book about this region entitled 'Cooking and Travelling in Southwest France' by Stephanie Alexander:) worth a look.

I just looked at 'Vineyard' on your blip photo album. You're not mucking about. Nice pic and I'm assuming nice wine.

Woodland Fay said...

Rob, Marlena De Blasi’s Regional Foods of Northern Italy is an absolute must, try it before Southern. In use almost daily here. Have just bought Stephanie Alexander's SW F book online on your recommendation, yep, it looks the part, just hope it's not dominated by photography. As you know I'm not adverse to photography but I like my cookbooks full of recipes! Something modern British publications seem intent to abolish. Santé!

Jan (Thanks For 2 Day) said...

Hi Fay, it was so nice to have you stop by today. Thanks for the 4th of July wishes--we had a picnic on our back deck and are just chillin' until a little later this evening, when we'll go to see some fireworks.

Your blog is amazing; you are so very talented, creative and full of life!!

...oops, I may have spoke too soon about the fireworks:it is now thundering and rain/storms are expected, so the fireworks might be "looking out the window at the lightning"!

Anyway, I read through a variety of your posts and there is so, gardening, art, menu's,, it's so impressive I don't think I can keep up, but it's very nice;-)

I will stop by again when time permits...I hope you have a wonderful day/evening/week, etc!! Jan

sweet bay said...

Lovely post! Those recipes sound wonderful. I love hearing about what people do with what they grow in their own gardens. Lovely accompanying photos too. Thank you for stopping by my blog and for your kind words.

Nutty Gnome said...

Aaaah - Dandelion and Burdock, my childhood favourite! Your recipes sound wonderful too, so I must try them - I love to cook.

I followed the link from Rob's blog to here and I'm very glad I did. I've really enjoyed reading it, so thanks for that!

Rob (ourfrenchgarden) said...

Hi Fay

Thanks for your kind comments re. the Daily pic blog.

At the moment I'm using a cheap point and shoot but the plan is at some point to invest in a decent bit of kit and build up a large inventory of really nice shots.

It's only since I started blogging that I'm getting into photography.
There's just so much great subject matter around here.

Hope Stephanie Alexander's book struck the balance between recipes and pics.

joey said...

Wow, 5 varieties of
gooseberries ... I adore gooseberries and your inherited jostaberry sounds devine ~ how lucky you are! Have so enjoyed visiting your delicious site, noting cookooks via your comments & Rob's. Thank you for the delightful visit.