Musings of a disordered but endlessly enthusiastic kind. Wine, food, art, gardening, France, Italy and home again giggerty gig.
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.