zaterdag 25 januari 2014

End of summer - sadness or new chances?

Actually, this time of year always makes me sad. It is not like the winter, no one has to apologize for escaping the cold and snow. It´s also not like plain autumn, that I really love for its beautiful colors, its olive harvest and trying out mushroom and game dishes. Of course it´s not at all like spring when everyone and everything has great expectations. And for me, nothing, really nothing can compare to a long hot summer, even if it means I have to water the vegetable garden twice a day.

Maybe that is the real reason. September means saying goodbye to the summer. It means that it is still dark when I wake up. It means cold mornings, but if you wear a sweater you´ll be sorry within the hour. It means, that my flowers and herbs begin to disappear and the greenhouse is almost empty.

Yet I am busier than ever. September also means picking grapes. I am a few weeks behind of the Italians because of the lack of sunshine, but they slowly got their rich blue color and it is a joy to spend some time in the afternoon under the vines and plan things for the year to come.
I use my grapes for juice and jellies. Grape jelly combines perfectly to cheese and a nice red wine.

I also love the way my hops flower. Its ranks are very nice to decorate some spots in your home or garden with, considering the fact that I grow too few to brew my own beer from it. But it is an idea.

To continue, there are a lot of apples to pick and use them for cakes, strudels and pies and those that don´t look beautiful can be used for compote, or squeeze them in the juicer and use the juice to make an apple-honey jelly. I made two jars of it last year and used it as frosting for pies and cake, it´s just a little `extra` on a plain ordinairy applepie.
The ones that look really awful, I cut into pieces, let them dry completely and use them for Christmas decorations.

But fortunately, it´s not Christmas yet. I stil have to tell you about my peartrees. I have two, a normal one and one to grow pears to cook. The first I use for pies, as a side dish for a game meal, or in an autumn salad of oakleaflettuce, cheese, pear and a dressing of EVO and balsamico vinegar. Really delicious.
The ones I have to cook first I preserve in a jar for winter, in a sugar-cinnamon syrup, or use them for compote. Or, again, squeeze them and use it for jelly, which is also very nice with cheese, with game dishes or in a crostata (marmelade pie).

Last but not least, one of the best things coming up are the mushrooms. It is great to walk the Umbrian hills and collect porcini and other mushrooms– don´t you ever try it on your own. Apart from the risk of falling into some ravine, there´s also the danger of collecting the wrong ones. Any innocent mushroom has a toxic equivalent that resembles it exactly, so only take guided tours.
But once you made it alive, I can hardly think of an ingredient with so many possibilities and such a divers taste.

I will post recipes with all the fruits I mentioned in coming blogs.

Re-reading all of the above, I realize there is only one thing I will never get used to and will never learn to like:

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