This April’s kitchen

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From scratch cooking ups happen in this kitchen – consciously and gingerly – whether or no it’s February, March, April. ‘From scratch’ strikes one as down to earth, healthy, this is the (only way) to do the self-sufficient-kitchen-cooking-living-it-thing … a lost art … more often than not drifting towards ‘I’m a bit better than the person next door’- thoughts…

… oops, be careful, because the person next door might be closer than you think … my husband (a side by side companion in the kitchen) buys tarragon from the store while I take a walk in the garden and pick some leaves from the scraggly growing herb; a recipe calls for tahini, he writes the (missing) ingredient on the blackboard shopping list while I open a cupboard promising sesame seeds and olive oil; he lingers and browses the array of condiment bottles found on the shelves in the food stores while I linger and browse through cook books and make up-to-scratch bottles of pure goodness condiments…

… alas, both he and I know – that life is more than from scratch or not from scratch, about this way or that way … both and is good! And allows me to enjoy both his cooking and my from-scratchings.

… my mouth watered … my hands itched …  so, whether or no, this April brought forth Adam’s Cafe’s North African Pickles, Nonna’s plum and Cognac mostarda, Marmellata di mele cotogne …  while my husband shook his head.

Dear reader, do you have any favorite from scratch foods to share? Or do you rely on the “both and” way of life in the kitchen?

Sousing some of the season’s olives

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In this house’s kitchen the curing of olives emerged as a yearly ritual. Yet, after many a curing and a pickling, one question lingers unanswered: who chewed (over) the first olive and granted this bitterness time to mature into a noble delicatessen?

Every new olive season brings along with it a different curing method – not to improve on poor previous batches. On the contrary – but that the learning process attracts this novice.

This year I met the olive farmer.  Needless to say, I tweaked my curing methods (one is never too old to learn). The tweaked methods involved dry-curing in coarse salt (a four to six weeks process resulting in a mummified olive), and curing in a salt brine (a patient nine to 12 months unfolding). The photo above shows one of last years’ procurements bottled in brine.

This yearly ritual circles outwards – inviting friends to plunge, drench and steep this inedible fruit, and encouraging each other to wait patiently for the relish to emerge.

Would you be interested in joining this circle? Or, are you already a participant of this process? Except of course, if you’re not an olive eater … or maybe, you’d comment “… it’s just like growing your own trees to make your own furniture…”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

saving the season

Seasons meet and greet me with a bounty of hope – with all there is. And I’m an easy touch for trying out new recipes – more often than not.

This last season I fell for Nonna’ s Plum Mostarda – a recipe from Tessa Kiros’ Limoncello and Linen Water.

I blame the recipe’s name. An ouma’s recipe. A favourite. And not just any recipe, a mostarda – a fruit and mustard condiment.

P1060020We have only one bottle left.

Meet the Quince. A Zero Waste Fruit.

Yesterday the quince brought memories of happenings in Ouma Mien’s kitchen: as a dessert with custard, as marmalade on toast, and as membrillo or kweperkaas eaten with cheese. Today I write about its zero waste properties. And tomorrow, tomorrow I hope my children will remember what a quince tree looks like, and maybe, just maybe, remember the faint fragrance of a bowl of quinces.

It was from marmelo, the Portugese name for quince, that the word marmalade came into our language. The slightly inedible fruit transforms when cored, peeled and cooked: into preserved quince (the fruit), quince marmalade (fruit and syrup), quince jelly (from strained fruit), and quince paste (from the cooked fruit). And these are only the novelty transformations I’ve sampled and tested in our kitchen.

You must have some Quinces, and rasp them with a Grater; all being grated, you must have a Piece of strong Cloth, put in a small handful, and squeese it with all your Might, that the Juice may come from it; when all is squeesed and you have all the Juice, put it in a Preserving pan, let it take just one single Boiling, and let it cool; being cooled, measure two Quarts of Juice and two Quarts of Brandy, Measure by Measure, and clarify some Sugar; to each two Quarts, ten Ounces of Sugar, a Piece of Cinnamon, four Cloves, and three or four Grains of white Pepper whole; stop up your Jug very close, put it aside for two or three Months, put it through a Straining-bag, until it come very clear, and put it up in Bottles flopped very close.

From Vincent la Chapelle, The Modern Cook (London: 1733)

A follow-up test in the kitchen? I really can’t let any thing go to waste…

Jams, jellies and preserves

Jam(n.): A preserve made from whole fruit boiled to a pulp with sugar

Jelly(n.): A fruit-flavored gelatin dessert 

Preserve (n.): Fruit cooked with sugar to protect against decay or fermentation 

How pleasing to have jams, jellies and preserves in the pantry – especially if the extras of the season are homemade and ready to enjoy – jam for toast, jellie for desert, and a preserve to accompany a meal.  Today the jams, jellies and preserves remind me to keep my soul’s pantry stocked, for those lean days when I might

feel bruised

in a pickle

wobbly and alone.

A childhood song reminds me where to find the extras for the season when – a jam might be a difficult situation, a jelly some limpy feeling, and when a desire and a care decided to take the place of a preserve:

Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning,
give me oil in my lamp I pray;
give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning,
keep me burning till the break of day.

 

Good work finds the way between pride and despair. It graces with health. It preserves the given so that it remains a gift. Wendell Berry – What Are People For?

Pickling and preparing olives

My mom started it. A few years ago she decided to cure olives; just for fun she entered them in an olive-tasting competition. Her olives were chosen as the best-tasting ones.  She said she only followed the recipe. This year my sister and I decided to follow suit. We bought 8kg of black olives (did you know that the only difference between green and black olives is that the black olives are ripe green olives? – i didn’t – i actually never gave it a thought) , and started with the process. We are in week three. It takes longer than three weeks. The submerged-in-cold water-phase is completed, and presently the olives float around in salt water – until the taster(s) decides when the bitterness is not so bitter anymore. My son pulled a face, my daughter says they’re ready, and our Labrador could not decide what to do: it was near suppertime, so he ate it. I decided that the batch could do with another saltwater bath. Apparently, the longer olives ferment in brine, the less bitter and more intricate their flavor become.

Have you tried curing olives?

 

For those of you that miss a loved one (I do- my husband is in Europe on a business trip) or have a husbandman loved-one, here is a poem by Amelia Josephine Burr

Where Love is

BY the rosy cliffs of Devon, on a green hill’s crest,

I would build me a house as a swallow builds its nest;

I would curtain it with roses, and the wind should breathe to me

The sweetness of the roses and the saltness of the sea.

 

Where the Tuscan olives whiten in the hot blue day,

would hide me from the heat in a little hut of gray,

While the singing of the husbandman should scale my lattice green

From the golden rows of barley that the poppies blaze between.

 

Narrow is the street, Dear, and dingy are the walls

Wherein I wait your coming as the twilight falls.

All day with dreams I gild the grime till at your step I start—

Ah Love, my country in your arms—my home upon your heart!

 

 

 

Eish, I’ve made day three in the blog world.