Monday, November 18, 2013

Meat and maths don't mix

Idly pushing the garden lettuce round the basin of water, I wondered if snails could swim. A problem with a pesticide free vegetable garden is pests. If weeds are flowers in the wrong place, then pests are animal life in the wrong place. A snail head peeked over the side of the bowl – and answered my question. Yes, snails can swim.
Very small snail saving its life on a cauliflower floret.

There was a knock on the door. Madame Landraudy of our local chasse arrived on the doorstep. She was carrying a large and heavy black plastic bag. My ungrateful heart sank as she handed it over. I had been so blissfully contemplating my freedom from the potting/freezing/bottling that is associated with autumn in the country.  Then there I stood on the doorstep with a 3kg++ leg of wild boar and no room in the freezer.

A deep breath, an executive decision and I took the leg to Christian the Wonderful Butcher. 'Mince me this,' I requested, 'and mix in with the same quantity of farce.' (that is seasoned sausage meat). I did a little math in my head (not a good place for sums) and reckoned I would need twelve 500 gr paté jars. These I duly bought at Ast-Vert, got a large number of packets of streaky bacon at LIDL and some bottled chestnuts at the boulangerie / general store.

When I brought the mix home – 6.3 kg, Christian insisted – I put it in my largest pan, added a bottle of red wine, a tied bunch of herbs and left it to marinade. I did make two meat patties for lunch to check the seasoning. Fine. The jars were prepared by putting two crossed strips of streaky inside and then put out in the cold until I was ready to fill the jars. Mistake: Cha-Cha tipped up the protective tray and helped himself to the bacon from three jars. Tant pis.

I halved the mixture – using my second largest pan – and crumbled in the chestnuts. Then I started to fill the jars, a skilled job as the mince has to be well tamped down so as not to leave any air gaps. Consternation. Half the mix filled all twelve 500 gr jars. Fortunately there is a pizza kiosk in front of Ast-Vert, so we ordered a pizza and John went to buy another 12 jars.
These are the eight pots without chestnuts...

The other half of the mixture filled eight of the 500 gr jars, plus I had to find a little 250 gr one for the scrapings. So, all in all, I now have 20 jars of wild boar paté – the nice Familia Wiss ones with 'gold' seals and outer screw lids. The EdF has got to be happy – to sterilise them I used the oven, 190C for four hours, at peak time,and could only get seven pots in at a time.

What had I forgotten? That weight does not necessarily indicate volume....?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Here comes the rain!

The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness has drawn to a close. The season of perpetual rain has begun. The fruits of the wild fig in the field have ripened, exploded and fed the hornets. We are still waiting on the domesticated figs to make up their minds. Two inches of rain, at least, has fallen since last Sunday. Yesterday it was not safe to drive, the rain fell so hard.

The plums, apples and pears have been the joy of the ewes for many weeks now, as have the chestnuts and acorns. A varied diet is good for all. The humans (that is A³ plus Michelle) have had a good harvest of champignons also.(I do wish I could find an adequate translation for that word. Mushrooms will not do, for they are not all field mushrooms (agarics) nor will 'toadstools' with its overtones of poison).

Just a glimpse of this winter's stores.

Apple juice anyone?

And this is last winter's jam!

But this year, I sit here, rather smugly – for I am not being bullied by the 'mellow fruitfulness'; I do not have to pot/jam/freeze or otherwise conserve anything. Alexandre braved the wrath of the sheep and collected many kilos of apples for pressing into juice (and that after depriving them of most of their plums!) Audrey has made enough tomato coulis to keep the local McDonalds in sauce for a few days. And there is green tomato jam.

Arnold had a rush of blood to the head when he saw Alexandre's sacks of apples and remembered he had taken away our aged barrel of 'cider' more years ago than we can remember. It was our first attempt to process the abundant apple harvest. We took the apples to the local trout farm at Lisle – now a very distinguished river-side restaurant called Le Moulin de l'Isle – where they were washed in fish-water, then crushed. The resulting filtered juice was put into our 50 litre oak barrel. And that was that. The bung was in as was the wooden tap. We never managed to get either to open which is why Arnold took the barrel away. It is now soaking in the gentle rain so that its staves will swell, ready for next year's juice.

Ah well, I like rain! I like walking in the fields, protected by my boots from evil, biting arthropods. I like kicking away the leaf and twig dams in the newly born stream so that the water rushes through to the lake. I like what the rushing water reveals, the fossils, the broken coloured quartz stones – the odd golf ball. I am happy in the wet. Especially as there is always a fire in the range to dry me.