Preserving the countryside
Travel and food are two of my biggest passions, without a doubt. When they are combined, it’s a match in heaven. Sampling local treats and regarded delicacies absolutely adds to experiencing different cultures and traditions. Whether it be New York’s best pizza slice or guinea pig in Ecuador, in my opinion there is nothing in this world that shouldn’t be tried (at least) once if offered (just maybe sometimes only ask what it is AFTER you’ve tried it). Lets just say the dog entrails in Laos probably wouldn’t have passed my lips had known what they were first…but hey, it’s a good story, and I’ll never look at satay sauce in the same way as a result!
Getting out into local markets is always a favourite activity. The variety of fresh local produce on offer is always exciting–whether it’s a London street market, an organised indoor farmers market, or an individual selling their home grown fruit and vegetables outside their front gate, it’s always bright and tasty!
My parents retired in the South of France, and I obviously try to make as many trips home as possible. This summer I escaped there for six blissful weeks. During this time, we were presented with literally about 15 kilos of apricots from a neighbour’s tree. You know the scene in Forrest Gump with all the various ways to cook shrimp? Well that’s what happened to us, but with apricots. There were stewed apricots, apricot jam, pork with apricots, cheese and apricots, chutneys, pickles and more! There wasn’t a single meal for about a month that didn’t include apricots. But I was so inspired by the necessity to cook up and preserve as much of the fruit as possible, I started to seek out more fruits to pickle and preserve!
I seemed to perfectly time my most recent fall trip with the countryside wilderness bursting with various fruits ready to be enjoyed by any passer by. Not missing a beat, we wandered out and came back with baskets of sloes, plums, grapes, quinces, blackberries and so on. All free, all organic, and all delicious! Again, I took to the cookery books picking various ways to use our new fruits and how to turn them into delicious treats to eat or drink. My favourite from the crop of wild plums was the perfectly sweet plum and amaretto jam!
The satisfaction of picking, cooking and bottling up all the wild fruit in under 24 hours is unrivalled. You certainly get a hunter-gatherer sense of pride. I would highly recommend to anyone that wherever you are settled, to take the opportunity to make your own produce from the countryside. This Christmas we will be able to enjoy plum vodka, apricot chutneys with our cold meats, plum jam on croissants, chilli chutney with our cheeses and warming sloe gin (last years crop!), which have all been home made for almost free. Plus they really do make great ‘mitbringsels’ for Christmas parties! Not only does it give you the opportunity to try and test out local flavours with equally paired local fruits, it also means you get out into the local area to wander around and discover the local landscape.