Monday, September 7, 2009

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

There is a distinct chill in the air first thing in the morning when I stumble bleary-eyed out into the garden with the dogs. It is misty and damp, and autumn is definitely in the offing.

The summer has passed without remark - it hardly seems possible that I am now in my second autumn after making the most momentous decision of my life. This time last year I could never have thought that things would be unresolved a full year later, and my future would still be hanging in the balance.

I have managed well, all things considered, I have learnt who my true friends are, and who is duplicitous and not to be trusted, because, human nature being what it is, most people like an easy life, and are craven and lily-livered. Easier just to melt away or be a turncoat! So - at the risk of repeating myself, thank you to those of you who have been staunch and loving and how I have appreciated your loyalty.

On Saturday, my dogs and I had a wonderful long walk during the afternoon. It started out cold and overcast, and halfway through, out came the sun, and off came my fleece.

The hedgerows were bursting with autumnal fruitfulness and colour, the hawthorn berries had turned the most glorious red, the little wild crab apples were suffused with deep rosy flushes and the sloes, this year the sloes are magnificent. Great, globular fruits, surely much larger than usual, possibly due to all the rain. Some a dark glossy, almost sinister, purple, and some, a deep vivid blue with a soft bloom on them.

I am itching to start picking them to make my sloe gin. Tradition dictates that they should have had a frost on them before you pick them. I shall wait and see - I have a brilliant short cut when making sloe gin. Instead of pricking each and every berry with a needle, I shove them in a plastic bag and freeze them. Then, when I want to make the gin, I defrost them, and they have usually split their skins. Bingo. Another tip is to put a small teaspoon of almond essence or creme de noisette in the jar with the berries, gin and sugar, which adds a little je ne sais quoi.

I wrote some weeks ago about the berries in the hedgerows, and how they were then not yet ripe. Now they are in their full glory. Alongside the hawthorn, crab apples and sloes are the hips, a glorious orangey-red, and the elderberries, glistening darkly and ready to be made into the most delicious jelly, to eat with game, or to slather onto hot buttered toast after a chilly winter walk.

On Saturday during our walk, I cut sprays of the hawthorn berries, of varying colours and ripeness and little branches of the crab apples, tying them up with Billy's lead to carry them home, and put them in our little church, in green pottery vases, on the window ledges behind the altar. Our church is very old, and quite plain, and better for it, and looks lovely decorated simply with garden flowers or berries and foliage, picked as I did on Saturday, from the hedgerows.

This is a glorious time of year, today was warm, and yet there was a feeling of a changing season, it is now nearly half past six in the evening, and it is getting chilly, although the sky is still bright, I feel the night is beginning to draw in. I love this cusp of the changing from summer to autumn, I am always ready for it, regardless of what the summer weather has been like.

Good smells are coming from my oven. I am roasting a chicken, which I have marinated in a mixture of Greek yoghurt, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and a curry powder blend I bring back from New York. I know that sounds posey, but it is the best ever blend - I buy supplies from Dean and DeLuca everytime I am in that city, and stock pile them. I will eat it with steamed English tenderstem broccoli, and a mixture of basmati and wild rice.

Yes - I cook for myself - a chicken is what I call a progressive meal. Roast, then a simple cold salad, I then devil the drumsticks, then I make a good jellied stock from the bones and, hey presto, there is then a chicken, lemon and tarragon risotto in the offing. When the stock is made, I strip the last meat from the bones and Maud and Billy have a good supper! Years ago, there was a cookery writer in the Sunday Telegraph called Simone Sekers, and she once wrote an article on what she called Progressive Cooking - this has always stuck in my memory, and I still practise it.

I am about to pour myself a second chilled glass of a quite respectable Viognier and will settle down to enjoy my supper. Life is OK - when I have eaten I will start to consider my choices for my holiday reading for Cornwall next week. Tomorrow I will run my suggestions across you all!


Kate Lord Brown said...

Lovely post - also noticed all the blackberrys this morning out walking the hound. Good compensation for our non-summer.

justme said...

I do exactly the same trick with the sloes....pick em before anyone else gets them, stick them in the freezer and that deals with both the frost question and the pricking! Will consider your other tip....
As tho reading matter for cornwall....if you haven't read The Girl With the Snake Tatoo and sequel....take! I didn't think I would like those books. I did!
Also, The American Wife. Fantastic.

Miss Whistle said...

Do adore reading your blog and remembering what September is like in England, when it's still hot and dry here in LA. It is marvelously evocative and, as I told your daughter, makes me enormously, gloriously homesick. Have just passed your url on to my mother, as I think she'll love it too.

Thank you.

Miss W x

Chic Mama said...

Your descriptions just pull us all in......I want to be there, it sounds blissful.
We picked our blackberries last week and you've reminded me that I should pick more apples for a crumble before they're all gone.

K.Line said...

What a gorgeous post. I feel the chill in the air! And I love that you make yourself such a beautiful and substantial meal. Not only will you make use of every part of that chicken (in constructing lovely, nutritious food) but each iteration shows that you care about food and about yourself. Loved this...

Helena Halme said...

I just found your blog and enjoyed this post tremendously. I too am looking forward to making sloe gin, we often make sloe vodka as well, which is equally delicious after a good meal on a cold winter's night. Can’t wait to hear your reading list.

Welsh Girl said...

I am waiting for the blackberries to come in but have had the most amazing bilberry crop this summer. Luscious and almost as big as blueberries. Jam has been made, and puddings, and every morning I walk the loyal hound and pick some to have on my cereal.

love the sound of the chicken recipe. Might have to try that myself. I too am a fan of the progressive cooking ethos. Glad I'm not the only one!

Liberty London Girl said...

You see this is the drawback of living in America: I can't 'liberate' your sloe gin! LLGxx

Aurora said...

@Kate Lord Brown Good point - I missed out the blackberries!
Glad to hear you have a hound!

@Justme - will try the books!

@Miss Whistle - glad you like the blog!

@ChicMama - look - I am able to reply. Lovely to hear from you!

@K-.Line Glad you like the blog!

@Helena Halme I shall try the Sloe vodka. Good tip. Glad you like the blog.

@WelshGirl You sound like a girl after my own heart!

Iheartfashion said...

Beautiful post!

Martini Mummy said...

Love this post! There's a mention of it over at mine: