True winter arrived this morning in a hurtling fury of bitingly cold winds and plunging temperatures. We pulled on layers and I worked in front of a blowing heater to keep my fingers nimble enough to type. Brrr!
Breakfast was a hearty casserole made with chunks of olive sourdough bread, mounds of sausage, duck eggs, milk, roasted garlic, and good sharp cheddar. It sure hit the spot.
Bear braved the frigid weather and spent the afternoon building a medieval stove to take with us to Abbey Medieval Festival next weekend. It’s going to be a beauty, based on one in the Bayeux Tapestry, with special Bear additions designed to make cooking over the fire as easy as possible for those of us out there brewing medieval-style coffee, stirring medieval Bedouin pudding, or just heating up a stew for dinner.
I stayed warm inside working through my seemingly endless to-do list that always precedes a few days away from our property. There are lamb roasts to cook over the fire for a medieval feast with friends, medicines to mix, herbs to gather, medieval garb to finish, cakes to bake, tipples to brew, gardens to water and weed, animals to water and feed, laundry to finish, bags to pack, and a staggering list of articles to complete and submit. I’m getting there, slowly but surely, and it feels mighty good to cross each thing off my list.
I finally got outside this afternoon, as the late sun was sinking down through the trees, illuminating my gardens in a filtered dance of light.
With true winter’s arrival came a heavy frost, and it put an end to my record-breaking run of eggplants, chilies, and tomatoes. I reached amongst brittle frost-bitten vines and plucked the last of summer’s bounty, delighted to still be eating such things at this time of year.
The frost didn’t hamper much else in my gardens. My vines are still covered with peas, broad beans are flowering beautifully, and the sweet potatoes and horseradish are ready to be dug up.
It was so nice to be out there, in spite of the cold, soaking up sunshine and seeing so many things growing. I’m looking forward to a few weeks down the road when I’ll be harvesting candy-striped beetroot and purple carrots, and a few more weeks when it will be time to shell fat broad beans and maybe collect the first asparagus of spring.
In the meantime we’re thoroughly enjoying our bumper harvest of home-cured marinated olives.
It’s been quite a few months since Bear and I took turns clambering up a ladder into the wind-tossed branches of olive trees to pick olives for the first time. Since then I spent a couple weeks giving them a daily bath in fresh water, then slit every single one of them and putting them into brine for another few weeks, tasting them once a week until they were just right.
Then I gave them a good rinse and packed them into jars with an assortment of marinades. Some I covered with brown vinegar, others with a mild salt solution. Into every jar I tucked cloves of fresh garlic, in some I added shards of bush lemon zest and a sprinkling of dill weed, others received sprigs of rosemary, and one or two stayed with just garlic.
I confess I was nervous every step of the way, so worried I’d mess something up and ruin all our hard work. But I needn’t have been. The olives turned out beautifully, far better than I could’ve hoped for. Some are strong garlic (my favorite!), others have an almost nutty flavour (Bear’s favorite), and others have just that little hint of lemon, dill, or rosemary (yum!). Our friend Sue declared the garlic, dill, and lemon ones the best olives she’s ever had, which, of course, totally made my day.
The sun is setting now, lavishly golden through our bedroom window, and it’s time for a glass of wine, some pasta, and writing my next newspaper column before I head to bed.
What’s the weather like in your part of the world? xo