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Monday, August 22, 2011

The Fruits of Fading Summer

All around me people are planning the return of the school year with autumn around the corner. My garden, however, seems to have, at least temporarily, caught itself in a time warp.

Only this week have the tomatoes that went in during mid-May started to redden. The season was so slow that I didn't have the heart to pluck out the rogue tomato plant that sprang from the upward sliding door at the foot of my compost bin, thereby making it impossible to open the drawer without severing the plant. I've had what feels like boatloads of peaches, apples and squash from well-meaning neighbors, more than I can ever eat, can or otherwise preserve. (I still have five liter-sized jars of peaches from last year soaking in rum because I didn't have the time to preserve them any other way.)

The search for the ultimate zucchini/courgette bread proved a success finally, by melding several recipes I found online including one from Martha Stewart's site. (The trick was nearly doubling the quantity of grated zucchini and pattypan squash and substituting a creamy Isigny-style crème fraïche not unlike the clotted cream of Britain fame which gave it an incredibly silky texture.) I shall endeavor to post my version next week.

Although I'm not much of a dessert person, I began making 10-inch round chocolate zucchini cakes after some experimentation, and shamelessly cut them into quarters and fobbing them off on friends and neighbors. This recipe, too, I must post. With a sigh of relief, I report that the zucchini plant has taken a hiatus and is now loaded with blooms, mercifully all female so I can stop stuffing the freezer with Ziploc bags of grated squash, at least for the moment

I'm desperate to get my large freezer up and running for the first time, a donation from a dear friend who warned me it needed a new computer board before it would run. Thus, it's been sitting outside in the dependance gathering dust and cobwebs for the past two years. It will no doubt be a great fallback when I'm too lazy or it's too hot to use the boiling water canner. Even one of my neighbors is still safeguarding for me in his freezer half a dozen jars of quince jelly that I'd made from his quince tree fruit last autumn. He's selling his house so I shall be sad to see my supply of quince fruit potentially dry up, unless the new French buyers are amenable to sharing.

I should have a couple of weeks before the avalanche of cherry tomatoes has me completely disregarding the high price of electricity in favor of drying the perky little halves in the oven. (I was truly heartbroken late winter when I dropped a precious jar of my home-dried tomatoes, soaking in premium olive oil I'd lugged home from Italy, only to have it shatter all over my tile kitchen floor and the lovely suede slippers a friend had just posted me from the States a month earlier. Double whammy!)

This week I have no time for preserving because, aside from an onslaught of work, I have a very, VERY overdue soiree here on Thursday with all the people I desperately owe hospitality to, thus, I have barely time to turn around. In my typical fashion, I've overcommitted myself to hundreds (literally) of finger foods and the making of such things as mint syrup (well, it IS starting to run amok in my garden after all) so I can make mojitos in bulk rather than (literally) muddling through it all one by one. It's a fairly unknown theme cocktail for this group of 16 so I'm hoping it'll prove popular. 

I'm anxiously watching the weather report as we've had a spate of mid-90-degree weather and now my sunny Thu forecast has turned into scattered showers, not that these forecasts are worth the bother. But if I can't have the party in the garden, we're going to be in very tight quarters in this teensy little French house. But then, the natives don't really care so it's time I stopped being so American and adopted a little more joie de vivre and a little less agita!

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