Yesterday we picked 5.5 kilos of green and black ripe figs from a friend’s tree – and there are many more still ripening. They are delicious eaten fresh, just as they are, but we want to preserve most of them and the easiest way to do that is to make jam.
The black figs have a ‘jammier’ flavour while the green ones taste fresher. Both good – luckily we don’t have to choose between them! I cut 2 kilos of the black ones into quarters and mixed them in a big pan with a finely chopped whole lemon and 2 kilos of sugar. I then left the whole lot over night while the sugar drew the juices out of the figs.
The lemon adds some acidity and a bit of flavour. Some people, I know, add spices such as cinnamon to fig jam but I don’t think they need any other flavouring. Once the mixture had come to the boil it took about an hour and a quarter for the jam to start setting – test it by putting a spoonful on a saucer and allowing it to cool, when the surface wrinkles it’s ready for bottling. Lo Jardinièr used the colourful Catalan ceramic funnel we bought in a market in Collioure.
We now have eight jars of jam and we’ll make about the same amount again with the green figs, using the same method.
And with some of the fresh figs I made this salad: slices of fresh goats’ cheese arranged on a dish with quartered figs, sprinkled with ground black pepper and dressed with a mix of balsamic vinegar and olive oil – very tasty!
The tomatoes are coming to an end, and some of our gardening neighbours have already uprooted their plants, resigned to its being a bad year for them. We’re picking and eating peppers every day and we’re pleased we planted so many different varieties which all have their own characteristics: the ones on the left of the photo above are Corno di Toro which are good for stuffing; there’s a spicy Kolaska next to the aubergine and some Longues des Landes on the right – they’re both good varieties for grilling on the barbecue. In the centre there are a few red chillies.
For lunch today we grilled some green peppers and the aubergine on the barbecue. I then skinned the peppers, which is very easy when they’ve been grilled and the outer skin has blackened. I made a salad with them, some oregano and chopped garlic, goats’ cheeses from Mas Rolland and some cherry tomatoes, added a bit of salt and some olive oil and served them with fresh Aveyronnais bread.
We picked another five or six kilos of figs this morning and made some more jam. The recipe is very simple: for each 600 gm of figs, chopped and put in a large pan, I added 400 gm sugar and the juice of half a lemon. I brought them all to the boil and simmered until the jam thickened and began to set when a spoonful was put on to a cool saucer. Then bottle in sterilised jars. We now have twenty jars of mixed, green or black fig jam, so we know we’ll have something for winter breakfasts.
Mussels for supper
As usual on a Saturday morning, the coquillage van from Bouzigues came to the village, so we bought a kilo of mussels and ate them this evening in a sauce made with onions, garlic, wild fennel, lardons, white wine and crème fraiche. And as usual they were delicious.
The tomatoes we picked the other day are ripening quite quickly, but there were still a lot of green ones for Lo Jardinièr to use to make green tomato jam.
Green tomato jam
2 kilos green tomatoes, 1 kilo brown sugar, juice and zest of 1 lemon, a pinch of salt.
Finely chop the tomatoes and mix with the sugar, salt and lemon. Leave for 3 hours. Bring to the boil and cook for about an hour, until it reaches setting point. Bottle in sterilised jars. This makes about 4 x 400 gm jars.
It’s very good with cheese, especially goats’ cheese. We ate some for lunch today with toasted goats’ cheese and a salad made from chicory, blue cheese and bacon.
Like many villages in southern France Gabian has avenues of plane trees lining the roads leading into the village. They are beautiful and they provide much-needed shade in summer. Some of the trees are also very old – many over a hundred years old. Last week in Gabian we lost some of these plane trees to needless destruction.
Comme beaucoup de villages dans le Midi à Gabian il y a des platanes aux bords des routes qui mènent au village. Cette semaine nous en avons perdu quelques uns à cause d’une destruction inutile.
At the public meeting when the plans for the new housing development were presented we were told that four or five trees would be felled to make room for a roundabout. Last week workmen began to cut down healthy trees … and more trees … until a demonstration of inhabitants stopped them, for the moment. Nineteen trees now lie at the side of the road as sad piles of logs. The remaining trees now have posters stapled to them demanding a referendum and saying ‘Don’t touch my plane tree’ and ‘I am more than 100 years old – don’t cut me down’. I hope that the protest will change the minds of the mayor and the municipal council, persuade them to keep their word and stop this massacre of our trees.
In the garden / dans le jardin
We’re harvesting aubergines, peppers, courgettes, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, Roma tomatoes and our neighbours’ plums which make wonderful jam.
On récolte les aubergines, les poivrons, les courgettes, les concombres, les tomates cerises et les tomates Roma. Et on cueille les prunes de nos voisins qui sont très bon pour la confiture.
On the first real summer day this year, when it felt too hot to garden in the afternoon, we had a long, lazy lunch in the shade yesterday and spent the afternoon occasionally going out into the sun to tie up tomato plants and pinch out side shoots. Our daughter, La Jardiniera, did a lot of this as we‘re lucky enough to have her staying with us at the moment. Our neighbour pointed out his cherry tree – which we had noticed over the fence. Its fruit has ripened later than on other trees in the area, but it‘s ready now. He says it’s a wild cherry and the fruit is quite sharp compared with other cultivated varieties, but we tasted them and the flavour is good. He asked us if we wanted to pick them, so Lo Jardinièr went straight over and picked a couple of kilos to make jam with.
In the evening we made a clafoutis:
Make a batter with 250 ml milk, 100 gm sugar, 100 gm plain flour and 2 eggs. Pour the batter into a greased oven-proof tin or dish, add cherries (remove the stones if you have time) and put in the oven for about 40 minutes at 170 C. Because these cherries weren’t very sweet I sprinkled the whole thing with brown sugar before putting it in the oven and this made a very nice slightly caramelised crust.
And we made seven pots of jam. We make the jam using special jam sugar (with added pectin). With this you don‘t need to cook the fruit for very long so you keep the fresh flavour. Usually we use slightly less weight of sugar than fruit (about 40:60), but because this fruit wasn‘t very sweet we used approximately equal weights of sugar and fruit.
Remove the stones from the fruit. We use the olive stoning attachment of a garlic press for this. Bring the fruit to the boil in a pan. Add the preserving sugar and bring back to the boil. Simmer for 7 minutes. Put into sterilised jars. We‘ve found the easiest way to sterilise the jars is to put them in the oven at 120 degrees centigrade for 10 minutes or so.
We tried it this morning and the jam tastes wonderful as an accompaniment to fromage frais for breakfast, or with bread or toast, of course. The slight acidity of the fruit is good for jam.
A friend gave us a prickly pear leaf which was flowering. We kept if for a few days as a decoration, but now I‘ve taken four of the smaller leaves from it and put them into geranium compost, hoping they will take root for transplanting to the garden. They should do well here as the plants grow wild and don‘t need much water once they are established.
prickly pear cuttings