May Day ~ Mayday ~ M’aider: in a pickle
May Day. All is quiet this early morning but the vast aviary outside my kitchen door. In France, this first seasonal holiday, Labor Day, is the promise of Summer to be. Although it still smacks of worker’s right and labor issues, waving red flags or lily of the valley, it is just a very quiet day in the Gascon countryside.
Mayday- Mud! The famous Garonne River Fog is late this year; it has rained, rained, rained these last two weeks. So much rain now that with the soggy bottom clay silt soil holding moisture like a sponge, the promise of a clear sunny sky later makes morning fog. My own little micro-climate at Camont alongside canal & river is good for the garden…if I could only get to it though the muck.
This week’s market also shouted “Mayday” with a rouge abundance of rhubarb, strawberries, peppers and early tomatoes. Instead of pique-niques, boat rides, country walks, and gardening, I’m sticking close to my Keeping Kitchen and brewing up some seasonal treats- micro batches, single jars, starter vats. Here’s the list from the market booty…
- Rhubarb- candied and dried to be used in a Gateau Basque
- Red pepper & piment d’Espelette Jam
- Cilantro & mint salsa verde (Cinco de Mayo!)
- Strawberries… oh, just eat these while working
Lunch is green.
- Sauteed Brouttes or cabbage shoots with
- Green garlic heads cut in half and slowly caramelized
- Raw Beet salad with walnuts and above garlic
M’aider means ‘help me’ in French. and just as it was adopted as the universal cry for help in 1923, I need help, too! The large glass barrel I bought a couple weeks ago still sits empty. Now with radishes, garlic stems, beets, wild leeks, onions, shallots, cauliflower and carrots to clean and peel, pack and pour…I am in a pickle.
Or will be, as soon as I can fill the jar with homemade vinegar brine and special Gascon pickling spices. Keeping up with the Spring bounty is a serious job not to be slighted by holidays and distressful spirits. My French kitchen is never quiet, at any time of year, but now I see that my lopsided pantry needs a bit of balance. This year, the confitures will be given a run for their money by the newly appreciated pickles.
Where do you go for inspiration and advice? For pickling help across the planet, I turn to my blogger friends and few old reliable cookbooks. Here’s my beginning pickle list:
- Mrs Wheelbarrow’s Pickling Page for a great reminder of why we pickle- cocktails!
- Punk Domestics for the wide community of DIY pantry freaks
- Hank Shaw hunts, fishes, gathers and pickles here.
Remember, you don’t have to make huge batches of pickled anythings, just a jar tucked into the back of the refrigerator will be a welcome surprise as you do a little ‘Fridge Foraging’ later this summer. Trust me!