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I’ve been thinking a lot about teaching lately. How we learn an idea or a skill. How we assimilate it into our everyday life.

As the summer garden blooms along the kitchen wall, I think about the lessons learned this spring. How even now, that season is just a memory and summer replaces spring thoughts with it’s full blown abundance. My friend Elizabeth Murray‘s new book- Living Life in Full Bloom is a good guide. She reminds me that “The grateful heart sits at a continuous feast.”

The Continuous Feast that is Camont is at the heart of my teaching.  I teach many things here at Camont: how to make a pastry tart; how to make a ham. How to bone out a pork shoulder and make paté. How to cook a meal from start to finish; how to confit a duck from start to finish. Those are things I can tell you how to do step-by-step, demonstrate, help you hands-on, and give you a taste of the final product. However there are other things that I teach that are a bit more…ephemeral.

Éphémère: in French, it is a wonderful scrabble word with lots of accented e’s, the name of those short-lived Mayflies that rise out of the canal once a year, and the very elegant French equivalent of the term ‘Pop-Up’.  I think that it is also a very special category of lessons I  give everyday here at Camont. Recent Butcher & Charcuterie student Diana Dinh nailed it in her ode to the Elderflower Cordial.

At that point of the trip, I had already cut most parts of the pig, slaughtered, gutted, and butchered ducks, and knew how to make five different kinds of paté. But I felt especially proud of making this floral syrup, proud enough to lug thick glass jars of it home to the States. They are proof that I could go beyond my assumptions of what I am capable of doing, that sometimes I need to get  out of my own head and just do it. “

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Everyday is as fleeting as those transparent Mayflies. The spring seeds planted have sprouted and are producing the first summer meals. Vin de Noix time has come and gone …already. The lessons learned are often not what we were seeking out, but what was placed in our path to discover. In the kitchen, in the garden, at the market…that’s easy. The stimulus for learning is tangible, sensory and dynamic. However how do we achieve that online? I am thinking about it–on this ephemeral Sunday morning in the French countryside.

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And a last Sweet Fleeting Summer memory of Paige on her Birthday at Camont- with the all-too-fleeting Chocolate Éphémère cake.

Merci Paige for all your good energy, willing help, chicken wrangling, garden digging, and wonderful family meals…at Camont.

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Before we jump into Tip # 11, refresh your last summer lessons- the Top Ten “How to have a Great Vacation in the French Countryside.”

http://kitchen-at-camont.com/2013/06/17/47-tips-vacation-french-countryside/

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and then

http://kitchen-at-camont.com/2013/08/06/47-tips-for-a-great-vacation-in-the-french-countryside-6-10/

Ready for Number Eleven? When the first hint that Summer has arrived, don’t looking back, switch gears instantly and embrace…

Tip #11   Turn Summer into a Verb

I summer, you summer, he and she summers.

We summer, you all summer, and they summer.

When I heard this some summers ago, I decided to embrace the idea from the first summery day of June to the last warm evening of September. Now, I summer all season long. And here are my favorite ways:

 

market tomatoesBuy Fruit and Vegetables in Flats as in “I’m going to summer these tomatoes!”

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Summer PitchersWill you summer the garden a bit, s’il vous plait?

slider-GaronneLet’s summer down by the canal a bit.

slider-marketThey’ve summered up the market square!

slider-tartCome over and summer a little supper with us this evening.

It doesn’t take much to get in the mood and start flinging summery sayings around your conversations. How do you define summer as a verb? let me know here. The best definition get’s a free copy of my Six Summer Recipe e-Cookbook. Comment below. and don’t forget to summer a little this evening.

 

 

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This little book dropped into my lap yesterday. Actually, it was gently placed in my basket by my bargain hunting sister on a day’s outing with the Camont Crew to the Fête des Plantes in the village of Lamontjoie.  In it is the record of one small chicken/egg producer during the year 1903. Funny how nothing much has changed. I can read the puffed up pride of new chicken ownership, the prolific accomplishment of rabbit wrangling, the punctilious accounting of sacs of grain and bales of hay between the delicate dotted lines.

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Starting with 1 coq, 14 poules, 5 cocquelets, 2 canards, et 56 lapins, this little almanac chronicles the basse-cour on one small French farm in the year when the Tour de France began.  How many feathered and furred critters raised, how many eggs laid and sold, and how much feed, seed, and hay bought over that year? Who administered this rural menagerie? I don’t know, but I am sure it was a tiny but formidable French housewife like my neighbor Madame Sabadini at the Ferme Bellevue.

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Over the year, her hens and ducks laid 2186 eggs. The season’s bounty peaked in April at 404 eggs and  by August had started to drop by halves each month, with barely an egg or two a day in October and November.   I imagine the disappoint of November marked by a minuscule zero, day after day until in a last flurry of fecundity, the ducks started laying for an early hatching.  Five large white duck eggs in Mid-December. The meticulous accounting scratched in a fine-nibbed ink pen tells more than the seasonal flow of farming; more than balancing the centimes spent and earned for feed and shelter. Most months, she spent as much or more than she earned; some months, she made several francs and centimes more than spent. It was a delicate balance. No one was getting rich. But they ate well.

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What’s old is new and barnyard chickens have their place in the modern home again- 110 years later. This ad in the back of this French booklet is touting an American feed product that included smoked (dried) meat as well as grain, oyster shells,salt, ginger and iron. Here at Camont, we feed our flock a mix of whole grains- wheat, barley, oats, flax and corn, all the garden and kitchen scraps, and all the slugs and bugs they can scratch and peck in the orchard and parc.

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It’s an old story, but I raise a few chickens- 10, and a fewer ducks 6, at Camont not because it saves us money, but because we eat the best tasting eggs in town. When a clutch of eggs is hatched, a few more cockerels are destined for the pot, a few more girl chicks for next spring growing into fat laying hens, a few old working girls retired into a golden broth Poule-au-Pot. Last year’s Christmas ducklings have now become summer confit.

We ate this simple salad yesterday. There is no recipe. Look- just an abundance of good escarole lettuce, the first local market tomatoes, and a bowl of hard boiled eggs topped by a lemony mayonnaise made with those golden yolks. One hundred and ten years of barnyard  productivity on a plate. Reason enough to learn about raising birds.

More stories about eggs and chickens at Camont:

 On counting eggs-

Making the Catalan Spinach Egg Tortilla  

What to do with duck eggs

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It starts here. The nursery at the Truite de Banka tucked along the little river, the Nive des Aldudes, that runs from the border mountains. It ends here, 2000 meters away, on our plate at the Basque Country restaurant at the Hotel Erreguina in Banka served with a glass of chilled white Irouleguy wine.  The red roe, the green lettuce and the white asparagus cross remind me of the Basque flag.

The salted & smoked 5 year old salmon-trout are yet another way to say “charcuterie”in Basquelandia.

 

 

 

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I am eating strawberries for breakfast. They still have the flower attached to the stem. They taste of spring sunshine. And juicy with last week’s rain.

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It begins here, down a dirt road along a dry field covered with small plastic tunnels- an Adventure in Red. Within minutes, ten cars are following me, turning around for a quick get away, parking and dashing into a modest brick block barn. I follow. Here are boxes and pallets of boxes overflowing with just picked strawberries from the straw strewn fields. There is an frisson of sweet anticipation as neighbor after neighbor makes their order, puts down their euros, and walks out with boxes and boxes of elongated bright Gariguettes and deep red round Clery. as the sign says- “…they were picked this morning.”

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This farm sells only Monday, Wednesdays , and Fridays between 5-7 pm. Most years, I haven’t bothered to try to match my schedule to theirs. After all, there are literally hundreds of strawberry growers in this Garonne River Valley. Boy, was I ever wrong. I have never tasted strawberries like these…even from my own garden! From this heavy clay soil, spring the sweetest berries. We bought a flat for jam and several boxes to eat in the car.

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The berries were whisked home and promptly separated from their little fairy caps by a team of cleaver wielding butchers.IMG_3414

Halved and sugared they rested overnight giving up the syrup in which they would poach and turn into a deep red, lemon-scented brew. IMG_3411

The next day, I put the kettle on high and boiled the syrup before ladling in small batches of berries to candy and glisten in the thickening syrup. there are a hundred ways to make jam- This is a classic two stage method by Confiture Queen Christine Ferber. Next batch I’ll use good friend Cathy Barrow’s excellent recipe from the sneak preview copy of her new Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry book.

And to help celebrate the Strawberry Love? Try this Sabayon recipe featured on an earlier post-http://kitchen-at-camont.com/2007/09/07/my-french-kitchen-shelf-sabayon/  and fill your glass full of sweet berries! IMG_3601In honor of Francesca’s First Ever Fête des Fraises today- here’s a painterly tribute to the sweetheart fruit by Francesca’s own Franny Golden. Our strawberries from the little farm at Roquefort 47310, France.

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Pigs & Newbies

It doesn’t take much to make a pig smile.  And what does it take to make four young cooks, butchers, and foodistas smile?  Our Spring 4 week Butchery & Charcuterie program begins here with the pigs. Here are six more happy things from the first week in Gascony.

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 1. White rubber boots and a hooded Butcher’s coat.

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2. Team Work by the Grrls Meat Camp Scholarship students Larissa & Ali.

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3. Watching Dominique sheet out the ribs on an XL Baradieu pig.

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4. Larissa jumping into the Boudin Noir production.

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5. The steamy kitchen.

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6. The tools of the trade for making headcheese, paté, fricandaux, boudin noir, and other French Farmstead Charcuterie at Baradieu.

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