Windfall Ideas for September
I’ve just been talking about the Tween Seasons, those transitional weeks as Winter packs up the frosts and gloomy skies and Spring arrives all flouncy and pink. Chica and I just went out for a pre-dawn snoop, and who did we meet at the top of the driveway? Orion—in all his starry corseted wonder. And like greeting an old friend, I was comforted by his arrival and the September shift of seasons, from Summer into Fall here in the French Hemisphere.
September is a giving month at Camont. The random fruit trees are at the point of dropping and the word windfall springs to mind. Although not unexpectedly, the big green apples dropping from the front door tree in heavy thuds are a real bonanza. Oh, all the apple tartes to come! The Harvest Jam is dark with figs and berries; some of these crisp tart apples to sweeten a Courgette Chutney; and if I have the time, a big pot of Compote de Pomme which always gets eaten with yogurt and muesli on winter mornings. Pears will adorn a buttery crust with pinenuts for a pique-nique lunch on one of my Classic Gascony Cooking Weeks.
Then there are figs to pluck from the trees, two or three different cultivars produce all at the same time, of course! These giant green figs are destined for a true Confiture de Figues aux Noix* which will be saved for any number of Gateaux Camont like a Gateau Basque but with fig filling. Next, Fig Leaf Ice Cream and Caramel Sauce appears with a lacing of the jam stirred through at the last minute. The Figgy Barbecue Sauce I created was a complete accident the year I scorched the bottom of the vintage Le Creuset. In order to salvage the sticky sweet and definitely smokey fig jam (the casserole survived), I used it as the base for a tangy and spicy Smoky Figgy BBQ Sauce.
But the Queen of September are the Pêche de Vigne or Pêche Sanguine that drop with a satisfying plop into my cradling hand. They bruise so easily I never squeeze with my fingers, but give them a slight pressure and turn and if they release on their own into my palm, they are ripe. There are never enough to squander so I plan the basket or two I harvest carefully. My favorite way to celebrate their deep ruby flesh tasting of raspberries and white peaches at once is to make a Bellini Purée to have on hand for Champagne cocktails to celebrate some September Birthday or to spoon over a bit of icy lemon verbena sorbet. I always add some to the aforementioned Harvest Tarte for their color and peachy sweetness but best of all is just to eat a couple out of hand as you walk around the garden peeling the deep gray fuzzy skins off as you go.
It’s easy to miss the boat of this abundant short season. If it rains, the figs will rot on the trees; if you leave for a last hurrah at the beach (which I am doing in a week- See the Insider’s Roadtrip: Catalunya here); you might sacrifice the blackberries to the birds and other small critters. But here’s a little truc— you don’t have to do it all! Just mark the season with one special harvest and create a few jars of September to place in your pantry for some winter morning, when Orion is still standing guard over your house.
Figgy BBQ Sauce Camont Style
I usually make this with water ever is at hand and what needs to be used up like the bottom of some jar of red pepper paste, the last tablespoon of molasses, etc.
1 kilo of very ripe figs, split one are just fine. Cut into quarters or slices
600 grams of sugar (any kind will do here-white, brown, raw, etc)
2 lemons, remove the zest and squeeze the juice; add both to the fruit mexiture
one large onion or several shallots cut into small dice
a few garlic cloves sliced or smashed
4-6 fresh or dried bay leaves
300-500 ml of good vinegar- red wine, cider, ect.
Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, or any spicy paste to taste
salt to taste
black pepper to taste
add other spices which might included: cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, mustard seeds, coriander, etc
Combine all the ingredients in a large pan and bring to a rapid boil. Let boil for 15-20 minutes until the sugar is melted and the fruit is thoroughly cooked.
Reduce the heat and continue to cook until the sauce starts to reduce, about 30 minutes. stirring often and watch for scorching. Use a diffuser under the pot if necessary.
When reduced to your desired thickness turn off the heat and let cool. At this point you can pass the mixture through a food mill for a smoother sauce, leave it chunky, or continue to reduce until you have a thick paste.
I usually bottle this in jam jars and keep in the refrigerator; you can can and process the sauce as per your favorite method.
*I use the excellent book Mes Confitures by Jam Queen Christian Ferber for all things confiture.