Cherry plums versus mirabelles

To blog on or not to bother?

I have decided to carry on bothering.

Because, in recent years, much of what I have assimilated and implemented in the place where I am has come from a very broad band of bloggers.

People who bother to blog. In whatever language. All of them blogging out of conviction and only the very thin minority blogging for remuneration of the financial kind.

I owe much to bloggers and have become convinced of the role (to be) played by alternative media in presenting  another side of any story. Because there are always two sides to every story. Which does not have to mean subscribing to either version but at least they point toward the third version: your opinion/independent thought/questions asked. Call it what you will, it is a real rarity where I am, both in time and place. George Orwell, Aldous Huxley: say no more.

And say no more I shall on this blog because I shall continue to keep politics out of it. Apart from the fact that the production and procurement of food have long since become a political act. Whether you realise it or not.

I digress.

As a promoter of pomology past and present it is time to set the record straight on cherry plums and mirabelles. I know, right up there on top of everyone’s priority list…!

The thing is, I keep hearing (town) folk here banging on about the mirabelles being ripe. In July.

And when I (the foreigner with still slightly accented German who is supposed to be a translator by profession, and not a wannabe fruit farmer – very unGerman, diverging from the trodden path…), presume to tell them that its the cherry plums that are ripe now, in July, I get told: “well, they look like mirabelles”.

Aaah… no.

Cherry Plums (Prunus cerasifera)

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Ripen as early as the beginning of July, occuring in both red and yellow.

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The very first of the stone fruit to blossom in the spring.

 

 

 

Slightly milder than mirabelle plums, their stones are smaller and yellow cherry plums are far more uniform in colour than mirabelles. Cherry plums are great for snacking on or for use in summer fruit salads. They make a very good purée, too (much less acid than some of the later plum varieties) and I also juice them as the basis for mulled beverages in the autumn and winter.

 

Mirabelle Plums (Prunus domestica subsbp. syriaca)

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They ripen only in late August, early September and have distinctive “red cheeks” where the sun catches them.

Somewhat stronger in characteristic flavour than cherry plums, mirabelles are a good preserving fruit (although also great eaten straight from the tree on a later summer’s day), and very popular with schnaps distillers. Which I am not, so my mirabelles end up in bakes and purées – where they are reminiscent of their prunus relative, the apricot (Prunus armeniaca).

Mirabelle Tart (2)

 

Spring Shades

Two years ago, Mini-Kraut and I had great fun colouring our own eggs for Easter:

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Mini-Kraut is now more into more technical creations and I am lucky enough to be involved with our local community supported agriculture initiative where Gerhard, our “summer farmer” (who delivers organic, free range (i.e. normal!) eggs throughout the winter – his hens sometimes take their winter break in summer) – has hens who lay blue eggs:P1190772

Perfect for our Easter decor this year!

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And if you want to know what determines the colour of a hen’s eggshell, here’s the answer, click on the link: The Colour of a Hen’s Eggshell.

 

 

 

 

Spring in the South

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Orchards and groves: close relatives, worked, or working, trees, they occur throughout Europe as both rich habitats and heritage features in the landscape.

Meadow in May P1200053

 

 

 

 

 

I am paraphrasing Ian Rotherham of Sheffield Hallam University here – a man far more knowledgable than I on the misunderstood and threatened resources that are orchards and groves. (Orchards and Groves: Their History, Ecology, Culture and Archaeology, Landscape Archaeology and Ecology, Vol. 7, 2008, published by Wildtrack Publishing).

I do know how to appreciate them, though, and was privileged to be able to visit the almond, citrus and olive groves of southern Spain’s Andalusia at the beginning of March – a pre-season dose of spring for this traditional orchard fan(atic) from north of the Alps!

In fact, with elements of spring, summer and autumn all happening at once, it was a real feast for the senses!

Some almonds in blossom, some already fruiting, depending on location and elevation.

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Citrus, ripe for the picking and on your doorstep, literally…

Magnificent, majestic symbols of the heritage of which they form part: olive trees,

many still resplendent with olives as the harvest season draws to a close.

The feast for the senses continues at Malaga’s main food market: olives, almonds and so much more, by the bucket load!

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With many elements of local distinctiveness on offer too!

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Carrot Jam

This is a recipe that has grown out of a task I took on last autumn: volunteer vegetable photographer  for our community supported agriculture initiative here where we live in Germany. A nice gallery of veggie photos we have built up in the process too: Veggie Gallery.

And, while the orchard is enjoying its winter rest, I have been pickling and preserving my way through the produce 🙂

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Carrot Jam

 In the Orient a classic, for us, something different for the breakfast table

1kg carrots, peeled and grated

Zest and juice of 1 untreated lemon

Zest and juice of 2 untreated oranges

2 tsp ground cinnamon

Pinch of ground cloves

½ tsp crushed cardamom seeds

500 g brown sugar

250 ml apple juice (naturally cloudy i.e. unfiltered)

 

  1. Combine the grated carrots with the sugar in a bowl, cover and leave to draw overnight.
  2. The next day, place the carrots and sugar in a large saucepan together with the remaining ingredients and stir over a low heat until the sugar has completely dissolved.
  3. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, remove the lid and boil for 30 to 60 minutes until the liquid has reduced to the consistency of jam (test for a set if you want to be sure).
  4. Place in sterilised jars and seal immediately. Keeps for several months if stored in a cool, dark place.

 

Makes about 1.3 kg

The Return of the Light: A Gallery

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Imbolc 2017

“Lichtmess”, or Candlemas as it is known in English, is the Christianised name for an age-old European festival celebrating the return of the light in the northern hemisphere, its roots going back to the Celtic festival of Imbolc celebrated on the evening of 1st February.

As of February, the increasing hours of daylight start to become more noticeable and the day’s work again begins and ends in daylight.

In the country calendar “Lichtmess” or Candlemas also marked the end of the annual employment contract for farmhands and maidservants: traditionally presented with a farewell gift of a new pair of shoes from their farmer employer, come Candlemas on 2nd February, farmhands were free to seek new masters for the next year.

Neither farmhand nor in need of a new master, Imbolc always lightens my spirits, just knowing that the light is back. Be it with candlemaking or a ritual “back to the light” hike or bike tour, it is cause for a personal celebration:

 

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