Remember the green figs I scrumped from the car park in Lamballe? Well, it seems these little end of year hangers-on on fig trees in these latitudes are considered pretty worthless, an atavistic remnant of the second fruiting they enjoy in sunnier climes, and really they should be stripped from the tree for its health and discarded. And indeed, unlike those I picked a month or so ago, they didn't show any signs of ripening indoors, but started to become dry, pithy and unattractive, an d none of us wants to end up like that, do we? Though I suppose dry and pithy are OK.
And yet I couldn't quite bring myself to give up on them, and looked up 'unripe figs' on Google to see what could be done. I found a rather interesting Turkish lady's food blog with a recipe for something called 'unripe fig jam' but which is more like candied fruit really. I ended up not following it exactly as it's really just made with a straight syrup, but rather making a sweet pickling syrup with vinegar and herbs and a pinch of salt, but I did take her advice about boiling them twice and squeezing them, though obviously the ones she uses are really green early season large figs, which clearly have quite a lot of nasty sap to be got rid of, but still it seemed useful.
While they were boiling, they really smelled very good, with that delicate vanilla-ish aroma typical of the fruit. Then I made up the vinegar syrup and added them to that, so they bubbled away, with some thyme and sticks of fennel. Our bronze fennel in the tubs in the garden has decided it's time to start throwing shoots again, since winter isn't showing up and it's been mild and wet, and I've been enjoying using it again.
I added some lemon juice and zest too. I do like the word 'zest'.
Then I poured a glass of mead, or chouchen as it is known here. We have very local beekeepers who make a good one, but this bottle was made by the Breton brewers Lancelot, who make excellent beer, and we bought it back in the summer when we visited the Scrap-merchant Poet's Universe. It had a seal of beeswax instead of a foil capsule.
I blanched more herbs: sprigs of thyme and fennel and a bay leaf and added them to the fruit in the jar,
but it wasn't quite enough to fill a half litre Parfait jar, so I made up some more syrup and poached some walnuts in it,
which rounded it off. I imagine eating it in a month or two with goats cheese, perhaps, or some other fairly creamy cheese, or maybe dry ham.
Then it was time to clean the cooker.
I'm aware that most New Year's Eves I come up with something more of a meditation on the moment, and hopefully more inspired than a run-of-the-mill kitchen post like this. But inspiration seems to have deserted me in that form. And yet making something bright and piquant out of nothing seems quite important just now too, for I have a kind of sense of quiet excitement and elusive expectation about things to come, that just around the corner, winking in and out of the corner of my eye, there's a whole new way of seeing, of being, that's as plain as the nose on your face and as clear as day, but also mysterious and oblique and beyond a veil. This delicious, joyful anticipation seems to be able to co-exist, or at least readily take the place of, moments of apprehension, pessimism, resignation and stoicism which is a near-sibling to despair. And I seem to perceive this in others too (though it may be because always tends to see one's own state reflected elsewhere), as when a friend writes
Each moment might be a moment of revelation, but most are not. Epiphanies. The sense of things being hidden rather than revealed, as if they were presents with almost recognisable shapes, wrapped in enticing paper. But you can't quite recognise them, and you can't unwrap them - tantalising, out of reach.
Or another, with a playful image
The joy of sidelong glances, weird and unexpected apparitions, things we never even thought of looking for: for this I wish, for all of us in 2012
Or another, in a series of 11 things, wise words all, posits that
Instability is a part of life...
Circumstances are always changing. You're changing. Life is fragile. Living involves a series of adjustments, sometimes minute, other times huge and staggering.
The making of things, the intensifying of pleasure in tasting and smelling and hearing and seeing, so that less can be more and there's no need to be greedy or demanding, is perhaps something that needs to be looked out for and honoured, even if it doesn't always succeed, and pickled figs are really rather horrid and not such a good idea after all, there was joy in the doing!
Happy New Year.