Saturday, December 31, 2011

We'll all have some figgy pickle...

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.
(Fire Bird)

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.


herhimnbryn said...

' in the doing.' Yes, indeed. Happy New Year Lucy and Tome and Mol.

marja-leena said...

Another entertaining read, I mean 'figgy pickle' makes me grin! Alwasy enjoy your writings and photography, Lucy. Happy New year to you and Tom and mol, and may there be many more such visual feasts!

PS let us know how your pickled figs (had to correct the typo 'pigs') turn out.

J Cosmo Newbery said...

Looks good to me!

Laura said...

Hardly a run-of-the-mill kitchen post! I was so delighted by the story and the photos, as always... thinking about your life gives me pleasure.
Happy new year to you, wonderful, wonderful Lucy.

Catalyst said...

Lucy, my dear, you are so talented in the kitchen AND behind the camera that it takes my breath away. And then I contemplate your writing, so thoughtful, and I am jealous once again. I'm looking forward to a 2012 of reading and viewing your posts. Happy New Year to you and Tom and Mol.

Dale said...

You forget what a mystery kitchens are to some of us!

Happy New Year.

Roderick Robinson said...

One small thank-you - coming up with "epiphany" when I needed it. Was that, in fact, an epiphany? I think so. They don't always have to be gigantic. Here's to more discoveries in 2012

Rouchswalwe said...

Prost to piquancy in all its 2012 forms! I think I'll get on with turning those bones in the freezer into stock then. Happy New Year to you, sweet inspiring Lucy, wise wonderful Tom, and warm waggish Molly!

the polish chick said...

a zesty new year to you, dear lucy, and to a sprinkling of discoveries.

i'm up after a full 3h of sleep (our little soiree was a raging success) and needed the optimism and charm of this post. thank you.

Rosie said...

Happy New Year from all of us!

Anonymous said...

Another lovely post that makes me, again, want to be living your life if only for a day. Or a morning. And this - "run-of-the-mill kitchen post"? I think not. None of your posts are run of the mill, and that series of accompanying photographs is so beautiful. This is the way I too like to cook, and write, and live. . . take inspiration from somewhere or someone else and then turn it into something all its own. Thank you always, Lucy, for your beautiful posts.
- alison

Zhoen said...

I shall always sing that song with "figgy pickle" from now on.

Happy 12.

Unknown said...

Rich perfumes from your kitchen percolate my screen and float around my head. A drowsy numbness pains my sense as though of hemlock I had drunk A Happy New Year to you and Tom and Molly too.

Fire Bird said...

Happy New Year Lucy!

Lucy said...

Thank you all my dears.

He he, pig fickle!

HKatz said...

Happy New Year to you too.

This is just beautiful:

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.

I hope the coming year is full of these wonderful revelations and sources of inspiration for you.

Thanks for linking back to my end of year post; your reaction to it was a delight. I really did need to get down in writing some of the hard lessons :) We'll see if I act on the wisdom; that's the hardest part.

earlybird said...

Sounds inspired to me. I loved this gentle soothing post. Happy new year, Lucy.

Sheila said...

Happy New Year! I don't think this counts as run-of-the-mill in any way. What fun. I hope you'll let us know in a month or two how the concoction turned out.

Bee said...

I have been feeling that joyful anticipation, too, after a long bleak period. I'm not sure why, even, as none of the circumstances making me unhappy have changed.

Your figgy pickle (although I may have just drunk that delicious sounding mead) is a neat update of making lemonades out of your lemons . . . although surely lemons have always been quite perfect and to-purpose anyway?

YourFireAnt said...

Your photographs of food and cooking are some of the most lucious and gorgeous I've ever seen.

I hope 2012 is a good one for you.


Kathleen said...

Oh, what a wonderful post, in all ways. Thank you.