Appe(ar)tisers

(Wait: why did Appletiser think of that for their new pear drink? Much cleverer than Peartiser. Oh well, two points for me.)

Many years ago I went camping with my sister and a friend, and we visited a farm that had a house with a kitchen that I quickly fell in love with and spent the next many years dreaming about owning one day (or a version of it). It had a big old wooden table, and a hearth, and strings of garlic hanging from the walls, and shelves full of homemade preserves (and my fantasies have since padded it with copper pots – of course – and bunches of dried herbs, and Elizabeth David sipping a glass of wine while stirring a Gauloise-blue Le Creuset pot on the Aga stove).

Needless to say, I have never come to own that kitchen (though we do have a wonderful new one of our own, with dark blue broody tiles that the cats love to sprawl on in the heat), but through a series of serendipities, I have now have a special – and very real – relationship with that very kitchen of my fantasies: it belongs to my brother-in-law’s in-laws. That makes it my kitchen in-law.

Not only do I therefore get to visit it every so often, but I also regularly get bags of goodies from the farm that has, I’m sure, supplied that very kitchen with many of the raw ingredients that were eventually made into those lovely preserves on the shelves.

So on Friday I got a huge bag of pears which have kept me occupied for the last two days. Yesterday I made pear chutney with chillies from our own balcony:

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(Yesterday was also, incidentally, the hottest day of summer, if not the hottest day in the history of the world. And there I was, stirring a hot pot of chutney. It was diabolical at times, but immensely satisfying in a way that only people who like doing stuff like this can ever comprehend. We’ll be testing it tonight with a little melt-in-the-mouth lamb shank).

Today, pears pickled in sugar, vinegar, white port, ginger, cinnamon, cloves:

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These need to rest for at least a week, but in a couple of months they’ll be perfect for the cheese board.

So I’m about half way through the pears, and not sure what to do next. I’ll probably add some to the rumtopf that I started after Christmas with plums (yup, from the same farm). I’ve never eaten rumtopf, but the idea of fruits that basically pickle in rum and sugar for a couple of months is pretty enticing. I imagine the virgin trip will involve some fresh homemade vanilla ice cream, topped with pieces of the fruit, and some hot rum syrup. Oh yes, winter will be sweet.

I imagine I’ll do some poached pears at some stage – perhaps poached in one of the bottles of cheap sweet sparkling wine that we’ve collected on our travels as “complimentary champagne” in hotel rooms. A warm, spiced pear should go nicely with the brandy-chocolate-crumb ice cream in the freezer – one of my more successful experiments. I suspect there’ll be a cake too, or some kind of pear crumble.

That should bring us down to one or two pears by the end of the week. Maybe we’ll just be reckless and eat them.

In other news, I’m proud to announce that Mogwai has become a Gordon Ramsay fan:

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