Lizzy pickles, jams and conserves in France

Lizzy Pickles, Jams & Conserves in France

I’m really excited about this, my first article on the blog. When I spoke to Patrick last week, I was up to my ears in pickling, jamming and conserving and our chat seemed to take him deep down memory lane. I know that kitchen skills in the UK are really high, in part thanks to things like The Great British Bake Off and the host of cookery programmes on TV. So Patrick and I thought my French kitchen activities might be of interest to you, the Frog Blog readers.

In rural France where I live, everyone is still hugely affected by the seasons. I remember serving my neighbours a tomato salad during the winter months when I first arrived (as well as a strawberry tart). They found this really odd because they couldn’t understand why someone who loves food as much as I do would want to serve dishes that were so out of sync with nature. They agreed that the tomatoes and the strawberries were tasty, but it was clear that their out of season setting was disturbing for these people who live so close to the land. I’ve since learned to embrace the seasons in much the same way as the locals have done all their lives and will no doubt continue to do so.

In the last 3 weeks, I’ve ‘processed’ what seems like 3 tonnes of tomatoes, 2 tons of strawberries and a ton and a half of pork as well as a whole host of other bits and pieces! Clearly I’m exaggerating to make the point, but I now have a larder that’s stocked up for at least this winter and probably half of next. I’m not the world’s greatest gardener, so I took my neighbour up on the offer of planting some tomato and strawberry plants for me earlier in the year. He planted a range of different tomatoes, with everything from small cherry tomatoes to coeur de boeuf, which is a really heavy, juicy tomato, which I’m not sure exists in the other parts of the world (it probably does, but the truth is I don’t know what it could be called).

Some of the tomatoes he planted didn’t ripen and as I looked long and hard at the stock of green tomatoes I had lying on my worktop, I had to work out what to do with them. I reached out to Google for my solution. As a result, both me and my neighbours now have a stock of green chilli jam. Mine is distinctly hotter and nippier than my neighbour’s, but they’re really enjoying the experience with some local brebis cheese. Needless to say, I eat it with pretty much everything!

With the ripe tomatoes, I’ve made bottles and bottles of home made diced tomatoes, some with olives added for extra measure, some with fresh basil. I don’t think I’ll need to buy a tin of tomatoes for a very, very long time. What’s more, I think with the flavour that these home made bottles have, I don’t think I’ll go back to tinned ever again.

With my harvest of strawberries, I’ve made the most heavenly strawberry jam I’ve ever tasted, even though I say it myself. As well as this, I’ve made sachets of coulis, which will be such a treat in the winter months, either mixed with cream or even as a base for a fruity sauce to go with something savoury.

It seems odd, but in September around here there’s an abundance of pork in the supermarkets. I’m not really sure why (and it’s something I need to find out more about), but great quality, superb tasting pork sells for as little as 3 euro a kilo and I took advantage and bought a load, with the notion of freezing it. Then my neighbour introduced me to the notion of confit de porc fait maison. Roughly translated, this is home cooked pork that’s conserved in duck fat.

What you do is rub the pork in garlic, salt and herbs and then leave it to marinade in the fridge. Thereafter you melt the duck fat and add more herbs and immerse the pork in the fat to slow cook. Once it’s cooked you lift it out of the pan, put it in a jar and cover it in the duck fat. Once it’s cooled, all you need to do is store it in the fridge or you can sterilize it, so it will keep out of the fridge for months. When you come to serve it, you have a perfectly cooked piece of pork to eat either warm or cold…in my mind, it certainly beats paying 20 euro a kilo for cooked pork in the deli! Anyway, it’s time for me to get back to my French kitchen…