orWine Tastings in the Comfort of you own villa or B&B while on holiday in Tuscany or Liguria

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Wednesday, 13 August 2008

my new tomato press and other tales

After quite a hot spell, (even Susan dared the freezing waters of the river in Villa, although, after an unexpected encounter with some Dutch tourists the other day, she decided to keep her kit on…) today the weather finally broke with a brisk wind and a brief, but strong shower today. So no need to water the land today and I have a bit of time to write a new entry and to conserve some of our excess harvest.

We have been keeping very busy, despite the heat. Due to our general cash shortage, we have been cycling a lot too and leaving the car at home. We’re getting rather fit these days, I think I’ll enter Susan into next year’s women’s Giro d’Italia! Anyway, apart from the tedious and perennial job of weeding and chopping down bamboo, we have ploughed over another couple of terraces in Arcola. One of them we sowed with cavolo nero (Tuscan “black cabbage”), fennel, and various lettuces. Our daily harvests are sometimes too heavy to carry home on our bikes, especially climbing up the mountain back to our village in the afternoon heat. Here is a list of some of things we’re are currently picking, and no doubt I’ll forget something: tomatoes (big beefy ones, salad and cherry toms), aubergines, peppers, courgettes, melons, lettuces, picked the last pears, some late plums, rocket, cabbages, sweet corn, potatoes, celery. Since we started fighting back the jungle that was our plot 3 years ago this is the first time, that we really are producing more than we can eat, so we are busy preserving things.
My latest acquisition is the tomato press pictured above. It’s a great little gadget. All you do is roughly chop your tomatoes (I had about 3 kg spare today) and cook them for a few minutes in a saucepan. Then you throw them into your tomato press, turn the handle and on one side the skins and most of the pips exit and the other side produces perfectly smooth tomato sauce, which you then bottle with a sprig of basil and simmer for 15 minutes in a pan of water. Apparently it does 50 kg an hour and does not only do tomatoes but any fruit really. So because it was so much fun I did the same thing (save the sprig of basil) with the last of the pears. No need to peel and core them, just chop roughly and the result: a sort of baby food consistency pear sauce. Not exactly sure what I’m going to do with it. Maybe give it to someone visiting with a baby…? or serve it with some venison or wild boar (beg some of the hunters when the season starts…).

Our social life, despite limited funds, has not suffered. James and Alison, who normally bring us rain, are over from Northampton at the moment. We had them around for dinner the other day centred around the produce of our land. A 5 course dinner for 4 cost us a grand total of about €5, which isn’t bad going I thought.
Last night there was a concert in the inner court of our house. It was classical this time, chamber music to be precise. The internationally acclaimed Hyperion Ensemble played works from Vivaldi. The ensemble consisted of 6 musicians, a violin, a cello, an oboe, a flute, a bassoon, and a harpsichord. It was probably the highest quality concert we have seen so far at our house and the atmosphere in the inner court enhanced the virtuosity of the music. Only thing was the wind was starting to pick up and the musicians had to chase after their notes occasionally. To find out more about them check them out on http://www.ensemblehyperion.com/. It was only afterwards that we realized that they charged €10 entry for non-residents of the house.

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