What I feared might happen when I started this blog has, indeed, happened. Our season has begun and I have not been able to find the time to write. It’s a pity really, as there is so much to write about. But spring is over a month late this year and there is an enourmous amount of catching up to do on the farm. Our staff have started their summer schedules, arriving each morning at 6 am to get to work before it gets too hot. We’ve had many wonderful and inspiring guests so far, and this past week we were finally able to serve all our meals outside on the terrace. Totally by chance and for the first time ever, I have a fabulous all gal team in the kitchen and we are having great fun together cooking.
I’ve been keeping a list of subjects I want to write about, and as I get time I hope to begin rolling some of them out here. But for now I’d like to at least share a few of the things I’ve been busy doing.
- It’s mulberry season again, and, like last year, we are dehydrating the berries. Mulberries, in my book, are an under appreciated fruit. When I lived in Toronto I discovered a stretch of Avenue Road where a few mulberry trees grew and I used to pick them. People would always stop to ask me about them, noone seemed to know what a mulberry was. The fruit stains a sidewalk black, that’s how you spot a mulberry tree in a city in case you’re wondering. Growing up we had mulberries and I loved to pick them for my mother who made an incredible mulberry pie. There is nothing sweeter than a mulberry pie, hot from the oven. But the dehydrated berries are amazing in cookies, cakes, granola and our panpepato. Here at Petraia we have black, white and pink mulberries growing on ancient trees that are several hundred years old and were originally planted for keeping silk worms. When we first laid eyes on Petraia, over 12 years ago now, the first thing I saw was the ancient mulberry alley lining the drive. Right away I felt at home.
- I’ve been making haggis with the pluck from our lambs. It turns out it is not only the Scots who appreciate this type of preparation. Haggis like dishes can be found in many other countries including Spain, Romania and Sweden.
- Cheese production is in full swing. For our guests I am make different kinds of fresh sheep’s milk cheese including fromage blanc and a simple rennet coagulated fresh cheese.
- For our own familial consumption I make a fresh raw milk fromage blanc type cheese that’s delicious, so simple and incredibly versatile. The cheese is wonderful eaten fresh, but also great in savory tarts, cheesecakes and gelato. The process is rather like working with a natural yeast or sourdough culture. First I made a ” mother” cheese using a fromage blanc culture. I saved the whey from that batch to use as the starter for the next cheese. The milk comes into the kitchen warm, fresh from the sheep’s udders. It is filtered and then I whisk in the starter. In a few hours the milk has coagulated. I cut the curd and transfer it to the mold to drain overnight in the fridge. Voila.
- We are busy making Digestivi. Our Spring and Fall Amaro are gaining a bit of a reputation with our guests but also on the shelf we have cherry pit, currant, verbena, walnut, cocoa nib, jamacian pepper, mint and my all time favourite our quince and honey.
- I’m making whey fermented kimchee with whatever vegetables are coming in from the orto and serving it with sourdough pancakes and my grandmother’s delicious wild apple catsup whose recipe I shared in Dinamica.
- We’re making sheep’s milk yogurt soup with mint, garlic and olive oil. Michael loves this and it makes a delicious sauce for our Cinta Senese meatballs.
- I’ve been making pork skin confit which I then dehydrate. We deep fry this for a remarkable crackling to serve as a garnish for our pork.
- Our quail, are still laying lots of eggs (knock on wood), and I am pickling them and serving that with our popped buckwheat. They are such a delicate treat.
- Finally, it’s planting time in the biodynamic calendar and this weekend we have had 2 fruit days. Our busiest planting time of the year, and 2 months late thanks to the weather. Eggplant, tomatoes, squash, beans, cucumbers, melons, alchenghi, goji, peppers and lots more are being transplanted from our glass house to the garden now.
There’s lots more too, and its coming soon I hope. In the meantime Buona Domenica…gro