Sunday, September 27, 2009

Any guesses?

Does anyone know what these are? I must admit I didn't when I first saw them. They are in fact quince. (I don't think that should be quinces. It doesn't sound right somehow.) I picked them off a tree in a friends garden last week. The only time I have come across quince is in the Edward Lear nonesense poem 'The Owl and the Pussy-cat' - "They dined on mince and slices of quince which they ate with a runcible spoon". I didn't know what a runcible spoon was either but having looked it up I now know that 'runcible' is a made-up word coined by Edward Lear, with no specific meaning. He just liked the sound of words. (You'd appreciate that Ben). Anyway, back to the quince. They are the hardest fruit I have ever encountered. My friend Jasmine, whose tree they came from, peels and grates them raw, and uses them to make a very stiff jam. That would be very hard work in my opinion, so I decided to make the more traditional Spanish conserve, membrillo, which is a stiff jellied puree which is served in wedges with slices of cheese. So I peeled the fruit with a potato peeler. As soon as you break the skin they go brown like an unripe apple would, but they cook to a deep apricot colour. I chopped them and stewed them for an hour and half, by which time they were tender but still in lumps. I then whizzed them with my high powered hand mixer to make a puree, added sugar and lemon juice and cooked it for another two hours! Then I spread it in a baking tray and put it in a very low oven for an hour to dry out a bit, and left it to cool. Result - a lovely pinky orange block of stiff jelly, which is definitely sliceable, and looks very like the membrillo I have bought in the supermarket (without knowing what it is exactly!). So, it was a bit longwinded, but a successful exercise all the same. I also kept one fruit out and just stewed it with a little sugar until it was soft. Apparently it is a good substitute for apple sauce with pork. Seeing as we don't generally get cooking apples here, and I pay a small fortune for a small pot of English apple sauce, I am quite happy to have a pot of stewed quince in the fridge instead. Marmalade originally meant quince jam and the name comes from the Potuguese name for quince -marmelo, hence the Spanish derivative membrillo. (As you can see, I have been doing my homework. You can learn some amazing things on the internet).
Well, last week's prediction was right and we now have a trench right outside our gate, with wooden planks across it for us to walk over. Both sides of the road are up now, and there is a lot of mud and rocks everywhere. We have to park the car at the bottom of the village, which is a tad congested right now. There is a big sign up that says something about the 'Remodello de Calle Mayor' and that it is the responsibility of 'Junta d'Andulucia'. It is costing one and a quarter million euros. It's a mess right now but it will be all done in another month, and I'm sure we will benefit from it all. We had a couple of noisy, dusty days, and Chris had a big digger right outside his office window. We peeped over the front rails and saw a huge ditch below us, but they were soon passed our gate and immediately put the boards across for us. The workmen are used to seeing us go in and out with the dogs several times a day, so they knew we needed to be able to get out. Unfortunately for them, we have had some very unsettled weather which has slowed them down and made their work harder. After last week's storm, it settled down and we had some brighter days. But last night the thunder started and it hasn't stopped all day today. Nor has the rain so their trenches were flowing like rivers and we were very glad of our 'bridge'. Because there are no gutters on the houses, when it does rain, the water pours off the roofs so we put our water butt under one of the places where it spouts at a corner, and in a few hours it was full to the brim. We have just realised that it will have to stay there now as there is no way we can move it full!
My friend has to give her two little dogs a sedative when it thunders because they are so frightened, but our dogs don't seem to mind it at all. There is no shelter in their night run yet, so we brought them round to the back porch last night. We brought them in for a while today, but they are not used to being indoors and they are restless and won't settle. So we put a couple of blankets on the porch and let them out again. They laid there for a while but they soon decided it was boring and they went out and ran around in the rain. So they are very damp doggies now. Of course, even though it is wet, it is still quite warm. It's in the mid twenties now. I am still in a sleeveless sundress, and Chris is in shorts, so everything will soon dry out when it finally decides to stop raining. We are happy to see it for now. Everyone knows how much it is needed. Several villages just inland from us, have been without water for weeks at a time because the reservoirs are so low. So no-ones complaining yet. They might if it goes on for too long though!

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