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Autumn in Brittany

Autumn 2008 has been one of the most bountiful of the last few years. Apples were literally covering the floor in every orchard, and even people with only a couple of trees were running out of ideas of what to do with them.

On sunny days the air was literally perfumed with apples, and it was such a pleasure to take a country walk, sniffing heavily. I suppose our French neighbours have more experience on packing apples and making them last for as long as possible, whilst English people tend to make chutneys, jellies, pies and actually freeze the cooked apples.

My French neighbour thought this was very odd, even though they do freeze well.Walnut trees have been covered in nuts and I picked well over a 1000 from our tree. This was calculated daily picking them as they fell. I didn’t literally stand there counting 1000 walnuts!

A friend of mine makes walnut soup, which is delicious, and walnuts tossed in butter in the frying pan brings out the taste, to add to any meal. I made Walnut pickle and Italian walnut liqueur for the first time this year, and sadly for my patience, the liqueur won’t be ready for a year, and is better after two.

The hazel trees have been fertile too, and the grapes around the doorway at Les Touches have had a very sweet, heavy crop. Plums were plentiful and plum chutney is the very best thing I like to make with them.

My friend brought me so many from her small orchard, that I ended up making jars and jars of chutney and jam. Then experimented with different flavoured jellies. I added chilli to one batch, rosemary and thyme to another. The taste was quite interesting.

Interesting too, to watch the faces of visiting friends, as they struggled to decide what the flavours were, as they tried it on their morning toast. We have also found lots of mushrooms, and as yet have only identified them in books and not eaten any, as there are lots in the markets now that we know are safe.

This is such a short season for them that I find myself with my nose in the mushroom cookery book, wondering what to try next. Today is a little damp, so it is nice to remember the abundance that we have just had, and can still enjoy it, tasting the produce of that generous season.