Another month goes, and and here's another one of my futile effort to post something at least once a month (typically at the very end of one). I was going to write about how we racked up more summer fruits than we could handle this month, but I seem to be running out of time (again), so today I'm just posting some photos from a day we went berry picking earlier the month.
...But before then, we also went to pick apricots!
two years ago).
And there was another thing we were there to pick:
I made it for the first time two years ago, out of curiosity, and to my delight (or more to my booze-loving families') it turned out to be quite exquisite. I vowed to make it again in a larger batch, and here I am finally with some young walnuts in my hands again.
this recipe, and I did the same this time. I hope it'll be as good as my last batch; the last of which is pictured above, the dark stuff in a small bottle; it's two year's old, and I plan to leave it sit for a little more and enjoy it slowly....
Now, back to apricots...
over and over again, they have grown on me - at least when cooked. The only time I really enjoyed eating fresh apricots as is was when I had most scrumptious, intensely sweet and tart fruits in France. And even the ripest ones just picked off the tree here weren't quite up to par, which is a shame when they look so promising and inviting.
So I've reached this conclusion: with apricots, you really do need to cook them to make them shine, brighten up their flavor. When uncooked, they can be a bit mushy and taste rather bland; the heat seems to bring out their intense tartness and impart the freshest smell.
This year, I made it again with honey, and with some white wine - also taking a leaf from my mother. I started with very ripe apricots, chopped and pitted (but not peeled), mild honey (about one-quarter by weight of the fruit), and a good pour of dry white wine. I cooked everything down to a slightly chunky sauce-like texture.
And the stuff in the large jars? Why yes, more homemade liqueurs...
two summers ago. The other one is something lighter and sweeter, apricot liqueur with cardamom - our favorite from last summer; I adapted these recipes, and prepared it by gently heating together 300-350 g (11-13 oz.) halved and pitted apricots, 150 g (5.5 oz.) honey, and 500 ml (about 18 fl.oz.; a little over 2 cups) white wine, and 1 tablespoon amaretto (optional) to a boil before removing it from the heat, pouring it into a large jar and adding 200 ml (about 7 fl.oz.) vodka. I left it in a cool, dark place for a week, then strained and filtered it to leave it for another month or so before it is ready to serve.
By they way, don't discard the fruits left after straining the liqueur; they are sweet and boozy, and absolutely lovely in some little desserts!
And you'd think I'd have been busy cooking with all the apricots we'd picked? Well, I was, except I went out to pick some more fruits, on the very next day we picked the apricots.
Santa Berry Garden, a pick-your-own farm specialized in a variety of berries and currants.
And my target of the day was berries.
Fresh fruits are abundant here in Nagano where I am now, and we are blessed with a large variety of fruits that aren't too common (or inexpensive) in many other parts of the country. Apricots and blueberries are among them. Raspberries are not.
I love most of fruits (not apricots... well, not fresh), and love all sorts of berries. And raspberry is possibly my most favorite berries of them all. My tragedy is, they are not among the most widely available fruits in Japan, especially fresh ones. Basically all fresh (or frozen, for that matter) raspberries you find at supermarkets are imported, and disgustingly expensive; a small basket for ten bucks, what a bargain! I shudder at the thought of cooking them, and could only dream of making desserts laden with fresh raspberries, or simply gorging myself with a bowl full of the fresh berries.
And on one late June day, as I was munching on mulberries, it occurred to me: there must be someone growing and selling raspberries somewhere around here. So I did a bit of research on the Internet, and couldn't find any near us. But there were a few of them in Nagano, and one of them was this Santa Berry Garden.
This was my second time to visit a PYO farm for raspberries. The first time was when a friend of mine took me to one near Sheffield in northern England, more than five years ago. I was practically bouncing up and down in excitement back then, but I was excited nearly as much this time, too, as it was my first time in Japan, and this time I could bring home as much as I wanted.
Now, while I was all excited taking photos of beautiful raspberries (who wouldn't??), my folks were checking out other parts of the farm and found something that interested them more...
While they were happily picking the purple gooseberries, I went further into a currant section of the farm...
got quite a lot from a friend's tree back in June.
Gooseberries and redcurrants I could pass up. But this, I couldn't:
Now perhaps many of you may have seen all these berries and stuff a lot of time and can't see why I could be so excited about them. But what about these?
And above all, I didn't come here expecting to find white currants, so imagine how happy I was here! It was like a dream come true.
this post by Aran, where she used a gorgeous bunch of rose-colored currants, which were dreamily beautiful. Now I find myself coveting for some of these... we never seem to stop crying for the moon!).
But all in all, I was a very happy girl there.
That said, I'm not sure if I should have been wanting more for the day...
bitter lesson from my past blunder, you see.
Now, after a hard work, we treated ourselves to some refreshments.
And as we looked around sitting back in the shade with our thirst quenched, we could see the place was really rather pretty.
Before leaving the farm, I picked up a handsome raspberry plant, which eventually found its home in a corner of our family friends' sunny vegetable patch. Our own garden is hopeless for most vegetables and fruits; we've already killed a few blueberry plants along with many other things. Although, a blackberry plant that nearly died last year is coming back now, so we're hoping it'll make it....
And by the way, that was exactly what I did on the following day.
And of course, there were a few more things I made with my berries and currants - and apricots too.
Meanwhile, I hope you are all enjoying or otherwise getting on with the summer (if you have it) and treating yourselves to a lot of summer fruits and vegetables. Summer has just began here. -cxx