marina_bonomi: (cap)
I have been in love with lemon trees for a very long time, but being far from gifted in dealing with plants (I'm known as a 'brown thumb' over here), I never gave in to the temptation to buy one.

Till this spring, that is, when I first bought a young lemon tree at the supermarket  (it's just 4 euros after all) and later, during one of my adventure trips with mother at a local garden center she was an active accomplice in choosing another lemon tree to keep company to the first (this one has a good shape and some fruits already on...) .
In fact fruits were there, and stayed on, growing all summer, while we were watching the two baby trees like hawks for signs of disconfort and reading all we could about the citrus family.

As time passed we realized that the two trees, although evidently related, were too different to be two cultivars of the same fruit, and that the 'lemons' on the older tree were getting rounder and rounder and suspiciously similar to...oranges.

Not sure of the right time for harvesting (thanks to the wrong nursery photo-ID), yesterday we had the first orange from our very own tree

The zest had a wonderful smell (we kept it for later use), the flesh was ripe and pleasantly tart, and the fruit was quite easy to peel.

I'm happy to say that both trees are thriving, maybe I'm not so hopelessy brown-thumbed, after all ;-).
marina_bonomi: (cooking)
Today my mother and I started the family's batch of sourdough.

Up to now our home-baked bread was made using brewer's yeast, that's the most common and,possibly, easier way over here. Given the shared passion for baking  we decided it was high time to try the oldest method and start what we both hope will become a family heirloom (seriously, there are sourdough batches that go back multiple generations).

I love the idea of something alive that has to be cared for ('freshened' or 'fed' as home-bakers say over here) and that links together generations of women, and at the same time can be shared as a strongly symbolic gift and brought to a new house to 'warm it up' linking it to the previous home.

That said, 'sourdough' while descriptive and accurate, makes me think of something with a sour temperament, I much rather like the name we give to it in Italian: lievito madre, that is, more or less, mother-yeast.

If you speak languages different from English and your country/family has a tradition of bread-baking, how do you call sourdough?
November the 11th, Saint Martin's day.
It is likely it doesn't tell anything to you, but over here, in my part of Italy, it is an important day in countryside tradition.

The chestnuts are dropping. Today it is costumary to eat them for the first time in the year, usually in the evening (today is a work day, not an holiday) roasted on a fire in a special iron skillet with holes, like this one (the caldarroste) or boiled in water with sage leaves (ballotte), or, at the very least, to eat a cake made with chestnut flour, the castagnaccio , or the Montebianco a confection of boiled mashed chestnuts, cocoa, sugar, rum and whipped cream (handle with care).

No matter what  your choice is, there is no doubt on what to drink: on Saint Martin's day the first  new wine, the Novello, is brought out  to be opened and tasted, and then discussion breaks: is it better this year? Did the last year ones have more 'body'? How good is this year's vintage going to be? The debate can go on well into the night.

Today was also the day on which the farm-year accounts were closed,  mezzadria  contracts ended and had to be renewed or closed, if the contract wasn't renewed the mezzadro farmer and his family had to move out of the house and property, that's the reason why in vernacular Northern Italian fare San Martino (to do Saint Martin) means 'to move house'.

From the weather we are having today, windy and cold, the onset of Saint Martin's Summer (...that lasts three days and a little bit according to a folk saying) seems in doubt, we'll see how tomorrow goes.

Note: the Wikipedia article on métayage says 'The system was once universal in certain provinces of Italy and France, and survived there in places until the end of the nineteenth century.'
In fact according to Italian law the stipulation of new mezzadria contracts was forbidden in September 1974.



March 2013

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