Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Fresh strawberries

Well, it is that time of the year again and the strawberries are finally coming in. I am always blown away by strawberry time. All my life if you wanted fresh strawberries you had to pay some pretty large amount of money for one of those little green cardboard squares and now we literally have buckets of the things coming in. We pulled in three, about 25 kilos two days ago and will probably have the same amount again when we go up tomorrow. Last year was all of 11 buckets- about 100 kilos. These, with the perfect spring weather, it looks like we will do better.

That first strawberry orgy is really something. If you haven’t had a really fresh strawberry in a while, the taste hits you in the mouth and soul at the same time and your body just explodes inside. We ended up shoveling the things down hand over fist, going through several kilos in that first sitting. Yes, we know all about strawberries and crème but unfortunately we have not whipped any cream lately because we so far have only had store bought crème here and for some reason we can’t find anything bigger than 10% fat, which means we simply can’t whip it up into form. Imagine that? There is no such thing as whipping crème in Belarus. I mean, for the last year or so you can by that can that spritzes out cake toppings, but nothing fresh. Disappointing. We will have to take a few liters from the villages this week and try again.

I know this is going to strike you as being a bit out of whack, but we like strawberries and popcorn. Popcorn was another of those things that we had to wait a long time for. We have a couple of hundred plants of that variety coming up at the moment, so we should have a lot more come October.

But anyway the recipes are for after that first time. You have to be calm I order to play games with the fruit. But we have started with the basics already. Tanya already made a couple of liters of jam. And with Egor’s birthday next week there will be some sort of strawberry/coconut crème pie.

These coconuts are kind of a weird edition. We do a special fruits only breakfast on Saturday mornings and one morning Egor got the call to go and buy what he wanted for a change and he came back with one,. We thought he was nuts when he did, but we all really liked it a lot and since then we have had one every week. This fruit breakfast though is a big deal for us because it is really expensive. And even though it is once a week, we don’t get to buy things like peaches and nectarines and such like that because the cost is simply prohibitive. So we make do with apples, bananas, a couple of kiwis, some oranges and lemons for the water and tea. All these are affordable here. It would be nice to have a fruit bowl out on the table every day, but it would eat up too much of the weekly allowance if we did.

But then again the season is on and soon we are going to be fat with fresh veggies. We did the garden out in front of the house almost complexly in salad things this year so we have a huge salad bowl on the table every day. Lettuce, spinach, radishes, green onions and some parsley watercress and basil are fresh for picking right now and will continue to be. Zucchini and young cabbage will be coming home soon along with the pickles and this year’s garlic as well. And, this will be a great year for apples and this means lots and lots and lots of fresh juice to drink, save and of course, ferment into wine.

This I am really looking forward to because we didn’t have any last year and the year before as you remember, what wine I did make got stolen by a couple bums from our village. That was a real heartbreaker.

I learned how to make wine back in the states by the way. I lived in Minnesota for a couple of years and a friend and I decided to try making beer. It was a pretty expensive proposition making all that beer- but once I got into it I saw that any kind of fermenting process was basically the same and I switched over to wine which is basically easier and a bit more useful as far as I am concerned. And it tastes better. When time and situations allowed for it I made gallons of the stuff using apple or grape juice bought from the store. Here though we have the luxury of an apple orchard to take our juice from and so there will, at last be some wine.

And this is what is going on now. This is strawberry month and this means handfuls of rich, fresh, sweet and tasty berries and the season means that we have lots and lots and good things to eat and drink. And really, it is wonderful.

But the thought comes to my mind that what I am speaking of might sound a bit small and foolish to a lot of people. I suppose if you are used to buying everything you want whenever you want it, waiting a long time to get something or having to work for it might seem rather stupid. And maybe it is. But I really, really feel good these last few days and for sure most all of it is from the fresh food that we have been able to eat as of late. No small thing here but when we do get it, it is appreciated.

More soon…