France-On Holiday
Surmai- Italian style

From Fig Jam to France


Fig and Bayleaf Jam

It could not have been just a coincidence. Here I was making some fig jam* while working out our holiday plans. So I sliced the figs very fine, about 1/8th of an  inch and prepared to do my jam making differently from a fine French recipe. Meanwhile, on the same day the said figs are macerating in the fridge, I find the address of old friends who had moved from Blackheath,London, where we had met them many moons ago. Now they lived in St Remy Au Bois, a tiny village in Nord Pas De Calais, having started life anew, making artisanal jams from organically grown fruits and berries.

It seemed fated that we meet again, to begin our culinary discovery of France from their home.

Farm houses in France are not even faintly like  those in India. The buildings are constructed around a vast central space.They seem quite enormous to us. Something a jagirdar would own. Many farmhouses are so old, made from red bricks or a lovely beige stone called tunneau with red tiled roofs , they were built centuries ago and are still going strong, an integral part of the beautiful landscape.

Francine outside the factory/farm

Part of Judy and Nicks farmhouse is the "factory . Here they make a variety of delicious jams , in very small batches, which are sent to all parts of the globe, their client list reading like a Conde Nast  "Best Hotels Guide". Our own Oberoi and Taj could do well with a breakfast tray holding a few of their confitures..rather than the regular, violently red, coloured jelly generally presented.

Range of Jams

Tea Together is the name of their enterprise and the jam combinations they make are unusual, fascinating and taste just marvellous. Rhubarb with Lemon and Angelica,Mirabelle with Mead, and Wild Sloe with Juniper are just a few of the selections .

Packed and Ready to Go

Judy also sources other artisanal food products from France and Italy. Extra virgin olive oils, biscuits, balsamic vinegars, and a variety of quite inventive concoctions like sugar sprinkled walnuts and tiny iced prune cakes.

View from the kitchen-St Remy au Bois

Being an artist as well , Judy has made their home  a visual feast, filling it with an eclectic collection of pictures, paintings and pieces. Something catches the eye every way you turn.And the centrepiece of the kitchen is the sturdy Aga on which our dinner was made, a marvellous carbonade of beef marinated and cooked in beer, with creamy endives alongside and potatoes, all washed down with copious amounts of wine.

Nick very kindly directed us to several places of interest around, St Valery Sur Mer, Le Crotoy, St Riquier, and we were so lucky to have 'locals' to guide us to some wonderful places to eat.

At St Valery we caught the weekly organic  market where local produce is brought and were able to try all sorts of cheeses, some great Gruyere, several camemberts, many different small goats cheeses as well as the sausages for which this region is so famous.

Abbaye St Andre

We stayed at an ancient and beautiful 'Abbaye' in nearby Gouy St Andre but that is another story...

Meanwhile about the fig jam I was making. Well it turned out "too too good" , as we say in Pune. Here is an approximation of the recipe* taken from "Mes Confitures: The Jams and Jellies of Christine Ferber".

Wash 1 kg of figs. Dry.Slice fine, into circles. Measure out 700 gms of sugar and 100 gms of honey.Douse the figs in this. Add five bay leaves.Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and keep overnight in the fridge in a covered ceramic bowl.

Next day strain the syrup from the figs and set to a quick boil.When the syrup has amost set add the figs and the juice of 1 lemon. Bring to the boil again and cook at least 15 minutes till the mixture has "jammed" .The way to check this is to put a few drops on a cold plate . A skin should form in a few seconds and even if turned on the side the drops will not slide across the plate. Remove the bayleaves before bottling.

More about Tea Together.

Now in New York

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