It’s getting dark. The shortest day is only a month away, and in my little pocket of the world light is fleeting. The good news is that you can huddle inside, put on some warm boots (okay, so they are ugg boots) and close the curtains at 5pm. It’s okay to light the fire. It’s a good thing to have meat slow-cooking in the oven overnight.
Speaking of which, I’ve been doing just that. Chunks of beef that are clogging up the freezer are appearing and spending the night simmering in beer or red wine. Slices of shank that I seared last night spent 10 hours braising in white wine and tomato, with some native herbs I got from the grower’s market, plus some rosemary in there for company.
I would’ve made osso buco, but I was too lazy to go out and get carrots and celery, so the shanks are in a thick meaty sauce, strong with onion and garlic, ready to be pulled from the bone and tossed through homemade pappardelle. Tonight it will be home-killed duck, seared until brown, then left in the cooker with red wine, onion, thyme and bay, also waiting to be teased from the bone and kept in the freezer for nights when I’m too tired, lazy, or late in to cook.
The house smells glorious when I use the cooker. But the shape of the cottage, with the chimney in the middle and the bedrooms upstairs, means that I wake to the smell of things ready to eat. At 2am I’m having dreams about bacon baked beans, about osso buco, about a dangerously dark been shin daube that’s redolent of orange and star anise. My dreams on these nights are always about long, luxurious meals, often heavy on the meat or pulses. By the time the morning comes around I’m ravenous.
Felt pretty crook last week. That knocks you about. I contemplated selling the cow. Offloading the pigs. Anything to lessen the load. Even the chooks, because they get fed and let in and out each day, were on shaky ground. Only the sheep, my woolly friends that meander freely and need little daily attention, were safe, and they’re the only ones ready for the pot.
But give it a few days, with my health improving, and all is right again. Peter Pan the boar is back from his liaison with a Berkshire down the valley, looking a little sullen but soon to be back with his favourite girl, Tinkerbell. He’ll be in the bottom paddock, helping dig up the reeds and able to forage in the grass and snuffle up roots. Maggie is back in my good books, though soon the majestic Jersey cow must find a winter home with more feed and cattle for company. I’ll be drying her off for a few months before the next calf is born.
The chickens are a joy to watch scratching in the orchard, despite the fact they’re gradually turning it into a moonscape. Maybe the lambs aren’t the only things ready for the pot. One young chook has started to crow, and we all know that only roosters crow, so maybe it is time to get out the killing cone once again. I won’t be doing much outside, though, until the frost melts from the valley.