19 June, 2010

Approaching the summer solstice.

Any excuse for a party. "Vive les Fêtes de la Transhumance!"
It's that time of year again: with the advent of summer, thousands of Cevenol sheep, goats, herders and their working dogs have made the trek toward the cooler mountain meadows and plateaux. This annual migration is called the transhumance. The migrations have taken place since Roman times, as noted by Pliny the Elder and corroborated by recent archeological finds. Today, the ageless traditions continue--the head ewes get the fanciest bells, and all the sheep are marked with each family's symbol, using a colorful dye. They walk for days, winding through the countryside slowly upward. They make their clanging, steady way through small villages, where the women stand watching in the doorways, broom at the ready to prevent any nibbling of their roses. In some places, it becomes a full-scale party, and a chance to celebrate the old pastoral ways. (The photos above are courtesy of http://www.transhumance.org/).Some of the herders lead their animals past my gate, as you can see in the photo above, which I took last year.Using wool from local sheep, the kids made a felt wine cooler for Father's Day (we've got some leeway, as he's only due back later in the week). You can see an armful of shorn, 'raw' wool in the photo above. It's even softer than it looks...
...and here's Daddy's gift for being Daddy. Pretty nifty, don't you think?
We're also busy harvesting the raspberries and black currants. Some berries are macerating in sugar overnight, and will soon be converted to jam and slathered across warm bread, or swirled into a bowl of homemade yogurt.
There is such a bumper crop of black currant that I will once again make some liqueur, or crème de cassis. I have discovered that beyond the classic kirs and other cocktails, it makes a sumptuous flavoring agent for sorbets, cakes and dessert sauces.
Now it's just a matter of time before the cherries fully ripen (darn delayed season and missing sun!) and the blackberries come into their own...mmm, blackbery crumble, blackberry cobbler, blackberry jam, blackberry everything.


  1. Every year in Aveyron around May 25th, they have "la fete de la transhumance". Because of the weather, they must be cold on the Aubrac right now.
    My mother doesn't cook as much as she used to but she was really, really good. She used to make the best blackberry jelly and creme de cassis.
    Yesterday at the farmer's market, I bought some chinese broccoli, chinese spinach, bokchoy and something I never tried before, water spinach. The girl said it would melt in my mouth. I didn't ask her how to cook it but I would think to either steam them and add few drops of ponzu or sauted with oil and garlic.

  2. Hi Nadege,
    Yes, Aubrac is known for its transhumance, but of cows rather than goats and sheep. I really have to get going on the black currant/cassis-picking! I went through a period where I always had bok choy in the kitchen. But that was when I lived in Amsterdam. You should go to http://www.wanderingchopsticks.blogspot.com, because coincindentally she just posted a recipe for chinese spinach (and there may be more in her extensive index). I'd try steaming the Chinese broccoli and serving it with oyster sauce. I once had water spinach in Cambodia (there referred to as morning glories) sauteed with garlic, it has a nice crunchy even after it's wilted. Maybe add some hoisin or oyster sauce. Needless to say, these vegetables are not so easy to find in my neck of the woods. Hope you enjoy them!

  3. Thank you! I will check out wandering chopsticks. The water spinach were good. I steamed them and added few drop of ponzu but couldn't taste the ponzu at all. The leaves were like butter. I love discovering new vegetables, particularly with green leaves.


Thanks for visiting my blog and joining in the conversation!

Related Posts with Thumbnails