Monday, 2 November 2009
Quinces and Garden Warbler
One of the joys about living here are the quince trees. We have several dotted around the garden and although like everything here they have suffered in the drought, so many of the fruits were much smaller than normal, I picked enough over the weekend to make 28 jars of Quince Jam and to freeze four kilos for cooking next year. Quinces look a bit like large yellow apples, but they cannot be eaten raw as they are almost as hard as rocks. In Spain the favourite preparation is a Quince (or Membrillo) "cheese" : a stiff, amber-coloured jelly which goes brilliantly with real cheese, traditionally a good Manchego. We found an easy recipe for Quince Jam which has become a favourite for our guests. Claudia has also invented a delicious dessert of stewed Quinces, which is superb with a dollop of cream. So most of what seemed like the last weekend of summer (ridiculously high temperatures for the start of November) was spent stirring boiling jam in the preserving pan and filling jam jars. Today, the weather has changed. It is a good ten degrees cooler with a fresh northerly wind. I spent the day indoors as well, catching up on paper work. Taking a break to prepare lunch I stood at my favourite spot indoors: by the kitchen window. Just a few metres away a Hawfunch was gorging itself on the cypress cones, along with a bright-looking Greenfinch almost dwarfed in size. A couple of wintering Blackcaps pecked at olives, a fine male Black Redstart perched on the stone wall whilst a party of House Sparrows pecked at a clump of weeds. Something else was there too: a Garden Warbler finding small insects to feed on. That was quite extraordinary. I see Garden Warblers in the garden as part of the autumn passage in August and September, but this bird is, I think, almost a month later than the latest ever recorderd in Extremadura. All this whilst waiting for the kettle to boil!