A Salting Tale II

A belated bonne année to you all. Again I’ve shamefully neglected this blog for what seem to me to be very good reasons. A nasty virus crept up on me over the festive season and I found it difficult to write when breathing like a pair of worn out bellows and wiping away something akin to mushy cabbage emanating from nasal passages. Yuk indeed!

The other reason, after recuperation was an absolute determination to sign off The Book. ‘Tis done. V6.2 completes about twelve months of indecision, wavering, rewrites and rewrites of rewrites. It is going to lie fallow now until April when the pro editor gets her mitts on it.  I’m happy to bid farewell to inscrutable Oskar, wicked Ombrine and the neurotic Richard…for a while anyway.

That done, it was time to turn my attention to the large lump of pork entombed in salt in the garage. (If you missed the first exciting episode go A Salting Tale immediately!) The time had arrived to lift the lid of the saltière to see what lurked within. Gingerly I scraped off a little of the salt. A dark, sullen red patch appeared. I gave it a poke – firm but still with a bit of give. OK it was still undoubtedly dead. The squidgy smelly mess that I had imagined was still a figment of my imagination. Time to call in the expert, James, or Jams as he announces himself. Jams came, inspected and pronounced. “Parfait, c’est prêt a partir.” Good to go.

We lifted the ham onto a large stainless steel platter and carried it ceremoniously to the kitchen table. There we gave it a dry rub down until all traces of salt were removed and relocated to the kitchen floor. About a ton of freshly ground black pepper was vigorously massaged into the ham’s now liver-coloured flesh. This we followed up with an aromatic dusting of herbes de Provence – a mixture of rosemary, thyme, marjoram and oregano.

jams-and-jambon

Once Jams was satisfied he prodded and poked at – sorry I haven’t a technical term of this – the thin end to find the hole that the thoughtful butcher had skewered ready to push a hook through. Said hole duly uncovered Jams threaded a cord since the only hooks I possess are for pictures and tied a complex series of knots probably known only to those in the innermost circles of home-cured ham.

Maintenant, le filet” Jams breathed. I produced the net in which the ham will spend its next few months. James slipped it over the ham as though he were encasing one of his wife’s shapely legs into a fishnet stocking.

jambon-peppered

That completed all was tied tight and the ham transferred to its final resting place in the barn where it will hang until my brother gets his mitts on it in a few months. The net should keep the nasties away but I have noticed the neighbour’s cat casing the joint…as it were. I wonder who will get there first?

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

‘Tis the Season to be Merry

No, there isn’t a breach in the time-space continuum, the season in question is the start of the vide-greniers – aka car boot/yard sales and I have to admit I am a v-g junkie.

When I moved to France  I rapidly discovered that every week from about now onwards, the v-g’s start. They vary widely and I prefer the small village affairs where there is anything and everything on offer – from great-granny’s frilly bloomers to rusty scrapers for getting the hairs off a pig’s skin – once it had been swiftly dispatched first of course and a load of other ancient artefacts whose purpose escapes me completely.

Oh, the rustling, rifling, poking and picking over in boxes of…well, stuff…only to stand up, victorious holding just the thing you were looking for. The cut and thrust of complex negotiations to get the price down by 50 centimes; the waving of arms, pulling of faces ( you have no idea how many different faces a Frenchman can pull to express his disapproval and disappointment at your offer); I love it.

Among all the trash and gash there are goodies to be found for anyone like me trying to “dress” a room once it is renovated. The room in question this week is my Tart’s Bathroom (or to give it a more genteel title, Guest Bathroom). Granted there is tiling to be done, the bath to be installed – well to be honest it has yet to be totally renovated – but it’s never too early to start collecting bits and pieces together. This bathroom is to be a vision of black, white and silver, with a bit of saucy wallpaper to boot.

Saucy Wallpaper

Saucy Wallpaper

I’ve been seeking out bits and pieces for this room. This is my haul to date which includes a ceramic oil lamp for those lazy soaks, two silvered champagne buckets and a bath salts jar- a gal has so many bits and pieces to store, wrought iron hooks and a pair of opalescent glass wall lights for around the basin.

Goodies haul

Goodies haul

The V-gs are very sociable affairs and there is always time for a cup of thick black coffee, a natter with friends and neighbours (they aren’t always one and the same thing) and a reveal of each other’s ‘finds’.

The serious buyers, (dealers and brocante shop owners) as opposed to flibbertigibbets like me walk round purposefully, like hunting dogs on the scent. Eagle-eyed, elbows sharp and at the ready, their hands reach over your shoulder to whisk away the object you were about to pick up and mull over. You have to be quick to make up your mind; ‘after you’ has no place at a v-g.

Then, when you get your haul home, unpack it, try it out in its designated future place, that is the moment when you find that it is just perfect or perhaps, just perhaps, it’s not quite what you were looking for. Ah well, it can go back in a box for a while, it’ll come in handy some time.