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Preserving September in Galicia



If August is for harvesting then September is for the job of preserving here in Galicia.

My tomatoes have been incredible this year. I have 29 jars of wonderful, organic tomato sauce for use in soups, stews and year round cooking. I have multi-coloured jewelled jams lined up on my shelves waiting to be chosen for that night’s supper or dessert. I have sun dried tomatoes in jars, looking wrinkled but holding a promise of summer flavours in the depth of winter and I have dried borlotti and runner beans drying in trays ready to store.

Some ask why I bother with all this work for a few jars of sauce or jam.

Is it work if I enjoy it? Yes, bottling tomatoes takes half an hour of my time in the morning though for the most part they just sit simmering slowly before being poured into jars. Jam takes about the same time, and the sun drying takes care of itself. It is so satisfying to see all my jars lined up on the shelves waiting for me to think up a recipe to use them in. They will last me until the new crops next year and each time I open a jar I get a memory of summer days picking and autumn days preserving. Those memories more than make up for any hard work.

In addition to my own preserving, we have been helping our lovely priest Don Pepe with his grape harvest. Don Pepe, as many of our friends and neighbours here, has an adega or vineyard high on the slopes above the river Miño. The terraces are of necessity steep and hard to climb but the views are stunning. We started picking in the cool of the morning and by midday (2pm here) we were ready for lunch. Lunch in Galicia is never, ever, a sandwich eaten on the run. Lunch at Don Pepe’s Adega was a full four courses. We started with sliced chorizo, salchichon (a sort of salami), huge green olives and a tomato salad freshly picked on site. Then came the torremos, thick slices of home cured bacon skewered onto a pitch fork and grilled over the open fire. We continued with empanada (flat pies filled with bacon and onion in this case) then came carne o caldeiro, a delicious meaty Galician stew with bread and potatoes. Afterwards there were cakes and a Tarta de Santiago which I had made. (That was nerve wracking making a Galician dessert for Galegos… luckily everyone loved it!) A hunk of local cheese so mature it almost walked away on its own, coffee and augardente rounded off the meal. Our friend kept us all so well topped up with his delicious home produced wines that we were pleased we didn’t need to do any more picking in the afternoon.

I love that this rural tradition of helping one’s neighbours in times of extra work continues here in Galicia. In many places now, this neighbourliness and sense of community has been lost. But not here, not in our small part of Galicia. Our reward for helping was not monetary, it was the joy of sharing food, wine and hard work with neighbours and friends and in the knowledge that next year there will still be plenty of wine to drink here in Galicia!

¡Salud! And enjoy your preserving!

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