Farewell to the heat of Summer

IRMA STERN Grape Pickers

IRMA STERN Grape Pickers

I don’t ever remember a summer as hot as this one, the early days of March being amongst the hottest we have had for years.

My childhood memories of hot summers seem cooled when I think of diving into the farm dam to cool off in the late afternoon, as the crows sitting in the trees above us with their beaks open in their effort to cool down looked down on us while we floated on our backs spouting fountains of the chill water into the air above us.

I do recall clouds of dust as the horse drawn coco pans went past the back of the gabled farmhouse on their way to the cellar to offload their warm cargo of Chenin Blanc or Cinsaut freshly picked just like the Irma Stern painting above.  If it was Hanepoot we would rush off to the cellar and grab some bunches before they were tipped into the destalkers.  We would watch out for the bees that usually followed the coco pans in a last minute effort to draw some sugar from the grapes.  No night picking or cooled fermentation in the 1950s!

Summer food memories are always of a large ham in the capacious fridge in the dark cool pantry, covered in a crumb and mustard crust and studded with fat black cloves or if it was Christmas holiday time rows of ruby red glace cherries.  There was usually a bowl of ripe figs from our row of trees and bunches of red Hanepoot grapes which we washed in the cool oily water from the tap of the huge corrugated iron rainwater tank which in winter was kept full by run off from the farm house roof and we drained it slowly and sparingly in summer.  That water tasted like something from the Bible, it was deliciously minerally and soft.  My mother used it to rinse her hair.

And to drink there was usually home made ginger beer fermented with raisins and thick coins of sliced ginger on the bottom of the bottles.  Milky in colour and the ginger heat catching you in the back of your throat.  Gently fizzy and ice cold from the huge heavy-doored fridge which almost needed a weight lifter to open it.

And there was always the kitchen cake.  A brown fruitcake studded with currants, sultanas and cherries and my most favourite – glacé pineapple.  Click here for the recipe.

Now fortunately as March marches on it is cooler, acorns are dropping on our tin roof.

And it was at this time on the farm that the chestnuts would start ripening and the seasons would change as leaves in the vineyards turned red brown.

Hope you enjoy the Autumn – good time for some fine red wine.

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March 15th, 2010|Categories: Michael's Writings|