Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Apologies & The Last Big Thing

Sorry for not posting more frequently, everyone. I was kinda busy.

Last weekend was our village of Montisi's festival celebrating the first pressings of the new olive oil. For me this represents the peak of the harvest season around here and invokes 5 little words that really get me salivating: Chestnuts, Mushrooms, Oil, Wine and Truffles. Today, let's talk about oil. Extra virgin. Green gold as Homer called it.

Harvesting and milling the olives from our 90 oil producing trees was the last big thing I had on my list of projects for this year. It's a lot of work and usually Sally, I, and our friends Russell and Momo can only manage about half the trees in one long weekend. But this year, thanks to our newest friends, Swiss cheese makers Ulisse and Sandra of agrotorismo Podere Il Casale and their WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) volunteers, we got every olive hand picked in 4 smart days.

But first, Sally and I harvested our 3 trees of meatier green curing olives which I like to treat in lye baths. In two weeks we and our lucky friends will be enjoying them as appetizers. The smaller salt-cured olives (black) will take about a month before I'm using them in savory lemon chicken in brodo and in tagines.

On Saturday, Sally and I scooted off to the village piazza for a lunch of polenta and faro soup while Swiss harvesters Christina, Louise, and Minh (who is part Vietnamese), Americans Jake and Ben of Wisconsin, and Italian Adriana of Castelmuzio, the next village over, carried on. By 4:30 they were finishing up and I was hauling the 40 pound crates of olives, six at a time down the hill in the motorized mule of my Ape, grateful to each of them for their diligent work because a big storm front was moving in.

I had gotten our nets folded and put away and was sipping a glass of wine on the front bench savoring what was supposed to be the last of the rays of sun we’d see for 4 or 5 days, when Sally hollered down from upstairs. “What is that in the field?” I hurried to the edge of the terrace to look and a 300 or 400 pound cinghiale (wild boar) sauntering across the field. It moved, with its black bristle razorback, like a wildebeast or gnu crossing the African savannah. It's unusual to see a boar so casual in broad daylight and in an open field. We tracked it a long while with the binoculars we shared. It felt like a some kind of omen. If of nothing else, that the weather was about to change.