Saturday, August 2, 2014

Making it last

We have very high ceilings. That's the parlour floor of a townhouse for you. Cave-like and freezing in the dark winter, cool and breezy in summer (we have not had to install our window air conditioners). Excellent for suspending bunches of Interesting Things.

I've never been one for drying bunches of plants. I dislike dried flowers and flower arrangements, finding them creepy, depressing and very...well, dead. Fresh flowers, yes, any day. Herbs are different, because drying preserves their flavour, long after their fresh leaves are a memory.

The mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), far right, is now four to five feet tall in wild places, with skinny leaves and wiry stems, and thinking about making pollen. I picked these bunches in succulent spring, when their green juice stained my hands and the smell of bruised sage was thick. They are still very fragrant, months later, hanging from the 12 foot ceiling.

In the middle. Well, we'd better try it sometime: guanciale - cured pork cheek. After salting and spicing it with spicebush (Lindera benzoin), it has cured for almost three weeks, smells good, and is ready for slicing very thinly. The best guanciale (gwhan-cha-lay) I had was a million years ago, at supper with my friend Eric at Mario Batalli's pizza place, Otto. My thin crust had transparent pieces of quanciale draped over it as soon as it came from the hot oven, and as the plate landed on the table they were just turning translucent from its heat.

To the left is a bunch of Sassafras (Sassafras albidum); I dried it so I could see what filĂ©  is all about (the powder made from the leaves and added to Creole gumbos for thickening).

All the way over is a bunch of yesterday's marjoram flowers, from the terrace.

Curious about the wild things? 

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