27 August 2009

Food, the car, and the trips

I ended up canning that thick tomato sauce that I made day before yesterday. We just don't have enough room in the freezer, and I found half a dozen jars of the right size down in the pantry. I poured the boiling sauce into the sterilized jars and then processed the jars for 30 minutes in a boiling water bath. I hope that's sufficient to protect us from botulism this winter, when we plan to eat it.

Yesterday I started the process of making rabbit rillettes again. That's potted meat and it can be made with pork, duck, goose, or rabbit. I think the rabbit rillettes will make a good dinner Monday night, when Evelyn, her husband, and their friend Linda will be here for the evening and to spend the night. And if there are some rillettes left — there will be, because I'm cooking two whole rabbits — we will be able to take the leftovers down to the Cantal with us.

Meanwhile Walt is going to make a zucchini quiche and a salad of carottes râpées en vinaigrette over the weekend. With some of our fresh tomatoes as an accompaniment, we are unlikely to go hungry when we get back from Paris on Monday.

Sunrise over La Renaudière on 26 August 2009

The old Peugeot 206 checked out just fine yesterday chez le garagiste, and I got the air conditioning serviced. It is now blowing colder air again. BTW, I have put the purchase of the Citroën Berlingo on hold, because the dollar is so low right now — one euro is worth about $1.42 American. That means you need to take the price of a car in euros and add 50% to it to get the price in dollars. In other words, €10K = about $15K.

We really don't need to buy a car right now. The Peugeot is doing just fine. I'm going to wait until spring. One of the rules of retirement is: don't spend your money unless you need to — or at least really, really want to. I'm not at that stage yet.

Morning skies over the vineyards near Saint-Aignan
26 August 2009

Today I really have to get going on my plans for the weekend in Paris and the week in the Cantal. If you are confused about where we are going, well, the Cantal is a département in the région called the Auvergne, which is made up of four départements. The Auvergne region covers 10,000 sq. mi. That's about the size of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, or Vermont. Not combined— each of those states, like the Auvergne, is about 10K sq. mi.

It's interesting that the population density of the Auvergne is just slightly lower than the population density of New Hampshire: between 51 and 56 people per sq. km. The two places are comparable in many ways, except that the Auvergne is landlocked. And speaks French. But both are mountainous areas, green and rugged.

Status report: Touraine grapes in late August

The Auvergne is also the name of an ancient French Province, like Touraine or Provence or Champagne. The old provinces still have a cultural significance, but the modern administrative divisions of France are the départements and régions.

From our house to the town near Salers where we are going next week, it will be a four- or five-hour drive. We will drive down past Limoges, which is a town nearly everybody has heard of because of the china made there. And we will end up at 3,000 ft. of altitude, compared to our 300 or 400 ft. above sea level here in Saint-Aignan.

Callie was born in the Auvergne, but in the département of the Allier, north of the Cantal. Wonder if she will feel at home?


  1. Hi, since you're going to Paris ..., I took a long walk with a friend last Sunday (http://ellenlebelle.blogspot.com/2009/08/what-walk.html)

    Have a nice trip. And fill yourself with some good Salers beef and wonderful cheese in the Cantal.

  2. Hi Ken,

    It's interesting that you compare the Auvergne to New Hampshire. You must have known you'd get a rise out of me!

    Now, don't get me wrong; I'm not knocking the Auvergne for beauty or anything else. BUT, by my count, NH has about 1000 trees for every one in the Auvergne, and where are the lakes?

    Lake culture is inbred here as in my native Minnesota; everyone goes "out to the lake" or "up to the camp" in the summer. This is Garrison Keilor Country-East. Lake Wobegone is just re-named Lake Winnipesaukee and if you're a native, you can spell it by the time you're 4 years old. We all know where all the scenes in the movie On Golden Pond were filmed, that Squam Lake is the real Golden Pond, and bumped into Katharine Hepburn in the grocery store.

    Now let's talk about Winter. I suspect that Winter in the Auvergne is much like Winter in North Carolina. But here we get "WINTER", if you get my drift. No drinks with little paper umbrellas in them are served here between Nov. 1 and April 30.

    I don't mean to jump all over your comparison of the two places; just wanted to point out a couple of differences for the other readers.

    It's very early here for me, so please make allowances,


  3. Gorgeous pictures again Ken.
    Have you ever seen the movie "Etre et avoir" ("to have and to be")?
    It takes place in Auvergne during the 4 seasons. It is more of an educational movie but so interesting.

  4. One quick note: water processing does not kill botulism. You need to do pressure canning for that. You'll probably be safe, in any case, even if you just canned the hot sauce without water processing the jars.

  5. On my last trip to visit you, the train went (I think) through part of the Auvergne. I made notes of the stations we went through so we could go back some time for a closer look. It was beautiful and hilly, with lots of farms.

    I enjoyed "Etre et avoir" a lot.

  6. Nadège, I liked Etre et avoir too and would like to see it again. I hope one of the CanalSat movie channels will play it again soon.

    Chris, your train from Lyon surely went through the northern part of the Auvergne. Maybe Thiers? It is pretty and I'm really looking forward to next week in the Cantal.

    Bill, I'll let you know about lakes. I didn't know that there were so many lakes in NH. In MN, yes, of course. And mosquitoes. I hope that if there are lakes in the Auvergne, there won't be moustiques. I know there are a lot of dams down there so there are artificial lakes if not natural ones.

    Ellen, I do plan to enjoy Salers, Cantal, Bleu d'Auvergne cheeses, and also some of the excellent Salers beef. Thanks for the walk in Paris -- I had seen your post but I will look at it again.

    Peter, the book I'm reading says pressure canning is not necessary for tomatoes. But then I didn't put any extra acid in the sauce. We did this before, same process, four or five years ago, and we have lived to tell about it.

  7. Actually, I wouldn't have even bothered with the water process if the sauce was very hot when packed. People forget that water processing started as a way of ensuring that the canning jars sealed properly. Later it was incorporated as a means of cooking uncooked ingredients in the jar. Nowadays, there are authors that claim that everything has to be water processed at a minimum.

    When I was younger, I remember my mother making jam by just applying a layer of paraffin over the surface. That jam was considered shelf stable even though the jar wasn't sealed. The real reason, after boiling at 220°F, is was essentially bacteria free.

  8. Nadege, I loved that movie, Être et Avoir. It was charming. :)

    Bill, despite the differences you point out, I'd say that the first thing I thought of when riding through the Auvergne, was how much it reminded me of New England-- specifically, it reminded me of the mountain towns in Massachusetts, above the Connecticut River Valley.


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