I just saw a grape harvester — a machine, not a person — drive out into the vineyard. I guess the grapes need to be brought in, even in the cold, gray rain. Or especially because a cold, gay rain is falling. This is the kind of weather than can spoil the harvest.
The grapes are ripe and will burst if they stay wet like this. And they'll grow mold and mildew. The same is true of the tomatoes in our garden. I went out and picked another bucketful of them yesterday. There are plenty more in the garden, but unless the sun comes out they won't be good for long.
Yesterday I cut a couple of dozen tomatoes, both yellow ones and red ones, into wedges and arranged them on baking sheets so I could dry them in the oven. European ovens, by the way, come with pans that slide onto tracks the way wire oven racks do. And they come with a wire rack too. Our Brandt oven came with a rack and a pan, and I saved a pan from our old French oven that also fits this one.
The oven pan is called a lèchefrite in French. That's a funny word. Literally, it means "lick" + "French fry" — the French-English dictionary calls it a "dripping-pan" (British) or a "broiler" (U.S.). It is the broiler pan, I guess, so you can set a roast on the wire rack with the dripping(s) pan under it. Or you can rotisserie the roast or a bird and catch the drippings in the oven pan.
Yesterday, I just put a silicone pad or some parchment paper (papier de cuisson, or "cooking paper") on the pans and arranged the tomato wedges on them. They went into a 90ºC oven for 3½ hours last night. At bedtime, I turned off the oven and just let the tomatoes sit there in the oven overnight. This morning, I turned the oven back on at that low temperature (190ºF). The tomato wedges will dry for another three to six hours today. The oven will warm up the house a little bit.
Another crop that's coming in is walnuts. There's a little walnut tree out along the dirt road that runs through the vineyard, just a few hundred meters from our house. This year it has a lot of nuts on it, and nobody is taking them. We've found a lot of them have been on the ground this week, because there have been some good gusts of wind recently. Every time one of us goes out there with the dog, he comes back with pockets full of walnuts.
The nuts are small but very good. To take advantage of them, Walt made a walnut pie. He used an American pecan pie recipe, with maple syrup in it. It's delicious. Here's the recipe:
American-style Walnut Pie
One blind-baked pie crust
2½ cups (one pint) shelled walnuts, toasted and chopped
4 Tbs. melted butter
3 large eggs
½ cup (4 fl. oz.) granulated (caster) sugar
1 cup (8 fl. oz.) maple syrup (or Golden Syrup)
1/2 tsp. salt
Preheat oven to 400°F/200ºC. While the oven is warming up, put the shelled walnuts on a pan and slip them in for ten minutes to toast, stirring once or twice.
After the walnut meats are toasted, set them aside to cool and then chop them up. If you chop them while they are hot, the walnuts will crumble. It's best to wait the few minutes for them to cool down.
Once the oven has been heated, blind bake the crust for 10 minutes. In the meantime, assemble the filling by combining in a bowl the melted butter, eggs, sugar, and syrup. Whisk the ingredients together with a ½ teaspoon of salt to bring out the flavors. Beat the mixture until it's well blended. (Or use a mixer.) Finally, fold in the chopped walnuts.
Take the crust out of the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 275°F/140ºC. Pour the filling into the crust and level it. Set it in the middle of the oven and bake for 60 minutes. The filling might not be completely done in the center of the pie, but it will finish cooking as the pie cools.
Serve the walnut pie after it has fully cooled — some time in the refrigerator won't hurt it. If you then want to serve the pie warm, put it in a slow oven (250°F/125ºC) for 15 minutes.