13 September 2013

Autumn weather = kitchen tasks

It's amazing how fast our summer ended. Thinking back, it had started just as abruptly. It's as if meteorological forces looked at the calendar, saw July 1, and combined to create hot sunny weather for les grandes vacances. The sun beat down all through July and August, which were two of the warmest months in France in a decade.

Then September arrived, and just a few days in, the weather changed again. Sunny skies turned gray, high temperatures dropped into the 60s F, with nicer days in the low 70s. Drizzle became our lot in life. We got garden work done — the tomato harvest is ongoing, the greens are planted for an early winter harvest, apples are covering the ground out back.

Slow-roasted pork shoulder for winter meals

So it's time to work in the kitchen and prepare food for the winter. Pickles... check. Tomato sauce... we start this weekend. Apple sauce and apple jelly... next week. Confit de canard... the duck legs are marinating, the graisse is in the fridge, waiting to be melted. Pulled pork... check — as of yesterday.

Meanwhile, our supermarkets are in autumn mode too. Now that the tourists have gone home, prices for fresh produce and meats seem to have dropped back to their pre-summer levels. I think supermarkets around Saint-Aignan take advantage of summertime, and all the visitors the area attracts from the Paris region and elsewhere, to realign their offerings and push prices upward. Parisians are used to paying 25 to 50% more for many grocery items than we pay out here in the country. Why disappoint them?

Tomatoes, late but enormous, for September salads and wintertime sauces

And it's not just prices. The offerings are different. Meat, for example. This week at the local SuperU you could buy a front quarter of a hog — shoulder, hock, ribs, neck bones, and even the foot (good for adding to a stew to make the broth more unctuous) — for just two euros per kilogram. Or you could choose just the pork shoulder, including the shank, for 2.50 euros/kilo. I don't think many people from the city would know what to do with all that meat at one time.

Six pounds of "pulled" pork

People in the country do know. Many have big freezers and cellars. Personally, I bought a pork shoulder — nearly 6 kilograms, or about 13 lbs. — for 14 euros. The shank end went into the freezer raw, for a boiled dinner like a potée auvergnate later on. On Wednesday, the shoulder, whole, went into the oven for a slow roasting that lasted 8 hours. When it came out, I removed the rind and most of the fat, which Callie will enjoy nibbling on over the next few weeks.

Tomatoes, sliced and salted, waiting to be dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Then I pulled the lean meat off the bones, chopped it and tore it into shreds, and seasoned it with paprika, cayenne pepper, thyme, salt, pepper and vinegar. The shoulder yielded nearly 6 lbs. of tender, lean, slow-roasted "pulled" pork. Into the freezer it went, packed in one-pound bags, for our autumn and winter meals. Or at least five pounds of it went into the freezer. The other pound (maybe a little less) was yesterday's lunch, along with a nice salad made with a gigantic beefsteak tomato from the garden. Autumn pleasures.


  1. Preparing ahead for your winter meals is a good kitchen task. My kitchen tasks recently have been more mundane like keeping the sink drain clear and smelling good.

  2. Oooooh, Ken, that pulled pork looks terrific! And, as always, your gorgeous red tomatoes are gorgeous! Our big full-size tomatoes (first time we've grown big ones) are finally coming in, and they are delicious!

  3. A bit over AU$3 a kilo for the pork. Not bad at all.

  4. Bonjour, Ken.
    Selon la météo de Télématin ce matin, "Ça reste gris, ça reste humide, parapluie de rigeur. On va pas en sortir pour les jours à venir. Bref, c'est l'automne...avant l'heure bien sûr."

  5. Pulled Pork! Oh - to have that in my freezer for the upcoming cold autumnal days... Looks fabulous.
    Those tomatoes look so fresh - I can taste them right through my monitor.


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