….In One Day:
Unbelievable. The morning started promisingly enough: whilst somewhat colder than it has been of late it was at least sunny, the valley suffused with golden light which highlighted the exquisite autumnal hues of the woodland. After a busy morning sorting out the Ffarm’s annual insurance policy (with the added complexity of arranging Public Liability Insurance, this year) we headed for Horeb & an afternoon making 500ml pots & 4.7 litre Napoli Pans of delicious gelato.
We were very busy: our strict quality control allows us to take only five litres of matured base liquid at a time – each of which produces only a maximum of seven litres of highest quality artisanal gelato – so we were taxed to the limit, producing individual batches of our signature flavour, the creamy ‘Simplicity’; followed by delicate Madagascan Royal Bourbon ‘Vanilla’. Then came one of my favourites, unctuously rich ‘Honeycomb’: scattered with tiny chips of sweet cinder toffee & oozing with thick, pungent woodland honey.
Although I thought we should remain conventional today Tony couldn’t resist persuading me to conjure up a Napoli pan of Gold, Frankincense & Myrrh: which is essentially little pieces of mandarin & cranberry, carefully marinated in whisky to create a heady combination just right for the festive season. This however, won’t be going on sale (unless someone orders a bespoke batch) but instead will cheer us up as ‘cold comfort’ food – the ideal thing to slip down smoothly if you’ve got one of those nasty bugs that’s going around & your throat is too sore to cope with anything more punishing.
The next task was to subject each pot to a metal detection test & then apply a ‘Best Before’ stamp before working out the specific gravity of each pot, & checking the weight of a certain percentage of each batch. And then of course there’s the paperwork: recording the batch numbers of each & every ingredient which has been added to each different variety of gelato….so what might seem on the face of it, the recipe for a relaxing afternoon – making delicious ice cream – is actually very involved, & darn hard work.
Whilst we were cleaning down the dairy & all the equipment we’d used after putting our batches of gelato safely in the giant freezer we noticed a change in the ambient light outside. Initially the sun still nervously shone over Horeb; but the sky beyond was a profound, inky black; punctuated only by the most stunning rainbow, shimmering with iridescent colour. As the stormclouds moved closer the sky became ominously dark, as if the daylight was being sucked away by the force of a black hole. I began to nervously consider the possibility that the scientists who’d built the giant particle accelerator in Switzerland, had got it wrong after all*; & that in fact we were all about to disappear.
And then the hail erupted from the sky……
Just a few telltale white beads bouncing off the bonnets of the cars, initially; then the deafening roar as the fuly fury of the cloud overhead unleashed its stinging burden. It was so intense that when looking out of the window, the other buildings of the complex were obscured from view by a sheer white curtain of solid ice. Needless to say, we opted to stay put until the cloud had passed; & unfortunately this was a slow-moving storm. We whiled away the time in conversation with Elfyn, the producer of the delicious Sancler Organic Yogurt Cheese, a fresh, healthy foodstuff based on an ancient recipe for the Middle Eastern dish, labneh. We were lucky to be treated to a couple of pots of my favourite flavour – Basil & Garlic – the first of which we enjoyed that evening, swirled into creamy mashed potato: utterly sublime, it really takes the dish up to another level.
The sky never quite recovered its’ cheerful hue thereafter; returning to the gloom of a wet autumn day & punctuated by sharp, sleety showers. Ideed, we were amazed to reach one little village perched atop a hill, to find a scene more reminiscent of a white Christmas; the roofs, cars & lawns lost under a dense carpet of snowy white hailstones, the crossroads already obscured by dingy grey slush. We were relieved to get home, & hurriedly shivered our way through the evening chores; with the kettle soon singing on the hob, & a hearty stew bubbling in the big black pot on the stove. Talk about four seasons in one day…..
*See my post “Life in a Vacuum: Dark Matter” dated 2nd September 2008.