Hail the Melon

If you have nothing better to do, you could go to Vilafranca de Bonany (2,958 inhabitants) today and have a look at this year’s crop of melons. The Festa i Fira del Meló 2012 is exclusively dedicated to the melon and its impressive variety of specimen. The biggest melon last year weighed in at 20.70 kg and was grown by Tomeu Morlà. That was Senyor Morlà’s fifth victory in the annual Sandía contest. In a previous year he had championed the heaviest melon ever recorded in Vilafranca with a meló weiging in at 21.30 kilos. That’s almost half the weight of what one used to call a hundredweight in the old days. The Concurs del Meló mes gros will be held at 10h30. There will also be pieces of melon from Vilafranca for sampling. Bring a napkin. These melons are juicy.

Apart from melons and other agricultural delights (figs, prunes, tomatoes etc.) there will also be dog shows in Vilafranca today (Ca de bestiar, Cans eivissencs, Ca llebrer), a show of carrier pigeons, a sheep show, a Mostra de Porc Negre Mallorquí (Black Pig show) and much more.

If melons are not to your liking, you could make your way to Santa Margalida and its Festes de la Beata a Santa Margalida. The main event there will be held at 21h00 tonight.

The photo (top) was chosen from my archive. It was taken in Vilafranca de Bonany, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: September 3rd, 2007. The time was 14:38:29. The photo (centre) was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of Facebook and Deborah’s Culinary Island. The photo (bottom) was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of baleareslive.com.

Thank you very much, and

moltes gràcies.

Hail the Melon

Ban Lifted on Gorgollassa, Giró and Viognier Grapes

The 2012 wine harvest has started. It is always the white grape that gets harvested first, from August 15th onwards, roughly speaking. That is grapes of the Chardonnay, Macabeu, Malvasia and Giró varieties, amongst others. Some vintners swear by the moon and may have started harvesting this year’s grapes on August 17th, the August New Moon. Others consider that a lot of humbug and call it an unproven folk tale with no background in science.

Be that as it may, the Conselleria d’Agricultura, Medi Ambient i Territori recently authorized the use of three indigenous Mallorcan grape varieties for wine making under the label Vi de la Terra de Mallorca: Gorgollassa, Giró Ros and Viognier. The island’s wine makers have campaigned for legalization of these grape varieties for quite some time, up to ten years if I am not mistaken. Approval had to first be gained from the European Commission in Brussels, then from the Spanish Government bodies in Madrid, then from Industria, the Mallorcan regulatory body, until finally, six weeks ago, the Island Council Agricultural Department approved the amendment, recognizing and regulating the geographical criteria for wines made in Mallorca.

Wine had been produced from these grape varieties in recent years, but its sale was so far prohibited. Now, any supposed illegality has been lifted. You should try some wine made from Gorgollassa or Giró grapes; they are quite impressive. The Viognier variety I do not know myself; I can not vouch for this one.

The grape shown in today’s photo is probably a Manto Negro. This variety is distinctive, but is hard to grow and it oxidizes easily.

Manto Negro is difficult. It takes to the character of the land very well, but it’s like a wild animal, savage, and you have to educate it.” (Maria Antonía Oliver, Bodegues Ribas).

The photo was taken near Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: August 26th, 2012. The time was 19:58:41.

Ban Lifted on Gorgollassa, Giró and Viognier Grapes

Coca de Albaricoques

I know, I have left this a bit late as we now are at the tail end of the apricot season but, still. You must try one of the delights of Mallorcan pastry marvels, the Coca de Albaricoques before the Summer is over. This pastry is one of the most common traditional Mallorcan sweets and is usually made with fresh apricots. As the apricot season is no longer than ten weeks, fresh apricots can also be frozen to be used for the Coca de Albaricoques later in the year. Don’t use the dried variety.

Here is what you need to make and bake a Coca de Albaricoques: 1/2 cup of milk, 1/2 cup of olive oil, 1 cup of sugar, 4 eggs, 250 gr white flower, 1/2 package of baking powder, 10 or 12 apricots. If you want to do the Coca de Albaricoques the authentic way, you would also include small pieces of Sobrassada but, you would be forgiven if you didn’t.

The photo (top) was taken in Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: June 24th, 2012. The time was 11:26:51. The photo (bottom) was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of riquisimas-recetas.blogspot.com.es.

Muchas gracias.

Coca de Albaricoques

Preserved Lemons

We love Mediterranean food and cooking in our house. We don’t exclusively cook Mediterranean dishes, no way, but we do a fair bit of those. Naturally, we also enjoy the food that comes from other parts of the Mediterranean, like France or Italy or Greece. We also enjoy Lebanese Food, Turkish food, Middle Eastern dishes and North-African cooking.

That’s a long-winded way of coming to the point of today’s entry: Preserved Lemons, also known as Lemon Pickle. Many recipes from the Maghreb and the Middle Eastern in general (and from India) call for Preserved Lemons, lemons that have been pickled in salt and their own juices. It’s quite easy to preserve lemons; you could easily try it for yourself. You will find, I think, that preserved lemons add a distinctive note and flavour to a range of dishes. Never mind that your patience will be tested as you will have to wait for three to four weeks before the preserved lemons are ready to use in your home cooking.

This is how you do it:

Use smaller lemons if you can, scrub them with a vegetable brush and dry them. Always use organic or unsprayed lemons, if possible. Cut off the little rounded bit at the stem end of the fruit. Make a large cut from the other end of the lemon, slicing lengthwise down, but don’t cut all the way through. Cut once more from the opposite angle, so your lemon is incised with an X shape. Pack coarse salt into the lemon where you made the cuts. You can use about 1 tablespoon of salt per lemon. Don’t be skimpy with the salt: use about 1 tablespoon per lemon. Never use ordinary table salt, for its rather chemical taste. I recommend sea salt or, here in Mallorca, Sal de Cocó. Put the salt-filled lemons in a clean, large glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. You can add some extra spices if you want, such as a few coriander seeds, a bay leaf, a dried chilli, and a cinnamon stick, or a combination of any of these. Press the lemons very firmly into the jar to get the juices flowing. The lemons have to be covered by the liquid, so, if necessary, add some more lemon juice from some spare lemons. Cover and let stand overnight.

The next day, do the same again, pressing the lemons down, encouraging them to release more juice as they start to soften. Repeat for two to three days until the lemons are completely covered with liquid, adding more freshly squeezed lemon juice until they are submerged. After a few days, turn the jar upside down. After one month, when the preserved lemons are soft, they will be ready to use. Store the lemons in the refrigerator, where they’ll keep for about six months.

To use: Rinse the lemons before using them to remove any excess salt. Split them in halves or rather, quarters, and scrape out the pulp. Slice the lemon peels into thin strips or cut into small dices. You can press the pulp through a sieve to obtain the flavourful juice, which can be used for flavouring as well, then discard the innards. There you go. Easy peasy. Enjoy.

The photos were taken in Lloseta (top) and Felanitx (bottom), Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: June 7th, 2009, and June 10th, 2012. The time was 12:59:17 and 13:29:42, respectively.

Preserved Lemons

The Enchanting Flowers of the Pomegranate

According to legend, the pomegranate (Punica granatum) grew in the garden of Eden. The pomegranate is a great and versatile fruit; it has been cultivated and naturalised in the Mediterranean region since ancient times. The fruit is surrounded by a long and colourful history of symbolic meaning and mythical tales. It is referred to in Greek, Hebrew, Buddhist, Islamic, and Christian mythology and writings. Many cultures use various parts of the tree and the fruit to make medicinal potions or other concoctions. The pomegranate is described in records dating from around 1500 BC as a treatment for tapeworm and other parasites.

The pomegranate tree can live for many years, some say for up to 200 years. I particularly like the pomegranate flower (see photo top).

The pomegranate fruit can be found in some coats of arms of royalty and nobility. It is also used as a pattern in old carpets and rugs from Persia, India, East Turkistan or China (see photo below).

The photo (top) was taken near Llucmajor, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: June 6th, 2012. The time was 11:47:18. The photo (bottom) was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of metropolitancarpet.com.

Thank you very much.

The Enchanting Flowers of the Pomegranate

Oranges and Sunshine

When we first came to Mallorca, it was one of our first ambitions to have a lemon tree in our garden. We pretty soon succeeded in planting our very own specimen.

Only much later we came to realize that the sweet aroma of orange blossoms was an equally important addition to our perfumed garden, if not much more so. You have to smell an orange tree in full bloom to know the fragrant smell; words alone can’t describe it. Orange blossoms are all prim and virginal when the buds are shut tight. But when those petals part and the plump and sticky, frilly and feathery bits of pistil and stamen spill out, orange blossoms look just a bit promiscuous. Pollinating bees everywhere respond to this sensory scent like a moth is attracted to the consuming flame.

Not all that long ago, Mallorcans were busy producing Agua de Azahar or Flor de Taronger, an orange flower water also known as Fleur d’Oranger. I imagine that this stimulant was first initiated by the Maurish settlers on this island, hundreds of years ago. Today, no such tonic water is produced here in Mallorca. One can buy Fleur d’Oranger in a Morrocan corner shop, though, and a cheaper version in one or the other supermarket. Fleur d’Oranger is a welcome ingredient for some baking and patisserie pastries and can also be used in cooking or to flavour drinks. In North Africa you will be offered Fleur d’Oranger to clean your hands as you enter a host’s house.

The photo was taken in Costitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: May 1st, 2012. The time was 12:46:59.

Oranges and Sunshine

The Malvasia Grape

The Malvasia grape variety has historically only grown in the Mediterranean region, the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands and the island of Madeira, but is now tended to in many other wine-making regions of the world as well, such as Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Corsica, the Iberian Peninsula, California, Arizona, Australia and Brazil. In the past, Malvasia wine was predominantly consumed as a sweet dessert wine similar to Malmsey wine from Madeira. The white Malvasia grape is more common but, a red Malvasia grape also exists.

In the old days, wine generally only had about 7 per cent of alcohol. It was then quite difficult to sufficiently cool the wine and as a consequence, much of the wine turned sour and could not be stored for any length of time. In contrast, the Malvasia wine even at that time had an alcohol content of about 14 per cent, making it considerably easier to store. Its low degree of acidity was regarded as delicious. Soon, the sweet Malvasia dessert wine was very popular at the European courts.

Here in Mallorca, the Malvasia vine was only rediscovered in the 1980s. The Malvasia grape only grows in the Tramuntana area, in Estellencs, Banyalbufar, Deià and Pollença, with Banyalbufar being the main producer. Of all the wine grown in this municipality, Malvasia is the only grape variety there. During the 16th century, a total of 25,000 litres of Malvasia dessert wine were produced by the Cooperativa de Banyalbufar alone, with most of that astounding amount being sent to the Court of Aragón. You might want to go to Banyalbufar one day; all vines are cultivated on terraces there, first built by the Moors some 1,000 years ago.

The consumption of dessert wines has decreased enormously in recent years. Mallorcan Malvasia grapes are now primarily used to produce white table wines. There is a young white wine from 2010 with a deliciously fruity aroma, selling at around 15 € and a slightly older, oak-barrel stored white wine with a heavier, round body selling for around 25 €. The first would be drunk to accompany a meal, whereas the latter would stand up as a wine drunk on its own, full of character. Mallorcan Malvasia dessert wine sells in half-litre bottles at around 12 €.

The photos were taken in Banyalbufar, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: May 18th, 2012. The time was 16:33:40 and 18:25:38, respectively.

The Malvasia Grape