Sinikka's snippets

Finland and travelling, a woman's life, cultures, languages, photography plus family recipes


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Le temps des cerises

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Through the kitchen window, I saw a cheeky squirrel feeding on the first ripe fruit of our cherry trees today. The other day, some blackbirds were at them, too. Looking more closely, I could already see many of them devoured by our animal friends. Familiar story. Before the cherries get ready for picking, it’s usually the birds that come in great flocks and peck the lot! Interestingly, the cherries seem to be well ahead of time this year. Last year, it wasn’t until the middle of August that the trees were heavy with the red fruit. Must be the effect of a much warmer June.

Last year was exceptional, though. There were considerably more cherries than usual. In addition, it was a very good wild blueberry year in the forests, and they were ripe at the same time. There were speculations then that the birds were happy with the forest berries and left people’s gardens alone. And I was happy, managing to make several jars of Amaretto-spiced cherry jam. Looks like this year I should be pleased to get one or two, if that! Oh well, such is life. Nice sight, against the sun-lit blue sky in any case.

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End of summer

Last week of my long summer holiday is starting, making me all wistful and nostalgic. In a week’s time, my relaxing, leisurely, slow mornings will turn into the panic of early alarms, rushed breakfasts and getting ready for school.

While toiling with the daunting stress of the inevitability of ‘back to school’, I am also trying to make the most of this season. I read somewhere that August is the time of “stone fruit”. It sure seems to be true, as the big cherry trees above our home are bright red and heavy with this year’s crop.

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These trees are technically not on our land but a leftover from the farmhouse that used to be here before our row house was built in its place. In previous years, there have been far fewer cherries, and the birds have soon eaten them up. We haven’t even thought of picking them as the trees are on a slight slope, and so high that it would be quite difficult to get to them. What’s more, these cherries are quite sour, so we have just left them.

However, this year is exceptional for some reason. Never have I seen the trees so red! And, surprisingly, the birds have mostly stayed away. Some friends discussed this on Facebook, and suspected that it’s because the woods are so full of blueberries this year that the birds have preferred eating them instead. Whatever the reason, some primitive instinct got hold of me today, and I persuaded hubby to help me pick enough cherries to make some jam.

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I’ve never been a keen preserver of fruit or berries, like many of the Finnish women I know. In fact, during the “rush years” of my life, when we were busy raising our young daughter and working hard to settle in our careers, I wouldn’t have even dreamt of having any time for such time-consuming kitchen chores! I’ve always liked cooking and baking but preserving? Oh no, not for me even though I must admit I often felt inadequate and lazy when female friends kept boasting about the number of bottles of homemade juice or jars of various jams they had already stored away for the winter. So what’s suddenly come over me? Is it age – preparing to be a pottering about granny one day?

Anyway, like squirrels gathering nuts for the winter, off we went to tackle the high trees. In the end, it wasn’t hard at all as the pliable branches could easily be bent for us to reach the fruit. In no time at all we had a bowlful to work with. Afterwards, we sat together at the garden table, taking the pips out and preparing the cherries for cooking. It was very therapeutic and a nice way to spend some time chatting and, best of all, effectively helped me forget about the looming end of the holiday.

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At the end of the day, we had several jars of homemade cherry jam, spiced with the rest of a bottle of Amaretto. What joy and a sense of achievement! Come dark winter days, and we can look back to this sunny late summer’s day, while enjoying our jam with some French cheese and bread!

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