I can definitely say that September is my favorite month!
The long summer and the great heat ends. The days are shorter and the nights cooler.
September is a bit undecided month: it doesn’t know whether to look more like summer and give us beautiful sunny days, or be more like autumn and bring the rain. But it never exaggerates! So the weather is generally pleasant and the days are often breezy and clear.
Yes, I know! In the morning we have to wear a sweater, then during the hottest hours we have to take it off to keep only the t shirt and then wear it again in the evening when it becomes chilly. Not to mention the shoes: sandals or boots? It is a transition period, but it is forgiven by offering us sunrises shrouded in fog, beautiful blue skies, nature with its changing colors. Autumn begins on September 22nd. Timid colors (yellow, orange, red, brown) start to peep in the countryside giving birth to the new seasonal cycle.
There is a popular Italian proverb that says “in settembre l’uva è matura e il fico pende” that is “in September the grapes are ripe and the fig hangs”. Exactly!!
With the arrival of autumn, the harvest begins: it is concentrated mainly in the months of September, October and November and it is time to reap the benefits of a year of careful care of the vines. Needless to say, Italy is a wine producing land: its wine history is very ancient and the production is varied thanks to the peculiarities of the different territories. Behind a glass of wine there is the interaction between the territory (the geographical position, the soil, the climate) and its historical context (man over the centuries has chosen certain vines, certain areas, certain production techniques). In short, behind a glass of wine … there is a lot of hard work and a lot of passion!
And the figs? How good they are! Their juicy pulp is so sweet! With reference to their sweetness, in Tuscany there is the expression “fare i fichi” (to make figs) which means to be obsequious or to snuggle. Raise your hand if you can hold back in front of a nice ripe fig!
Figs are very versatile in the kitchen and also go well with salty food: have you ever tried to taste them together with raw ham? In my family, however, the custom is to keep them for the winter.
My father has a large fig tree in his vegetable garden and every year he picks the (numerous!) figs it produces: so, with his beautiful full wicker basket he returns home and with my mother he begins the preparation of dried figs.
First they wash the figs and dry them gently with a cotton cloth. After cutting them in half (without dividing them completely!) they arrange them on the graticcio (a mat woven with reeds, wicker or willow twigs – see photo) covering them with a net to avoid insects. Every day for about three days they expose them to the sun, turning them at least twice a day (in the evening they place them inside to avoid the humidity of the night). The fact that they have to be dried in the sun means that this is not a fast process. Figs need to be checked and their position changed as the sun turns. Once ready, they take each fig, stuff it with walnut kernels and close it again. Then they wrap them in sturdy paper and tie them. And here is their delicious winter supply!
I love their attention in carrying out this procedure, I love the slowness of time, I love the calmness of autumn that takes us from the frenzy of summer to peaceful winter.
Ah! If there are any figs left over, mom prepares some jam! Did you remember our blog spot on the crostata? Try it with fig jam and add a few walnuts … wonderful!