Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Harvest Festival, French style

As October draws near I feel my love of Autumn returning.  My birth month, cooler weather, shorter days, falling leaves, thoughts of wood fires on the hearth.....preparing the home for another Winter.

The last time I was in southwest France during a glorious warm and sunny October, it looked like this.  Autumn had pulled out the paintbox, brushed burnished shades across the rolling vineyards, creating a palette of deep colors so beautiful they took my breath away.   The old and often wizened vines were giving up their final offerings for the year, large, heavy bunches of deep purple grapes, missed by machines and pickers, hanging low among the turning leaves.

Then along came this American guy.  Sauntering through the French vineyard blazing with glorious colors..........

...................he stooped low to pick a missed bunch of those now ripe and shriveled grapes, taste-testing the harvest.  Yes, my DH who enjoys a glass of red wine, but can't really tell a good year from a bad, became an unofficial, of sorts, grape taster!

Leaving the vineyard, we continued our stroll to a village where the Pumpkin Fête was underway.  French pumpkins are beautiful and French cooks create wonderful dishes with them.

Bon Potage au Potiron

The market lady is also a gardener.  She will share cooking tips with you when you buy her pumpkins (potirons). Her recipes are basic and simple but always delicious. She's probably made this soup for years, throwing ingredients nonchalantly into her large pot without measuring or weighing. 

Melt 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter in your large heavy pot over medium heat and add an onion, peeled and chopped, cooking a few minutes until pale gold, do not scorch.  Add 5 pounds of peeled, chopped pumpkin, leave out the seeds and roast them later for a crunchy snack.  Dice a small potato and add to the pot, you can leave the peel on for more nourishment.  Pour in 5 cups of water, season with sea salt to taste, decide later if you want to add pepper. 
Cover pot, bring to a boil, reduce to medium, keep covered and cook 25 minutes until potato and pumpkin are very soft.  Remove from heat, cool slightly then puree until smooth with that wonderful kitchen must-have, your stick blender.  Serve with a swirl of thick cream, a sprinkling of Gruyere cheese and a chunk of fresh-baked farm-style bread.  Bon appetit!

Oh yes, a little reminder, don't forget to take something 
to the market to carry home all those fabulously huge pumpkins.........then get out your soup pot!

All images taken in Southwestern France - Oct. 2008


  1. Good morning Mary!

    Three of my four children were born in October as was their father ~~ Great Month! Fourth child and me ~~ in September. How's that for lumping everyone together?

    My daughter and I are considering a trip to France next summer ... with granddaughter ... high school graduation gift. Your photos certainly whet my appetite. I have been to Paris twice, but never out into the countryside.

  2. I have only been to France in the spring, not fall. It looks lovely there. Great seeing the picture of your hundsome guy!

    I will be trying that pumpkin soup recipe. It sounds wonderful.

  3. Lovely photos, Mary.....and very South West France. Brittany doesnt really grow pumpkins much, though they are becoming more popular now that the dreaded Halloween has crept in over here.

  4. October is my birth month...I think that is why I love fall so much. Thanks for sharing your pictures of France. I have always wanted to visit there...maybe one day I will! Carla

  5. I love your pictures of France. We stopped by a vineyard and I tasted a grape or two. Then we bought a French pumpkin, took it back to our apartment, cut it open, dried the seeds, and (don't tell anyone) brought the seeds home. Now we have three French pumpkins growing in our garden. I hope there will be more, but they may not have time to fully develop. But I am loving those three we have.

  6. Oh, how nice it would be to spend the month of October in France. Beautiful weather most everywhere that time of year, but being in France always adds a whole new level of appreciation. ;-)
    ~ Sarah

  7. Oh, how I loved seeing those photos! Late September/early October is a beautiful time of year! I will try that soup recipe as I so happened to be looking at all the different pumpkins, winter squash when I went to the store today. It would have been nicer to have a market lady explain how she makes her soup while helping pick out the perfect one!! Sigh....
    Take Care,

  8. What beautiful pictures Mary, Great to see your handsome husband too. I don't cook much pumpkin or squash. Family never did care for it. I suspect I did not cook it that well. I do love yams in the winter.

  9. Hi Mary , I just read a comment you left on the blog of Silver Sewer ,I don,t live in France , I live in a village in the midlands of England .
    All that beautiful veg , I,m tinking of pumpkin and ginger jam , soup, chutney . I would be like a witch chanting and stirring into the night---------------cottonreel

  10. Wishing you HUGE success with your lovely new shop.

  11. Those pumpkins are beautiful!!! I can't wait to meet you! Your blog is beautiful too! I love seeing all of your beautiful junk! Yes! Shopping at thrift stores is way more fun!

    Take care!

  12. It's all good, Mary. I am so enjoying these cooler days and nights. I hope they last.

  13. One of the things I love most about France is the rhythm of the seasons and the way each season is celebrated and enjoyed.
    We have a great country market at Matakana where we can get both French and Italian pumpkins, I'll do a post sometime about them!
    I'm going to try your recipe today Mary dear, merci!
    Somehow I missed this post, what a beautiful region of La France.
    Shane x


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