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Spanish Cherries

Spain is the world’s 7th largest producer of cherries, and is the second largest producer in Europe. Some 60% of Spain’s cherry crop is exported with Germany and the UK taking a large proportion.


In fact, UKs imports of Spanish cherries peaked in 2011, when 10 million punnets (2500 tonnes) were shipped in during the five week season. The Brits obviously liked them.

The bulk of the cherries are produced in the 40 mile long Jerte Valley, near Caceres. It lies in Spain’s Extremadura region, south-west of Madrid, and close to the border with Portugal. Originally the area was the main centre of chestnut 
production, but when blight ruined those trees in the early 20th century – they were replaced by cherries which are now planted on terraces. These terraces rise from 1100 feet at the valley floor to 3600 feet at the top. In 2013 there were 3737 growers, farming nearly 10000 hectares of terraces.

Picota (meaning peaked, and referring to the slight oval shape, or peak at the end) is the name given to the four protected varieties of Spanish cherries. They are protected because a Denomination of Origin Certificate has been granted.
 
The four varieties are Pico Limon Negro; Pico Negro; Pico Colorado and Ambrunes. Ambrunes is dark red in colour with firm, crisp and juicy flesh. It’s very sweet, as it matures on the trees longer.

All are unusual in that they are separated from the stalks when picked. Hence they are referred to as "stemless” or "stalkless”. It’s claimed this is an indication of perfect ripeness.

If you are ever near Jerte Valley a visit should most definitely be on your itinerary. There are many cultural; and gastronomic celebrations and fiestas around harvest time. There are tours of co-operatives and walks through the cherry trees. 

Without doubt there will be the chance to taste the fruit and the liqueur into which it can be made. 

Last but not least, throughout July, there are competitions held to decide the best dish made with cherries. If you look at Gordon Ramsay’s book "Just Desserts”, you’ll see a recipe called Cherry and Almond Clafoutis. Though it cannot be guaranteed to win one of those competitions, it is a fantastic pudding, especially if you use Spanish cherries.

The ingredients are –

·       50gground almonds

·       15g strong plain four .

·       good pinch of sea salt

·       100g caster sugar

·       2 large free range eggs

·       3 large free range egg yolks 

·       250 ml double cream

·       300g fresh ripe cherries

·       softened unsalted butter, to grease the pan

·       icing sugar, sifted, to dust

The cooking method is as follows–

·       Put the ground almonds, flour, salt and sugar into a food processor and whizz for a few seconds to blend.. Add the eggs, egg yolks and cream and blend to a smooth batter. Tip into a large bowl or jug, cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.

·       In the meantime, stone the cherries and pat them dry, if they’re especially juicy. Rub the inside of a large oven-proof sauté pan or gratin dish with the softened butter.

·       Scatter the cherries over the base of the pan or dish. Stir the batter in the jug and pour over the cherries. Bake for about 20mins in an oven, preheated to 190 degrees centigrade, until risen and golden brown.

·       The middle may be slightly flatter than the surrounding batter, but it should be set. If not, then bake for a little longer.

·       Dust with iing sugar and serve at once.

All Gordon’s desserts will cause you to salivate, especially the half dozen or so relating to cherries.

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Posted by on Saturday 15th February 2014

Markets in Costa Blanca North

There are markets to visit daily along the Costa Blanca North. They usually start trading around 9-10am and wind down around 2pm. Although people may tell you that stall holders will not barter, I can categorically state that if you offer a price that you think is fair, and it provides him with a profit, it’s likely to be accepted. If both the seller and the purchaser can walk away smiling, then a deal will be struck.

The goods available to you are myriad, from clothing, sunglasses, hats and shoes, to towels and bed linen, not forgetting ceramic pots, dishes and ornaments. Of course fresh fruit and vegetables are there in abundance too, along with spices and dried fruits.

It’s true to say, that prices are substantially cheaper away from tourist hotspots, so it’s worth a visit to some of the less well known locations. To help you plan your market schedule, here are the locations for each day.

·      Mon – DENIA (next to Mercadona supermarket)

·      Tue – ALTEA (at the top of the town)

·      Wed – TEULADA (Calle Alicante)

·      Wed – BENIDORM (Near Pueblo Hotel in Levante Beach area)

·      Thu – JAVEA (In the Old Town)

·      Fri – MORAIRA (just off Carretera Moraira Calpe, in town centre)

·      Fri – GATA DE GORGOS (this is a typical Spanish food market)

·      Sat – BENISSA (near to "Cathedral of the Marina”)

·      Sat – CALPE (Avenida del Norte)

·      Sun – PEDREGUER (known as "rastro” market, it’s located on the industrial estate. Here you’ll find second hand goods too – handy if you’re trying to furnish somewhere within a tight budget)

·      Sun – JESUS POBRE (In the town, just off the main road through it. I confess this is my favourite, though it’s quite small.  There are few tourists and mainly Spanish people frequent it. In the summer it’s held in the early evening. In the autumn/winter, it switches to morning)

It’s true to say that every town in the area is likely to host a market during the week. Here are a few more for you to keep in mind – Parcent and Callosa (Monday); La Nucia (Sunday and Monday); Pego and Lliber (Sunday); Polop and Benitachell (Wednesday); Benidoleig (Thursday); Villajoyosa (Thursday and Sunday too); Alfaz del Pi and Finestrat (Friday) and Jalon (Saturday)

There will most likely be coffee available and churros stalls, selling freshly made Spanish doughnuts. Most stall holders will invite you to taste their fruit before you buy, so you’ll need to complete several laps of the market, at a trot, to compensate for all this intake.

Undoubtedly, everyone will enjoy the buzz and bustle of any of these markets and it will surely make a pleasant change from the beach, but just one word of caution is needed, however. Crowds, in any country are a magnet for light fingered people keen to relieve you of money and valuables. Be sure to make the day a rotten and unsuccessful one for them.  If you know anyone visiting the Northern Costa Blanca feel free to send them a link to this article.

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Posted by on Tuesday 24th September 2013

Honey Shop Jalon

Honey Shop Jalon Valley

Honey Shop Jalon Valley

If you like honey this shop sells just about every flavour of honey you can think of, for example, rosemary, flowers, euclyptus, lavender, and many others.
They also sell small ornamental gifts and many health and facial products from Aloe Vera.

To find the shop, drive through the main small street of Jalon, continue for about 200 metres and the shop is on the left hand side.

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Posted by on Wednesday 28th January 2009

Vergel Car Boot Sale

Every Saturday from 9.0 a.m. until 2.0 p.m. there is a car boot sale at the Vergel Safari Park.

The Safari Park is situated just past Ondara – turn left on the N 332 driving north.

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Posted by on Saturday 3rd January 2009
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