Harvest Day in Romania extends itself to be almost a month :) It usually starts around the end of September and it continues way into October until around the 20th. Also having been embraced by the Romans, along with their own celebrations, its origins are mostly Thracian and focused around an essential local activity around this time: vintage, the harvesting of grapes and preparation of the wine. The whole autumn harvest season is accompanied by festivals, fairs, tables of local products (fruits, vegetables, cured meats and cheeses), dance and music.
We built our own little celebration as we usually do, around the ultimate star of Harvest Day: must (vinum mustum, "young wine"). The must is sweet and enchanting, it contains the whole body of the grape, pressed, with seeds, skin and stems and it is the first gate of the alchemical transformation of the wine. Its name is a perfect mirror of its properties, since must is an elixir of youth, among its many other properties.
A glass of sweet, perfumed must by the end of September connects us with an ancient rite of passage from summer to winter that we share with nature, our ancestors and the future, an opening gate for an important metamorphosis happening around this time of year, that is meant to take us back inside, to preservation and transmutation of resources, and it prepares not just our body, but our soul as well, for this long journey through the regenerating cold.
In Romania, there is an old and widespread tradition to enjoy the must with mutton pastramă (pastrami, which in Romanian is connected to the verb "a păstra" - to keep), as the perfect combination of sweet-flavor-rich with salty and meaty. Pastrama is salted raw meat, brined, then dried and smoked, which can be eaten as it is or, just like we did here, barbecued. This way, pastrama also puts the fire where it belongs, at the center of such a rite of passage, as the hearth. Mmm I am carrying with me the smell of the smoke, the salty taste and the sweetness of căpșunică must until next year.
The main cast was not alone, there has been an entire firey preparation for us to become worthy of tasting them. Starting with hot tea with fallen silver fir needles...
...a very special guest, the amazing Iris...
and continuing with the help from pelin wine (Romanian bitter wine, fermented with Artemisia absinthium, making for a delicate aperitif taste similar to Aperol) and 3D (I think 45° of mirabelles - plums alcohol, a killer! not for the faint of heart), we managed to keep the fire going and enjoy the heart of autumn with a special mujdei, traditional Harvest Day delicacies like sheep cas, urda and telemea (don't despair, I am preparing a surprise when it comes to Romanian cheeses), Mau vegetables pie (recipe coming soon), lots and diversely marinated steaks and meats, among which a mutton chops specialty masterfully marinated by Bogdan with honey and secret ingredients, grilled harvested veggies, all crisp and perfect thanks to our master Grillman Alexandru, fruits, cookies and a divine Lavinia apple pie with ice cream. Sending you our autumnly love! Wherever you are, may your harvest be bountiful.
* Thank you, Fims, for the beautiful photos.
A melting pot experience, in more than one way. Welcome to our Epicurean adventure!