You’ll easily recognise the farmers amongst us.
At this time of the year, they’ll be the ones with furrowed brows and fingernails gnawed to the bone.
It’s a fraught time for them. Since early July they’ll have been watching the weather like hawks and checking their crops to decide when to start the annual harvest.
But in a few weeks, all the crops will be safely gathered in. On the Sunday of the Harvest Moon, the full moon closest to the Autumn Equinox, Harvest Festival will be held across the country, as it has been since pagan times.
This time of celebration involves whole communities decorating churches with baskets of fruit and produce to give thanks for the food that will sustain them over the winter.
Many of the fruits on offer will be apples and pears.
What can be done with such a glut once you’ve sated your appetite for pies, crumbles and purees?
For certain our ancestors would not have thrown anything away.
Long before deep freezers, they found ways of preserving the foods harvested in times of plenty to last through the winter months.
Jam making and pickling skills passed down the generations mean that today we can enjoy the true alchemy that transforms fruit and vegetables into a whole new tasting experience.
It wasn’t until the 19th century, when sugar from the West Indies became readily affordable, that jam making flourished in this country.
Recipes look easy but it takes hard won experience to get jam to set to the perfect consistency and texture. And if your fruit are left floundering on the surface, you won’t win competitions!
For those who prefer savoury over sweet, chutneys, pickles and relishes are the easier choice.
Originally from India, chutney has been a favourite with the British since the colonial days.
Apples, Pears and other fruits simmered with raisins, vinegar, brown sugar and spices give chutney its unique sharp, sweet and spicy flavour. It takes time for the flavours to build and so any made now must be left to mature before they can be sold. When ready, they’re the perfect condiment to liven up cold meats and hard cheeses.
Pickles can be clear to preserve vegetables such as gherkins or beetroot in their raw state either whole or sliced in vinegar and salt.
They can also be sweet as in lightly cooked vegetable chunks mixed with vinegar and spices. Piccalilli is the all time classic, thickened with cornflour and turmeric to give it its characteristic golden colour.
In relishes the ingredients are finely chopped and, with hot chili added, should be approached with caution.
There’s a lot to be said for preserving food for future use. Following old traditions reconnects us with the natural world and the rhythm and flow of the seasons. Knowing that come the Spring the cycle of growth and harvest will begin anew, inspires us to keep going and make the most of what we have.
Posted by BCM. Posted In : Seasons