Updated: Nov 19, 2020
Someone told me once that tradition was just peer pressure from dead people! I kind of see their point, but that doesn't stop certain ones being good for the soul. Our annual 'Harvest Supper' being one of them. Eating together has long been a highlight of our community garden. Nothing eases the pain of sore hips, or weeding back-ache, faster than the sight of cake being distributed along the vegetable row towards you. Everyone brings a dish to share on garden days. It's kind of engrained, like folklore. After a few hours work, we set down tools, then dive into a smorgasbord of deliciousness. When the memory of summer days have long since faded, the Harvest Supper acts like a cosy, comfort blanket. So it was with a sorry heart that festivities got called off this year. Covid-19 must be the best - or worst - party pooper on record. Still, it stirred in us an impulse to fight back in the face of isolation. If we couldn't feast together, we could at least make sure there was no shortage of food to get us through the dark winter nights. So, organising ourselves into small groups, this Autumn we set up a pickling and preserving day. Turns out all you need is a bulk order of apple cider vinegar, plenty of jars, salt, sugar, some spices and the imagination to tackle whatever the garden presents. We headed out into the field and unearthed beetroot, red onion and Swiss chard to pickle, then followed it up with a catalogue of chutneys: green tomato, sweet tomato, beetroot and marrow.
Food preservation feels a little like self-preservation.There's something profoundly satisfying about the whole process. Ever since reading 'Little House on the Prairie' as a child, I nurtured the idea I might start doing it one day. But somehow that day never came until the idea of doing it as a group came up. It's one of the things about collective endeavours. It's just so much more fun. Here's some recipe ideas from our "Pickling and Preserving Day" endeavours!