It’s always busy in September. We take the honey off the bees, the apples off the trees and get busy filtering, fermenting, preserving and potting up ready to stash away for colder days or sell to local customers.
We had another great Cider Sunday earlier in the month with loads of apples, willing helpers and fabulous kit loaned by Abundance London. I’m sure that we processed more apples than ever before, but the streamlined production line was so efficient that I didn’t manage to count all the demijohns as they went home with guests!
Whilst many a fruit tree is bending its boughs, heavy with harvest, it makes perfect sense to celebrate #UrbanFoodFortnight at the same time as the city is yielding the best of it’s bounty and we join in the fun to ‘make hay whilst the sun shines’…
Whilst we have a number of seasonal tasks to keep on top of here at Hen Corner, it’s been a privilege the last couple of years to have been invited to judge the ‘Domestic Classes’ at the local Allotments Annual Show. Domestic means any entry that’s been produced in your kitchen, so think pickles, chutneys, jams, cakes, bread, tarts, scones, pies, jellies and more. I had around 25 classes to judge, some with 6 or more entries, so armed with a sharp knife and lots of tea spoons I got to work examining and tasting each contribution. The most unusual entry was a batch of Chocolate & Marmite Cupcakes, which were surprisingly good (think salted caramel) and scooped a first prize, yet my favourite entry, only just beating an amazing cheese & chive flowerpot loaf, was a humble jar of pickled onions. So crunchy and perfectly flavoured, I could have eaten the whole jar! Once I shared them with the other judges, they were awarded ‘Best in Show’ even beating this whopping pumpkin…
All our honey is safely in and we are feeding the bees for winter and treating them for the pesky varroa mite. There wasn’t loads of honey this year, even with each of the three colonies giving their best, as the bees were busy building up strong colonies, growing from one to four over the season, so excess honey wasn’t readily available. If they can stay strong through the winter then we should be in a good place for a better harvest next year, though as Winnie the Pooh says ‘You never can tell with bees’.
Cider Sunday launches our Pick & Pickle week when we make literally hundreds of jars of preserves, utilising the apple pulp from the cider press for Apple & Chilli Jelly, the glut of courgettes in chutney and other vegetables pack out a wonderful piquant Garden Piccalilli. An afternoon at a friend’s allotments blessed me with 23kg of plums which are now jam and 2.5kg of damsons which are now soaking in gin, yes, picture above is blackberries in gin made earlier this year 🙂
As well as celebrating the City Harvest, we are joining in with the Real Bread Campaign to profile Sourdough September. Of all the breads that I bake for our weekly Micro Bakery, it’s the sourdough that I’m most proud of and delight every time of the wonders that can be created by combining simply flour, water and a pinch of salt. The long slow fermentation that sourdough bread relies on produces a wonderful flavour and texture in the finished loaf and many have found sourdough bread easier to digest and the perfect loaf if you are intolerant of commercially produced yeast.
Make it your mission to track down some Sourdough bread this month and join us in the celebration!
- Together on the Terrace was a wonderful local street party in Chiswick, organised by our friends Abundance London. I took five of our hens to meet the locals and sold many jars of honey and preserves
- Santor Ellix Katz is currently in the UK promoting Wild Fermentation, I was fortunate to get a front row seat at a recent lecture at the College of Naturopathic Medicine
- When BBC Radio London wanted to talk Keeping Chickens in London, I was invited to bring a hen into the studio to meet Vanessa Feltz – everyone was very excited!
Jobs for the week:
- Pack up the chickens *again* to take to Countryside Live a fabulous schools event on Leyton Marshes
- Decide what classes I’m going to enter at this year’s National Honey Show
- Start scheduling our programme of courses for 2020
Have you been growing any food this season? How did you get on?
Have a good week!