We’re Jammin

How quickly the seasons come and go – it’s a while since I last updated the Space to Grow blog and in that time, summer has changed into autumn. Its been a busy few weeks, which is an excuse rather than a reason for not updating you all as much as I’d hoped, with various harvest festivals in the local churches I’m part of – but also with the actual task of harvesting and deciding what to do with the produce that is now gathered in.

Food for the Share meal fresh from the community allotments at LEAF
Food for the Share meal fresh from the community allotments at LEAF

As part of the whole emergency food parcel / food bank provision that PXI offers from Mount Tabor we’ve been able over the past few weeks to offer some fresh food alongside the usual tinned and dried products – and today we’ll be holding our second monthly community meal out of “Share” the Friday drop In that we run.

Now our minds have turned to preserving some of the last fruit and parts of the harvest and so we are starting to look at jam and chutney recipes. We’ve been blessed with a small grant from Community Development Foundation to work with local artist Charlie Hill and other local partners including LEAF and Yewlands School to do a series of seasonal events from walking and creative writing to willow weaving and jam making. So next week on Thursday (24th October) and on 7th November we’ll be doing jams and chutneys at The Cross at Yew Lane. Sadly much of the soft fruit has gone over now so they’ll be no local blackberry jams this year – but instead we’re trying our hands at Quince Jelly and variations of apple chutneys all using locally harvested produce.

For those interested here’s a page all about quince: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/quince_jelly/

Meanwhile we’re expanding the “green” stuff we are doing in PXI with Peter our Community Youth Worker now helping with gardening groups in a number of local schools including Yewlands and St Thomas More schools, as well as celebrating harvest with new friends at Wooley Wood school. In the past week we’ve also been chatting to other growers in other parts of Sheffield including a project at the Methodist Church in Hollinshead – its good to see more and more people reconnecting with growing food, and with the spiritual dimensions of relating to seasonal changes, and becoming re- grounded in the earth and creation.

Summertime

left to right from the top: Chaucer students get stuck into Plot18 during the holidays, apples growing at LEAF, the Bee Project at LEAF, blackberry picking.
left to right from the top:
Chaucer students get stuck into Plot108 during the holidays, apples growing at LEAF, the Bee Project at LEAF, blackberry picking.

“Summertime…” says the George Gershwin song “….and the living is easy.” With the summer we’ve been having there have certainly been some days when just sitting down and enjoying the sun and all that’s alive around you has without doubt been the most sensible thing to do. That said there’s still been plenty of work to do on the various plots and allotments PXI is involved in – Plot107 has produced loads of fruit this year, especially rhubarb and gooseberries despite the fact its all got a bit overgrown in places, and now we’ve teamed up with Chaucer school to work on the neighbouring Plot108 we’re hoping to be even more productive next year as we also hope to use it as a base for some out of school youth work.

As well as the work in Parson Cross Park, we’ve been busy down on Herries Road at LEAF and at Plot64. The new plot is still taking time to get into a productive state again, with loads of weeding and digging out still to be done as well as avoiding disturbing wasps nests! Even so it’s gradually beginning to take shape and hopefully by next season we’ll be looking to plant.

At LEAF we’ve been busy with some enthusiasm from some of our younger volunteers over the summer helping to do much needed work harvesting, weeding and replanting. The bees are also doing really well there and continue to busy themselves with storing up and making honey. We’ve also had time for some social time, last Saturday LEAF threw “open house” and invited people round for tea, using food made from stuff grown on our various allotments – in the end about fifteen people came and made their own pizzas in the pizza oven before sampling a range of pies, cakes and crumbles.

Soon we’ll be looking to the apples and pears and other “hard fruits” and hopefully be working once again alongside Abundance (the Sheffield urban harvesting group http://growsheffield.com/abundance/  ) and starting some more jam and chutney making and cooking sessions at Mount Tabor and at the Cross at Yew Lane. So enjoy the last few weeks of summer, and look forward to the seasons to come.

Allotment Soup 2011

The new Clay oven at LEAF is used to bake fresh pizzas for Allotment Soup

Today was Allotment Soup day at LEAF community allotments on Herries Road, Fay and Nick were both there to talk to people about PXI-Space to Grow and the Parson Cross Park allotments. As well as different art activities there was lots of food and drink on offer from freshly squeezed apple juice from Abundance – to freshly baked pizzas using the new clay oven belonging to LEAF, and lots and lots of home made cake.

We were also treated to some music from the Karen Community Choir who sang a number of songs for us all. The Karen community come originally from Burma and many of them used to be farmers, and so the celebration of the harvest has a real significance to them. Here’s the words to one of the songs they sang for us:

“While the world looks upon me,

as I struggle along and they say I have nothing –

but they are so wrong.

In my heart I’m rejoicing, how I wish they could see,

Thank you Lord for your blessings on me.

I know I’m not wealthy, and these clothes are not new,

and I don’t have much money but Lord I have you,

and to me that’s all that matters, though the world may not see,

Thank you Lord for your blessings on me.”

Chutney in the Park

A group of us had some fun this morning up at the pavilion making chutney from the Abundance recipe. We made around six jars of Apple Chutney using the apples we harvested a few weeks ago and six jars of Apple & Pear Chutney ….. it has to be said they both tasted lovely. We were all commenting about how much food that grows around us is still left to waste,and the joys (apart from when there are wasps nests) of going out to pick blackberries, bilberries and yes even apples and pears.

In case you want to experiment at home, here’s the recipe.

Abundance Chutney Recipe

This recipe makes about 1.8kg (4lbs) of Apple Chutney, which should fill 6 medium jars.

Ingredients

900g (2lb) local cooking apples (after coring and peeling)

225g (8oz) onions (again after peeling and chopping)

560ml to 840ml (1 pint – 1.5 pints) vinegar (start with a pint, you may need less)

350g (12oz) brown sugar (again, see how sweet the apples are, use less if necessary)

56g (2oz) mixed pickling spice (in a spice bag/tied up tea towel, bashed a bit) OR 1-2 tsp powdered spice (straight into the mixture)

225g (8oz) raisins or sultanas

14g (1/2oz) salt

2 tsp ground ginger

Method

1. Peel and finely chop the onion. Put into a pan with the vinegar (a pint to start with). Bring to the boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the onion is soft.

2. Meanwhile, peel, core and finely chop the apples.

3. Add the apples to the onions and vinegar, bring back to the boil, and simmer, mixing well, so that the fruit starts to soften.

4. Add all the other ingredients and the spices. Bring to the boil and simmer, stirring frequently to avoid the mixture catching on the bottom of the pan.

5. Keep going until the chutney is thick and brown. Lovely!

6. Pour into hot, clean, sterilised jars immediately, and seal.

7. Label with contents once fully cooled.

Sterilising Jars

To sterilise your jars, wash them in hot, soapy water, rinse with hot water, then dry with a clean tea towel. Place on a baking tray, and put in a low oven (100C/gas mark 1) for 10 minutes. The jars will be hot: be careful, and don’t put them on a cold surface. Alternatively, run the jars through the hot cycle on a dishwasher.

Add the chutney to the jars while they’re still hot. As the chutney cools down, it will contract, pulling down the tamper button in the lids. Et voila. Perfect jars of sustainable chutney, that will only get better with age.

The Harvest Continues …..

Angela working on the harvest

Angela, Fay and I were out harvesting as Abundance (North Sheffield) again today, and picked another four boxes full of lovely apples. We got to try out the new extendable apple picking grabs loaned to us by Diane at LEAF, so a big thanks to her for that …. they worked a treat!

A big thanks also to Linda and her family who kindly offered her trees into this years harvest, its wonderful to see just how many people and groups can benefit from one family sharing the abundance of their own harvest.

Having been safely gathered in the apples are now being stored at PXI offices at Mount Tabor and ready for redistribution in the community. Some will be used by allotmenteers on the 20th September when we get together at the pavilion in Parson Cross Park to have a chutney making session, but there’s loads left still so if anyone wants any or has ideas for where they could be used let me know.

Apples picked and ready to go to Mount Tabor

If you’ve any recipes for using apples creatively other than pies and crumbles (delicious though these are) feel free to add them here as a comment. So far this season we’ve picked around 220llbs of apples and 20llb of pears!