Friday, 23 September 2011

September is the Apple, Barley and Harvest month in the northern hemisphere ...


The Harvesters (1565) oil on panel,
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Pieter Breugel the Elder (1525-1569)
Harvest time when the field crops are being gathered in, the hedgerows offering up their fill to the foragers, who will happily spend hours walking the by-ways filling their baskets with fresh delights ...  blackberries, apples, sloes, elderberries, wild plums and  more ..

... the end of summer – corn, tomatoes, squash, aubergines, carrots, cucumbers, onions, red, yellow and green peppers ... the time for pots of soup after a hard day on the land, or over a hot stove making stews, jams and jellies ...

Baked Bramley Apple, just
serve with custard or cream 
Bramley Apples, the English stalwart of a cooking apple, after peeling, are made into fruit compotes, crumbles, charlottes, dried slices, chutneys, cider making or just baked whole – cored and filled with dried fruit and a dollop of butter ... then served with cream or custard ... depending on your pocket.



In days of yore – an apple scoop was made from the shank bone of a sheep ... cut slanting and filed smooth, this makes the best apple scoop: it doesn’t rust, bend or discolour the fruit!  (I'm not very clever, so couldn't get this to swing round or get it clearer .. but you can get the gist!)

Or how about some mutton broth in which a good few windfall apples are stewed, then pressed through a strainer, season with a pinch of ginger (not pepper), salt and reheated with a handful of pearl barley, cooking until the barley is soft ... this is an excellent 1800s winter’s night soup.

Cooked Bramley apple sauce to go with roast pork, or a boned blade or shoulder of pork filled with apple and nut stuffing – apple slices can be glazed and used as an addition to meat or fish courses.

A Cornucopia
(Horn of Plenty) Corn Dolly
September is a month of both endings and new beginnings as summer fades to autumn ... we plough the fields and scatter the good seed on the land ... the corn dollies, made to decorate the churches at Harvest Festival, before being buried in the Spring to ensure fertility for next year’s crop, can be made from straw wheat, rye, barley or oats ... but of the four wheat is the best.

Barley was one of the earliest domesticated grains with barley beer probably being drunk in Neolithic times.  Barley was also employed as a currency ... while in Egypt was a staple cereal where it was used to make both bread and beer.  Pliny also noted that barley was a special food of gladiators, however by Roman times wheat had replaced barley as the staple.

Pearl Barley is a great addition to those September soups, where the crock pot is filled to the brim with meats and seasonal vegetables to taste ... just add some yeasty, freshly baked harvest loaves with some butter and a pint of beer – what could be better for a weekend lunch, or an evening meal after a busy day.

This is the time for pickles and chutneys to add to a selection of harvest spreads – bread and cheese lunches or suppers, Beef and Beer casseroles, Baked Hams with various chutneys or pickles, Rarebit with Chutney Beer mustard, cheese and onion tart with caramelised red onion relish, or a cheese scone with country garden pickle ...

Everyone is busy harvesting the groaning trees, reaping the fields, picking the ripening fruits and vegetables .... turning all into food for the freezer or bottle, in the form of stewed fruit, jams, jellies, pickles and chutneys ...
 
Jan van Kessel II (1654 – 1708) in this card depicts the last days of summer - the insects flit around for the final tastings of summer, as the white and redcurrants ripen and the sprig of forget-me-knot reminds us of one of the birth flowers for September.


Thomas Hood (1799 – 1845), a British humorist and poet, wrote that the wildlife too will benefit through the coming months from the dropped seeds and berries, and those few fruits or nuts left on the bushes ...


“The squirrel gloats on his accomplished hoard,
The ants have buried their gaines with ripe grain,
      And honey bees have stores
The sweets of summer in their luscious cells,
The swallows have winged across the main!”
Canadian World War 1
poster encouraging
people to preserve
food for the winter

September that seventh month, which the Anglo-Saxons called the Gerstmonath, barley month ... and during which at our Harvest Festivals we sing in celebration:-

“We Plough the Fields and Scatter” hymn is one of the most popular in Britain and is that most commonly associated with Harvest-tide ... written by the German poet Matthias Claudius in 1782 .... then translated into English by Jane M Campbell in 1861 appearing in “A Garland of Songs”.

We thank Thee, then, O Father, for all things bright and good,
The seed time and the harvest, our life, our health, and food;
Accept the gifts we offer, for all Thy love imparts,
But what Thou most desirest, our humble, thankful hearts.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

42 comments:

  1. mmm I have to talk to you more lol
    You have a great mutton recipe.My hubby loves mutton soup and I wish I had a garden to do so many things with for winter.
    the thank you prayer was very nice too :)

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  2. Hi A Lady's Life .. thanks for the interest .. I too would love to have a garden .. one day I hope. If your husband is interested in mutton - you might show him this post ... and if you click the link you'll see the makings of a mutton recipe
    http://positiveletters.blogspot.com/2009/10/230000-for-one-in-billion-refrigerated.html

    This was an 18th century recipe - and I think is make it up as you go .. but you can buy mutton now - which for a while wasn't available.

    Glad you enjoyed the post - thanks for coming by .. cheers Hilary

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  3. I love love love pearl barley - soup with dumplings!! Lovely!!

    Much as I wish for a longer summer - I do appreciate the time of plenty that autumn allows. Take care
    x

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  4. We are officially into Autumn here with crisp mornings. The harvest is still going on, but life is about to slow down for the harvesters.

    Great post, Hilary.

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  5. @ Old Kitty - isn't pearl barley delicious in a soup .. and I love dumplings too - but really appreciate the abundance of vegetables and fruits that can get preserved for the winter. Enjoy your weekend ..

    @ Theresa .. crisp mornings here too - but the thought is we might have 27 degC next week .. I'm not sure we made that this summer!!

    Our harvests are still going - it's been wet recently, so if this is a dry period .. it'll be brilliant to pull the rest of the crops in ..

    Thanks to you both for commenting .. cheers Hilary

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  6. I love harvest time. We have several apple orchards in town here, and they are mobbed with visitors picking their own fruit. Our local Apple Harvest Festival, a large fair that grows larger each year, was started years ago to honor the local farmers and their bounty. It's really a celebratory time of year, isn't it.

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  7. September is a lovely month. One of my favourites of the year. I just love the look of the apple dessert.

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  8. I love this time of year! This post reminds me that I want to go out and get apples and pumpkins and other goodies. Thanks for the reminder! :)

    Have a lovely weekend!

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  9. I love your posts! I love history and learning about past cultures. I've got to get me a shank bone of sheep this weekend.

    I do like barley soup mixed with pieces of beef and a few garden veggies. Its a hearty meal that'll stick to your ribs.

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  10. @ Joanne .. it's Harvest Festival in the Churches weekend here .. there's probably an Apple Festival about 12 miles away .. but our more local farm shop has many varieties .. I bought 3 types yesterday. So pleased the farmers are getting recognised for their work .. that is definitely worth celebrating ..

    @ Clarissa - we're having a humdinger of an end of September - having thrust off the remains of the hurricanes .. and are now into an Indian Summer for the next week+ - amazing ... up to 27 degC = hot for us!

    @ Karen - it does inspire one to get out and purchasing .. the pumpkins are out already here - a month to go!

    I might make a spiced South African pumpkin dish .. it was delicious ..

    @ Stephen - that's exceptionally kind of you - just delighted to hear I please! We seem to have lost the art of large pots of healthy meats and vegetables a la Mrs Beeton ...

    Thick soups are delicious and I do love ones with dumplings, or with pearl barley .. as you say - sticking to the ribs sorts ...

    Lovely to see you Joanne, Clarissa, Karen and Stephen - thanks for coming by .. Hilary

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  11. This was a lovely evocation of harvest time. It makes me quite hungry!

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  12. Lovely post, Hilary! I love making soup in the cold weather. :) Farmers here started harvesting crops about two weeks ago. It's well underway now. I enjoy the smells this time of year.

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  13. @ Janice .. I know every time I start looking at recipes, or historical culinary ideas .. I think back to Aga cooking and catering for the masses of hungry mouths .. such fun. Thanks.

    @ Sharon .. big pots of soup are so useful aren't they .. so many ways to serve them ..

    The farmers here have been harvesting for a while - but in Scotland they're struggling as it's been so wet up there ..

    Yes - the earthy smells we get from threshed corn, the aromas from the kitchens .. I agree - they are lovely to smell - the last of the cut lawns ..

    Hope your visit goes well - thinking of you ..

    Thanks Janice and Sharon - lovely seeing you .. cheers Hilary

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  14. Wonderful post, as usual, Hilary. Brings back memories of my youth when on the farm everyone got back to after a fun summer. My mother's garden was stripped clean. The house began to smell so wonderful. She canned everything. But mostly I remember the smell of apples while she made applesauce. It was a glorious time.

    Have one terrific weekend, Hilary. Best to your mum.

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  15. We just had a big pot of homemade bean soup last night, but now you've got me thinking about barley. One of our favorite soups is spinach soup, which is made with country style pork chops, simmered in chicken broth until it's falling apart, and then add barley, chopped onions, cut potatoes, and lots of fresh spinach. When it's almost ready to serve, add a splash of milk. Reeeeeally good.

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  16. I wish I could try some pearl barley soup. It sounds so delicious! It was great learning about the apple scoop being made of the shank bone of a sheep!
    As always, your posts make me learn!

    nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

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  17. A wonderful post, Hilary. September is a wonderful month.

    As a child, I seemed to live on Bramley apples. We had a couple of trees in the garden and my mother couldn't stand to waste one. I always maintained I could live on apple pie and custard. I still love it. Real comfort food. :)

    Have a great weekend!

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  18. I love this time of year. I've got a couple of loads of sloes in the freezer but I can't find any cheap gin in the shops. Everyone seems to have got in front of me! I need to go gathering again so I can make some more hedgerow jam.

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  19. @ Joylene .. it must have been lovely living on a farm .. we had a wonderful garden and were just about sufficient .. certainly my mother was a brilliant cook and we stored as much as possible .. it is a lovely time of year as the nights draw in.

    You too Joylene - have a fun weekend.. and thanks for your thoughts re my Ma ..

    @ Susan .. big pots of soup are just delicious - all those aromas. Your spinach soup sounds an interesting one to make .. might do that .. so easy to just simmer away til done .. the splash of milk = sounds as though it's the magic touch to finish it off .. love your reeeeeeally good!

    @ Nutschell .. next time you're over! Glad you enjoyed the apple scoop made from the shank bone .. once seen I just had to put it in! Good to know you're still interested in learning .. mind you, Nutschell, your blog is full of interesting things .. I learnt so much about this country after your trip across here this year .. excellent pictures too ...

    @ Shirley .. many thanks .. September is gorgeous - just had a walk along the Seven Sisters .. in the evening sun - glorious looking at the view.

    We had old apple trees .. and had acres of fruits .. and I'm sure had our fair share of baked apples, apple stew with custard in those days .. and I'm sure pies .. we tend to have crumble now - but deliciously comforting, as you say.

    @ AJ .. the sloes have been brilliant this year .. I've noticed them and stewed some up the other day .. delicious .. but I haven't been on the lookout for cheap gin!

    There seem to be masses of berries around .. and fruits ripening fast and furiously - happy gathering - hedgerow jam sounds delicious!

    Cheers Joylene, Susan, Nutschell, Shirley and AJ .. lovely to see you .. and enjoy the gorgeous English Indian Summer Weekend we're expecting to get .. well the English ones of us! Happy days - Hilary

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  20. Your canning jars full of lovely things is just wonderful! I managed to do some applesauce, salsa, and preserves.

    The apples are so wonderful in the fall. Your baked ones look delicious. I can almost smell them!

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  21. Hi Betsy .. I wish those jars were mine and I'd been clever enough to bottle all those goodies - but no! I've been intending to do some fruit - and perhaps I'll get round to it this week .. the idea of your salsa sounds good!

    The fruit in general seems to be very prolific .. and certainly baked apples are a delicious meal to have .. I think I can smell them too - scented with Demerara sugar, currants, nutmeg and cinnamon with a knob of butter - melting mouths moments ...

    Thank you for visiting .. have a good weekend .. Hilary

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  22. HIlary what a marvellous,interesting post - now you see why I HAD to award you The Versatile Blogger award!!

    Loved reading about the old fashioned apple scoops and teh photo of the baked apple brought back such good memories - a childhood favourite was hot baked apple with cinnamon and butter, served with ice cream. Yum!

    My Mom makes the best barley & veg soup in the southern hemisphere! :)

    Sending hugs to you and your Mum, hoping all well!
    Judy, South Africa

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  23. I've never seen a corn dolly before, but my favourite picture is the top one with the sheaves! I've just had dinner, and I'm salivating with all your talk of wholesome food - YUM. A real feast for the senses, thankyou.

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  24. @ Judy .. I do versatile: that I can see! I'm really appreciative of the award .. just not very good at getting them 'out on the blog' .. I will do ..

    Apples are such a 'home/mommy' food .. slips down, good for you, add extra sugar for comfort, put them with custard or cream .. People through the generations have been inventive if nothing else .. bones have been used for so many tools - glad you picked that bit up.

    I think I'll be over for a visit .. barley and vegetable soup - excellent recommendation! Thanks re my Ma and we're well - she does seem content and comfortable ..

    @ Sue - I posted a picture of some Christmas decorations I used last year for Mum's tree .. they've got glitter on and are mass produced - but they do show them ... if you scroll back through a couple of posts .. you'll see them in situ .. on an aloe branch! ...

    http://positiveletters.blogspot.com/2010/12/geographical-fugue-heard-of-it.html

    and if you're interested .. The Straw Guild of Craftsmen have an article and pictures on them:

    http://www.strawcraftsmen.co.uk/cdolly.php

    Glad my talk of well tried recipes over the years is testing your senses! Those family recipes are the best ..

    Great seeing you both here .. and thanks for adding to the conversation .. cheers Hilary

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  25. We only have 3 young apple trees but we have had a pretty good harvest from them. The very small ones I have made into apple sauce and frozen. All the others are for eating. Granny Smiths, I love them. Diane

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  26. Hi Hilary. I wish I could send you some of the New York State Apples, specially Ginger Snaps and McKintosh. I bake them with brown sugar and finally my husband is enjoying something healthy and tasty at the same time. Enjoy the Harvest where ever you are, as you are so insspirational:)

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  27. @ Diane .. that's good news that the apple trees are thriving .. and I'm sure your French Granny Smiths are delicious .. I go for the old English varieties - which I enjoy .. the Cox's Orange Pippin and Egremont Russet .. and like you I love them ..

    @ Munir - I'd love to try some of your local apples sometime - the Ginger Snaps and McKintosh are both good names .. and I'm delighted to hear your husband is enjoying his healthier food ...

    Thank you Diane and Munir .. by the sound of it the three of us will enjoy our harvest times .. Hilary

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  28. I love Bramley apples... especially in pie. You've now made me crave them!

    My favourite apple, though, is Macintosh. They're very popular in Nova Scotia. Not sure if they're grown here in the UK?

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  29. Hi Talli .. aren't Bramley apples just the greatest fruit .. apple fool another simple recipe - but pies as well ..

    Ah! you and Munir favour the McKintosh .. Wikipedia says: A popular, cold-tolerant, pocket-sized eating apple in Canada and northeastern US. Favorite of children.

    So you're both in good company .. they're not here that I know of .. but we might have the precursor somewhere in the botanical orchards that are now being preserved.

    Bet you're enjoying this fantastic summer weather we're having .. or will be doing so shortly .. it's glorious .. cheers Hilary

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  30. I'm cooking a lot of apples at the moment. I love apple crumble and pie but I've never been a fan of barley. There’s a brand new award waiting for you on my blog. It’s a ‘thank you’ type of award :-)

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  31. Hi Ros .. I think many households in Britain will be cooking up their apples - and like you I love apple crumble..

    I've grown to appreciate barley - especially in thick hearty soups ..

    Thanks so much for the Friendly Blogger Award .. a special one and new to me .. I'm not good at 'dealing with them' .. oh dear! - have to work something out - I have a few others outstanding ..

    Makes my day though .. thank you so much - Hilary

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  32. Hi, dear friend. I knew I just had to stop by today to see you because I knew whatever you posted would cheer me up! And it did. This time of year IS so wonderfully colorful, though here in Virginia USA in our small plot we're not seeing much colorful yet. But I know it is beginning to "sprout" all around us. Thanks so much for sharing all this wonderful autumnal memorabilia. I especially not Waste Not-Want Not. That old-fashioned picture takes me back to my childhood and my mother who bottled fruits and pickles for the winter.

    Have a wonderful week!
    Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror, A Memoir of Shattered Secrets

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  33. Hi Ann .. just delighted to see you - I'll email after this .. well I'm delighted my September post cheered you up - and I'm glad I put the Canadian poster up reminding of days long ago ..

    We grew up with crocks of pickled eggs and walnuts, bottled pears and apples and then when the freezer came .. other vegetables and fruits my parents started growing .. they were excellent gardeners ..

    Your colours will come and brighten up your lands around .. the North American colours are so strong - we have them here, but in smaller swathes .. just gorgeous too ..

    Have a good rest of your Sunday - must be lunchtime nearly for you .. and big hugs to you and Jen .. cheers Hilary

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  34. I was on my way to see you when you popped onto my blog. We must have passed each other. Glad we didn't collide. :) I ordered the "Long Walk" and it's already waiting for me on my Kindle. I feel so lucky and electronically pampered. My Grandmother never even had the luxury of talking on a telephone.( Well, maybe not a luxury. There are days I turn off all phones and it feels sooo good.)
    This post, with all the fall and winter foods, has put me in the mood for roots and barley. I look forward to autumn with my grateful heart. Thank you Hilary.
    Manzanita@Wannabuyaduck

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  35. Hi Manzanita .. well I too am glad we didn't collide ... but amazing that you've bought the book .. the film was very loosely based on the true story .. the IMDb website - here's the link ..
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1023114/faq

    and Wikipedia has some information too .. I hope you enjoy it .. it'll be interesting to hear about ..

    Autumn time is gorgeous for many reasons .. just would rather not have the winter to follow! ..

    Cheers and thanks for coming by ..

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  36. You've done a mouth-watering job of cataloguing the season. Good, tart apples and roast pork! And pickles and chutneys, all sorts, which can make any meal into a feast. Delicious post!

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  37. Hi Hilary,
    As per usual, you have published an excellent and informative posting.
    Actually, thanks for the reminder, there are a plentiful amount of apples out in my garden and the neighbour's garden. Howdy neighbour, how about 'dem' apples'?, as a New Yorker might say...
    And those apples will go nicely with the 'Stinking Bishop', but hey, that's another story...:)
    Thanks Hilary and enjoy the upcoming forecasted 'heatwave':)

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  38. @ Susan .. thank you - Autumn does seem to be a month when we bring foods together .. whereas in Spring we just want one fresh thing, followed by another .. I love the foods of Autumn time - roasts again .. - glad you enjoyed the post.

    @ Gary .. many thanks & I'm glad you'll now use some of the apples in your garden! One tree has a great deal of fruit .. perhaps your neighbour will be inspired to pick if they see you out there - Penny I'm sure will help?!

    Stinking Bishop and a good tart apple with some fresh bread .. such a simple meal and so good ..

    Cheers Susan - enjoy your week, while Gary and I will hope for our belated heatwave and enjoy that ... Hilary

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  39. I never heard of mutton soup before! All of the rich colors, and comfort foods really bring Autumn to life! I love this time of year, and will gladly return to sample all of these delicious flavors! Julie

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  40. Hi Julie .. yes, mutton is coming back into fashion as a good stewed meat dish .. then there's soup following on ..

    Delighted to see you and hear you'll return .. it's a wonderful time of year - enjoy your early Autumn days .. Hilary

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  41. What a rich and colourful time of year the autumn is. I remember baking Bramley apples when I was living in England. Thanks for this delightful post.

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  42. Hi Juliet .. well I'm just loving your Spring photos etc .. but this Autumn is fantastic over here - and now it is gorgeous .. cool, crisp early evenings and mornings and bright sunshine (hot soon!!!!!?) during the day - a real Indian Summer.

    Enjoy your Spring as it unfurls .. Hilary

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