Gather momentum

Categories: News and previews

Kathy Slack of Gluts and Gluttony on the cosy, comforting cuisine of autumn and what to expect from her Apple Day demo

The apple harvest is, I think, the most important moment in the growing calendar. Practically, it heralds the start of autumn. Crops are brought in, fields are tidied, harvests are stored. We are busy packing up. But more prosaically, it signals the gathering in of everything and the transition from outdoors to indoors. Like a squirrel burying nuts for the winter, we harvest our apples, pears, quince and pumpkins and bring them in to store, neat and safe in the shed. It’s comforting to feel snuggled in, secure and well stocked, with everything neatly packed away until next year, but there’s an air of melancholy as warm summer evenings become, all too quickly, a distant memory.

That’s why Apple Day is such a treat. It lifts our spirits and reminds us of the incredible bounty that comes with autumn. Rather than retreating to the fireside, it’s a chance to celebrate all the hard work growing crops over the year and revel in the results of a job well done.

Apples are especially reflective of this because they are the culmination of a whole year’s work. The year begins with the traditional wassailing of apple trees (any excuse to drink cider, eh?) followed by the delicate job of pruning. Then, come spring, growers watch the apple blossom fretfully, fearful that heavy spring rains or a storm will destroy the flowers before they’ve had chance to set. Summer brings the heartbreaking task of thinning the baby apples, so they don’t rub each other or over-stress the tree—steal yourself, it’s a job that must be done. But come autumn, the crop is ready for harvest and it is definitely a cause for celebration.

Rich, sweet and unctuous
Cooking at this time of year is unashamedly cosy. The winter squash harvest brings a yearning for roast pumpkin, pumpkin mash and butternut squash soup—rich, sweet and unctuous—proper nursery food. And yet, the warmth of summer is only just out of reach and I, for one, still yearn for crisp crunch and colour in my autumn menu.

The chicory and fennel harvests of early autumn make wonderfully bracing salads when combined with sweet pears and, for example, the salty tang of blue cheese, while a combination of the first winter cabbages—red, savoy and others—with crisp apples brings a welcome crunch when served raw in slaws. These lively, invigorating crops are sent to remind us that it’s not time to hibernate completely quite yet.

I’ll be celebrating not only the apple harvest, but also all the crops of early autumn at the Demo Kitchen during Apple Day. I’ll be showing you lots of ways to use the apple and pear glut—think apple and chestnut flan; pear and blue cheese salad; pork with apple slaw. Plus, a cameo from an autumn favourite of mine: winter squash with scallops. Heaven.

Join Kathy for tips, tastings and recipes between 12:30-2pm on Sunday 21st October in the Market Hall