Harvest Festival Celebrations 2012Posted on: 21 September 2012 by Elaine Palmer
Harvest Festival is a celebration of all the food grown on our land. Thanksgiving ceremonies for a flourishing harvest can not only be found across the world, but go back a long way.
In Britain, we have given thanks for successful harvests since pagan times. We celebrate this day by singing, praying and decorating our churches with baskets of fruit and food. This is what is commonly known as a ‘Harvest Festival’.
Harvest Festival reminds Christians of all the good things God has given them. This can help them want to share with others who are not as privileged.
In schools and churches people bring food from home to a Harvest Festival service. After the service, the food on display is made into parcels and given to those in need.
Why do we have Harvest Festival?
They are a celebration at the time of year when all the crops have been harvested, people celebrate to show that they are grateful for all the food that has been grown. Given the differences in climate and crops, Harvest Festivals can be found at various times throughout the world. Here in Britain it usually occurs during the month of September.
When is Harvest Festival?
Harvest Festivals are traditionally held on or near the Sunday of the Harvest Moon. This is the full Moon that occurs closest to the autumn equinox (about 23rd September). In two years out of three, the Harvest Moon comes in September, but in some years it occurs in October. Unlike Northern America and Canada, the UK does not have a national holiday for Harvest Festival. The Harvest Festival of the Jewish religion is called Sukkot or 'the 'Feast of Tabernacles'. It is celebrated at the end of the year, after Rosh Hoshanah, the third of the great Annual Festivals.
History of Harvest Festivals
The Harvest Festival in Britain used to be celebrated at the beginning of the harvest season on 1st of August and was called Lammas, meaning 'loaf mass'. Farmers made loaves of bread from the new wheat crop and gave them to their local churches. They were then used as the communion bread during a special mass thanking God for the harvest. The custom ended when Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic Church, and nowadays we have Harvest Festivals at the end of the season.
At the start of the harvest, communities would appoint a strong and respected man of the village as their 'Lord of the Harvest'. He would be responsible for negotiating the harvest wages and organising the fieldworkers.
The end of the harvest was celebrated with a feast called a Harvest Supper, eaten on Michaelmas Day. The 'Lord of the Harvest' sat at the head of the table. A goose stuffed with apples was eaten along with a variety of vegetables.
The tradition of celebrating Harvest Festival in churches as we know it today began in 1843 when the Reverend Robert Hawker invited parishioners to a special thanksgiving service for the harvest at his church in Cornwall. Victorian hymns such as 'We plough the fields and scatter', 'All things bright and beautiful' and 'Come ye thankful people, come' helped to popularise his idea of Harvest Festival and spread the tradition of decorating churches with home-grown produce for the Harvest Festival service.
Here are some great traditional harvest festival recipes for you to try.
It would have been traditional for families and communities to make a big soup for the communal celebration, using up many ingredients that couldn’t be stored, as well as some that had recently been harvested.
1 butternut squash
2 potatoes, medium
2 onions, small
1 head of garlic, medium
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cups vegetable stock
1 cup apple sauce
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 c Greek plain non-fat yogurt
- Preheat oven to 350. Line a large baking sheet with foil.
- Halve and d-seed the butternut squash
- Make a foil pouch and place the carrots and quartered onions into the pouch drizzle 1 tbsp of the olive oil on them, sprinkle with curry seal the pouch.
- Wrap the head of garlic in foil.
- With the remaining oil rub the surface of the butternut squash and potatoes.
- Place the vegetables into the oven to roast for 40 - 50 minutes. When the squash is tender (test with a fork it should slide in easily) remove from the oven and let them cool fully.
- Scoop out the squash and potato.
- Remove the garlic from its papers and mash it.
- Add the squash, potato, garlic and remaining vegetables to a food processor or blender and puree until creamy. Use some of the broth to aid the processing.
- The roast garlic will squeeze out of its husks easily if you slice the bottom off of the head. Don't let the husk fall into the puree.
- Do it in batches if you need to. Over crowding your appliance can make things more difficult.
- Transfer the puree to a Crock pot and set on low.
- Pour in the remaining broth
- add the spices.
- Blend well and let simmer on low in the Crock pot for 4 hours.
- In the last hour blend in the yogurt and brown sugar to smooth out the edges.
- Serve hot with tasy harvest loaf and creamy butter.
Traditional Cottage Loaf
Traditional cottage loaf for harvest festival the quintessential British bread at its best. Just the shape of this traditional loaf of bread is reminiscent of ploughman's lunches and warm cottage kitchens! A delightfully shaped loaf of bread, which represents all that is tasty and homely in rural Britain. This bread keeps well and makes lovely, if odd shaped sandwiches!
Cut the loaf into wedges and serve with freshly churned butter and a hunk of mature Cheddar cheese, maybe with a pickled onion or two. We used to call this wooden spoon bread when we were little, as you push a wooden spoon down through the two loaves to stick them together before baking!
500 g strong white bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon caster sugar
2 teaspoons fast-rising active dry yeast or 1 ounce fresh yeast
325 ml tepid milk, and water mixed
salt, for glaze
- Sift flour and salt into a bowl, stir in sugar and yeast.
- Make a well in the centre, stir in the tepid milk and water to make the dough. (If using fresh yeast - put the yeast in a jug with a little of the milk and water mixture, and allow it to dissolve and become frothy - mixing thoroughly, then add it to the flour.).
- Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 to 15 minutes until smooth and elastic.
- Put the dough in a large, clean, oiled bowl. Cover with oiled cling film and leave in a warm place until it has doubled in size.
- Then knead the dough for 1 minute and divide it into two-thirds and a third. Shape the pieces into rounds. Cover them and leave for 5 minutes.
- Put the smaller round on top of the larger one. Push a floured wooden spoon (or your fingers) through the centre of both rounds, to join them together.
- Take a very sharp knife and make cuts all around the top round and the bottom round - see the photo. Put the cottage loaf on a lightly floured baking tray, cover and leave for about 45 minutes, or until it has doubled in size.
- Meanwhile preheat the oven to 220C/440F/Gas 7.
- Beat the egg with a tablespoon of water and a pinch of salt.
- Brush the glaze over the cottage loaf and bake for about 35 to 45 minutes, until dark golden brown and hollow sounding when tapped beneath.
Cool before slicing. Delicious served with butter, jam, cheese, cold meats or make sandwiches or toast for picnics and breakfast!
Old fashioned harvest fidget pie
A wonderful pie made from apples, gammon or bacon, herbs and potatoes, this pie was traditionally served to the harvest workers in the field to sustain them through the long days. I like to make my pie crust with a light suet crust, but you can substitute ready-made short crust pastry if you wish. This Pie is often called “Shropshire Fidget Pie”, however, many counties made a version of this for Harvest suppers and the workers in the fields.
300g ready made short crust pastry (or homemade short crust pastry made with suet.)
Beaten egg with milk to glaze 40g butter
4 Potatoes, peeled and finely sliced
2 onions, peeled and sliced
Bramley apples, peeled, cored and sliced (Prepared weight to be about 400g)
2 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
2 teaspoons Demerara sugar
4 slices sweet cure gammon or bacon, rind removed and cut into strips (About 200g)
125ml vegetable stock
- Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4
- To make the filling: heat the butter in a large frying pan and gently cook the potatoes, onions and apples until just golden. Stir in the sage and parsley.
- Transfer the potatoes, onions and apples to an oval pie dish, I use a 1-litre dish; sprinkle the sugar over the filling and season with salt and pepper.
- Place the gammon or bacon pieces in the frying pan and cook lightly in the remaining fat until golden, then add to the pie dish.
- Pour over the stock.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry to fit the top of the pie dish.
- Cover the pie, trimming the edges. Make a steam hole and decorate with the trimmings.
- Brush with the beaten egg and milk mixture.
- Bake for 30 minutes, and then reduce the oven temperature to 160C/gas 3 and cook for a further 10-15 minutes until the pie is golden brown.
Serve hot or cold, the pie tastes great either way.
English stuffed baked autumn marrow
A heart warming and traditional English recipe, which is a wonderful way to deal with those large marrows from the autumn garden! The marrow is stuffed with a savoury beef and onion mixture and is then baked in foil. This is an old family recipe, which always pleases and is regularly requested when these giant marrows are in season, it is hearty and full of flavour and is wonderful when served with a hot tomato sauce, steamed fresh seasonal vegetables and piles of fluffy mashed potatoes. The preparation is a little time-consuming, but the stuffed marrow is then baked slowly in the oven, leaving you free to follow other pursuits.
1 large marrow, about 1.5kg
500 g minced beef
2 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1/2 large red pepper, d-seeded and finely chopped
1 tomato, skinned and chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons tomato puree
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
fresh parsley, to garnish
oil, to grease
- Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
- Wash and cut the marrow in half, then peel strips of skin with a swivel head vegetable peeler, to create a striped pattern; scoop out all the seeds and discard them.
- Prick the inside flesh thoroughly with a fork.
- Put all the stuffing ingredients together in a large mixing bowl and mix together, I find that it is better to use your hands to bring it all together. (Wet your hands before you start to prevent the mixture sticking to your hands!).
- Spoon half the stuffing mixture into each half of marrow, pressing down quite firmly to make the mixture fill the hollows.
- Carefully place one stuffed marrow half on top of the other half and press together, before wrapping in a large sheet of well greased foil. (I use a low fat olive oil spray to grease my foil.).
- Place the foil wrapped stuffed marrow into a large baking tray or ovenproof dish and cook in the pre-heated oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, checking after 1 1/2 hours. The marrow should be soft but still hold its shape. (If you use a smaller or larger marrow, please adjust the cooking time).
- Take the marrow out of the oven when cooked and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
- Carefully remove the foil and serve hot, cut into slices, with the juices from the dish poured back over the marrow, or mixed into your tomato sauce if making.
Serve with steamed fresh vegetables and mashed potatoes. Garnish with fresh parsley.
This is also wonderful when served with a hot tomato sauce.
- Gently fry one finely chopped onion with a clove of garlic in a pan until soft and golden; add a tin of chopped tomatoes, gently heat for a further 5 minutes, check for seasoning and add juices from the marrow, salt, pepper to taste.
- Allow to cool slightly and then blend the sauce in a blender or with a hand held immersion mixer until smooth.
- Gently re-heat and serve with the stuffed marrow.
Apple Damson Tansy
Tansy is the name of a yellow flower with a bitter-sweet flavour. Families often ate meals containing tansy at the end of summer or in early autumn to ‘bring health’ through the winter. We no longer eat tansy, as it can be poisonous if too much is consumed, but it is still used to describe a whole range of custard and omelet style puddings. This tansy is a modern version and serves four.
2 sweet apples such as Cox's Orange Pippin apples, peeled, cored and sliced
200 grams damson plums, stoned and quartered
15 grams butter
40 grams brown sugar
4 eggs, separated
3 tablespoons sour cream or crème fraiche
- Put the apples, damsons, butter and half the sugar in a large frying pan and cook gently until the fruit is softened, stirring continuously. This takes about fifteen minutes but can vary according to the ripeness of the plums.
- Stir in a pinch of each of the spices and remove from the heat.
- While it is cooling, beat the egg yolks with the cream or crème fraiche and stir into the fruit.
- Whisk the egg whites until stiff, then fold into the mixture with a metal spoon.
- Return to a low heat and cook without stirring until the mixture has set. Sprinkle the remaining sugar over the top then brown under a hot grill to caramelise.
This is best served immediately, with a spoonful of clotted cream to contrast with the tang of the tansy.
Harvest Apple Cake
A simple and easy to whip up apple sponge cake; baked in a tray for easy serving - cut into bars or squares for picnics, school or office lunch boxes & for tea-time treats! It is DIVINE served hot with cream, custard or ice cream for a great autumn pudding. This type of cake is often called Dorset or Somerset Apple cake, but it is really quite popular in nearly all of the English counties, especially during apple harvest season. I have stipulated Bramley apples, which are the queen of British cooking apples, in the absence of these, any tart or sharp "Apply" flavoured or regional "cooking" apples will do.
1 lb Bramley cooking apple
1/2 lemon, juice of
8 ounces butter, softened
10 ounces golden caster sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
12 ounces self raising flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons Demerara sugar
- Preheat oven to 180°C/360°F or Gas mark 4.
- Grease & line a rectangular baking tray - approx 9" x 7" or 27 cms x 20 cms, or two round tins.
- Peel, core & thinly slice apples; squeeze the lemon juice over them to stop them discolouring and set them to one side.
- Place butter, caster sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, flour & baking powder into a large roomy mixing bowl & mix well until smooth. You can use an electric hand whisk if it's easier.
- Spread half of the cake/pudding mixture into the prepared tin. Arrange half of the apples over the top of the mixture.
- Repeat the layer with the remaining half of cake/pudding mixture and apples, the apples should be arranged over the top of the cake/pudding mixture.
- Sprinkle over with the Demerara sugar.
- Bake for 45-50 minutes until golden brown, well risen & springy to the touch.
- Wait until the cake has completely cooled before removing the cake and the baking paper from the tin.
- store in an airtight tin or container.
If you wish to serve this warm as a pudding, wait 5-10 minutes and then cut and serve with cream, custard or ice cream.
Heavenly Hedgerow Jelly
(Blackberry and Elderberry Jelly)
One of my favourite “Forage for Free” preserves and one that I always make every autumn! This tangy jelly makes good use of ripe autumn blackberries and glossy, rich elderberries. It is wonderful when served with cheese, game, poultry or lamb, I have also used in steamed puddings. Tuck a jar away for the depths of winter or make a few jars to give as gifts to “foodie” friends.
2.7kg (6 lbs) blackberries and elderberries
3 large lemons
- Squeeze the juice from the lemons and place the lemon juice, pips and squeezed lemon shells into a large casserole dish or pan.
- Add the berries and about 6 to 8 tablespoons water and stir well.
- Cover the casserole dish or pan and simmer over a VERY low heat (or in the bottom of an Aga) for a few hours, or until the berries are very soft and tender.
- Crush the fruit lightly with a potato masher and then tip the bruised fruit into a scalded jelly bag, which is suspended over a non-metallic container; allow to drain undisturbed for 12 hours, or over night.
- Measure the juice and put the juice into a pan with 450g (1 lb) sugar for every 570ml (1 pint) of juice.
- Heat gently, stirring all the time until the sugar has dissolved.
- Raise the heat and boil hard until the setting point has been reached.
- Spoon the hot jelly immediately into warm, clean and sterile jars and seal.
- Store in a cool, dark and dry area.
How to test the setting point with no thermometer. Have one or two saucers in your freezer; as soon as the jam starts to feel "thicker" and is very syrupy, after about 15 minutes, take the jam off the heat and put one teaspoon of jam on to one of the very cold saucers.
Then push the jam with your finger, if it wrinkles and is firm and not runny, then the setting point has been reached. It is important to take the jam off the heat whilst you check! If the setting point has not been reached, put the jam back onto the heat and continue to boil rapidly for another 2 minutes, continue with this method until the setting point has been reached.
All the team at 50Connect would like to wish you a very happy Harvest Festival.
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