Sorry for the interruption …

Sorry for the interruption to our web site service over the last couple of days. We were hacked. Because of this, we have moved to a new hosting service a couple of weeks before we had planned.

It is in the nature of the world wide web that links take a little while to settle down again after being disrupted and you may still experience occasional strange behaviour. Please bear with us. We are fundamentally safe and sound and are back on track.

Please keep coming back to read about our local food in Ledbury.

 

Breakfast…

…the name should give us a clue to how important the first meal of the day is. Unless we have been sneaking down for a midnight snack it is likely to be 10 or more hours since we ate anything when that alarm clock rings – we are allowed to be hungry! Dieticians and nutritionists have been saying for ages that we shouldn’t skip breakfast, not even if we are trying to lose weight – actually especially if we are trying to lose weight. How much more likely are you to reach for a snack mid-morning if you haven’t eaten since the night before? A good breakfast provides the energy we need to get us and our brains going.

As part of Farmhouse Breakfast Week a group of Ledbury businesses are offering everyone a really delicious breakfast on Friday 25th and Saturday 26th of January. For example at The Talbot there will be a special Ledbury Big Breakfast Brunch, recalling the days of railway dining and featuring anecdotes from railway historian Gareth Calan Davies. As with all the breakfasts in and around Ledbury this weekend each & every bit of food will be locally produced.

Our three fantastic butchers are offering local bacon, eggs and sausages, you will be able to sample them and I believe there are some specials offers on too. And if you have never tasted wild boar, then you can go to Llandinabo Farm Shop and have a Forest of Dean Wild Boar bap – I might see you there!

You don’t eat meat? Don’t despair, there are plenty of other things on offer. Handley Organics are offering their range of locally produced scotch eggs from The Handmade Scotch Egg Company in Bishops Frome. These include gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian scotch eggs as well as traditional ones, and they are all delicious. Just down the road at Four Oaks Delicatessen you can buy their own muesli and local fruit purée pots with a 10% reduction for the 2 days of the event. Also on offer are individual breakfast frittatas with local eggs, potato, mushroom and bacon.

And Ledbury’s cafes are offering a mouth-watering selection, from Eggs Benedict, Eggs Florentine and a Fisherman’s Breakfast (Smoked Mackerel and Poached Egg) with a free filter coffee at Sez to a continental style buffet breakfast with a twist at the Muse Café in the Homend. Choices will include Pimhill muesli, savoury filled croissants, savoury and sweet muffins, local breads, cold meat and cheeses, delicious fruit compote with local yoghurt.

All in all, fifteen local businesses are offering a fantastic range of locally produced food, details will be on the website shortly. So whether you fancy the monster Breakfast at Nice Things or the smoked salmon and scrambled eggs at Blue Fuchsia there will be a breakfast for you in Ledbury that weekend!

The Mayor’s Christmas Hamper

Mayor Phil Bettington asked the Ledbury Food Group to create a couple of Christmas hampers using local food and drink for St Michaels Hospice and to raise money for the Christmas Lights. I shopped up and down Ledbury high street on behalf of the Ledbury Food Group looking for the sort of goodies I would like to receive as Christmas presents. The Three Counties Cider shop sells hampers so you can make up your own – and choose cider and juice at the same time.

I found mulberry jam and blackcurrant leaf (yes leaf) cordial from Handley Organics. They are made from Caroline Handley’s own fruit bushes. The cordial tastes of blackcurrant but is lighter and slightly herby. Kaye at Four Oaks makes chilli jam and chutneys and Wallers Butchers sell Three Counties Gourmet mustard. I bought pickled onions from Jenkins the Greengrocers and honey from Gladwyn James. At Llandinabo Butchers most produce is local, they have lots of game at the moment and their eggs and pork pies are excellent, but perhaps not for a hamper. The Cider shop supplied some of Frank’s fabulous biscuits as well as pear juice.

Of course we have our own chocolatier at Celebrations and I chose chocolate covered mandarins with a Chrismassy taste. Gurneys Butchers has lots of fine local meats and Spar sells local drinks, cakes and vegetables. Hay Wines have an excellent range of local beers, ciders and wines and gave us some Dorothy’s Christmas Ale as a festive addition to the hamper. Ceci Paulo deli is of course continental, but their bread and several cheeses are local. They provided Tyrrells crisps for us.

So think about shopping in Ledbury and making up hampers for food loving friends.

Christmas is coming ‘someone’s’ geese are getting fat…..

Before the popularity of the turkey goose was the Christmas celebration bird of choice. Easy to rear for anyone who had a piece of land or easily purchased from the many butchers that abounded on our high streets. That’s before freezers made their appearance – both commercial and domestic! Now it’s out on our butchers’ shelves again, albeit sparsely. More of a ‘niche’ buy. Probably because people are wary of cooking it and for a one off piece of meat it doesn’t have the versatility of the turkey when it comes to post Christmas dining……

So this is the brief tale of a local farming family who have a history of rearing – alongside the main farming activities – and supplying our local butchers with the Christmas goose – and what that entails….. It all starts around the end of May. At one time the eggs were hatched on the farm but now it is more practical to buy the goslings at around four days old from a supplier. They purchase around one hundred in number. To begin with they are kept under lamps and artificial light and fed on poultry crumb for four weeks. During this time there is a natural wastage of around 10% – survival of the fittest! Once ‘in feather’ they can be released on to the fields and for seven months they are free to roam. Protection is all important. Predators abound. A watchful eye is kept and the birds come in every night…. At the beginning of December the birds are brought into the sheds, corn fed, and on the 20th they are ready for dispatching. Until recently that was a hands on affair but to make life easier a professional gang is now hired to perform the task as well as the plucking.

An interesting note was that now ‘wet’ plucking makes feather removal ‘cleaner’ but when ‘hand done’ the down from the goose could be retrieved and sold for eiderdowns and pillows. A lucrative by product. My friend made me laugh when she said she was educated on those proceeds! Now her ‘by product’ is goose fat. The fat inside the bird once removed, she renders down and ‘jars’. A local friend makes the labels… Our local butchers market it and we get the benefit of making great roast potatoes…!

So the 20th has arrived and this labour intensive season is coming to an end for another year. The geese are individually dressed and made table ready. Giblets included – so important for that meaty gravy…! All that is left to do is the delivery of the birds to butchers – around Ledbury and Bromyard. I say ‘all’ ‘cos it’s an early morning call for the driver…..

So that’s it folks. My first blog ever and, hopefully, if you enjoyed it, not my last. So go on. Order that goose from Wallers or Gurneys – I’ve ordered mine! A merry Christmas and a happy New Year to one and all.

PS As a footnote from my source – always remember to slice the cooked goose thinly. And another great tip – the unused and usually discarded ‘feathered wing’ from the bird is great for sweeping down the back of the aga or getting in those cobwebby corners!…..she’ll have some to spare…. !

Welcome to the blog! (and start your Christmas shopping)

Would I like to start a blog about local food?  It would mean going round to local food growers, producers and suppliers, sampling their wares, talking to them and writing about it…

I had heard of the Ledbury Food Group, taken part in the original survey and been interested in what was happening now, so I was intrigued. And they weren’t to know just how interested in food I am, so I tried not to sound too keen – or greedy.  But actually I was going “yippee”, and so far everyone I have mentioned the blog to has asked to come along!

That is the thing about this part of the country.  People are genuinely enthusiastic about local produce – and with good reason.  Moving here five years ago I was delighted to discover how delicious the local meat, poultry and game was, to find that the fruit & veg I was buying came from down the road, and to realize just how many local cider and perry producers were within a stone’s throw of my house. As well as delivering delicious produce that reaches a wide audience, and being businesses that hold their own in a very competitive market, providing jobs for local people, these producers are rooted in the landscape and history of the area – and I think you can taste that in what they offer.  Read the interview with Once Upon A Tree producer Ann Stanier to feel that sense of place.

So, where do I start?  Watch this space for news about people starting new foodie ventures, for profiles of old favourites and for anything of interest to do with food that is going on within a 30 mile radius of Ledbury.  I hope I can expand your knowledge of what is out there, and make you think about some of the issues around local food.

Contact me (melissa@ledburyfoodgroup.org) if there are places you have come across that you think everyone should know about, or even ones that you have just heard about and would like to know more – I can’t wait to get going!

Finally, although I disapprove of getting organised for Christmas too early, it has dawned upon me that it is looming, and I came across this yesterday, hot off the press (Tilley’s, of course!  See about this long-established Ledbury business on http://www.ledburyportal.co.uk/portal/ )  So here is an idea for the perfect present for local food-lovers (easy to post too)  Tinsmiths’ 2013 Letterpress Calendar offers an ingredient for each month and invites you to look at their blog for maybe a recipe or an activity to do with it.  January’s is water, and promises a walk to fetch water from the Malvern Hills, but I’m looking forward to blackcurrants in July, oh and bangers in November – intriguing! See it under Accessories (Books and Stationery) on their website: http://shop.tinsmiths.co.uk/index.php

 

Interview with the producer: Ann Stanier of Once Upon a Tree

buy Lyrica Pregabalin Update on 12/12/2016: Ann & Norman have now retired from the business but Dragon Orchard continues to grow orchard fruits and supply Once Upon a Tree.

this article Update on 28/11/2012: Once Upon a Tree are the winners in the Drinks category of the BBC4 Food and Farming Awards. Congratulations to Ann & Norman, Simon & Hannah!

The Ledbury Food Group sets out to discover more about the people that produce our rich, abundant local food and drink. I talked to Ann Stanier of award winning Ledbury cider and apple juice producer Once Upon a Tree at Dragon Orchard about the development of this successful business.

http://smartmedia.com.au//NewsType.asp What is the background to your business?

Dragon Orchard has been owned by my husband Norman’s family for 80 years. It is a small fruit farm of 22 acres and supplied fruit to traditional local wholesalers, markets and food and cider processors. Norman and I returned to live in Herefordshire 20 years ago, after careers elsewhere, to learn fruit farming and take on the family business. It was a time of change. Traditional markets were disappearing and we soon realised that the farm would not be sufficient to keep us.

What did you do faced with such difficulties?

We realised that our best asset was the orchard itself, and we put great emphasis on maintaining its traditional character in our husbandry and our planting. We explored organic options, but decided that our orchard would benefit best from the minimum intervention regime that had always been practiced.

Our first development was our Cropsharers’ scheme. We saw this as a way to re-establish traditional links between producers and consumers. For an annual subscription, Cropsharers receive a generous share of the produce of our orchard. They also enjoy four weekend visits to the orchard at different seasons for orchard walks, visits to local producers and craft workers, communal meals, and seasonal events such as wassailing.

Then, when we needed to replant part of the orchard, we launched a “sponsor a tree” scheme. We found out later that we were early adopters of Community Supported Agriculture.

How has your business developed more recently?

Six years ago, wine maker Simon Day who grew up at the local Three Choirs Vineyard, was back in the area with the idea of applying wine making techniques to traditional cider production, and looking for orchard fruit in Putley. He was attracted to our traditional style orchard and fruit varieties and approached us with a proposal to make cider with our own cider apples. Once Upon a Tree cider production was born.

In the first year of production we won three first prizes for our cider and at Christmas that year we opened the Once Upon a Tree farm shop at the orchard. We now also make perry using locally grown perry pears and our shop is open from March to Christmas annually selling fruit juices, cider and perry, biscuits and cakes, farm-produced preserves, gifts, hampers and local crafts.

What makes your cider special?

It is ‘wine-style’ cider – the apple varieties are kept separate during fermentation and are blended later to obtain a consistency of flavour from one year to the next in our popular blends such as Putley Gold and Marcle Ridge. We do also produce single variety ciders, e.g. Dabinett and even an oaked cider made with Michelin apples.

We make dessert style cider and perry. The fruit juice is concentrated by freezing it at local ice cream producer Just Rachel’s, and then allowing the frozen juice to defrost just enough for the concentrated fruit syrup to melt, retaining two thirds of the volume in the ice as water. The concentrated juice is then fermented to produce dessert style cider which has 8% alcohol and perry which has 12% alcohol.

What does the future hold?

Well we have just opened our second shop, which we have called Three Counties Cider, in Ledbury High Street selling cider and perry from other producers in the area as well as our own, along with local foodie delights and hampers. And this year we are finalists in the drinks category of Radio 4’s Food and Farming awards and are eagerly awaiting the results at the BBC’s Good Food Show at the Birmingham NEC on 28th November. On top of all that, Simon has been investing in our production facilities and we hope to have some new products in the future.

When I visited, apples were being crushed at the orchard press. The bagged up pomace – the solid remains – gets recycled to local pig farmers at Noggin Farm and Alumhurst Farm. Alongside I was surprised to see debris from recent grape juice extraction. In the barn were some plastic wine storage tanks. They had been recently acquired from Three Choirs Vineyard 5 miles away who have converted to use only stainless steel. Next to those were some smaller stainless steel tanks. These came from another local vineyard, Coddington, whose owners have recently retired and sold up.

Whatever happens next at Once Upon a Tree it is sure to be exciting.

 

Ann Stanier
Dragon Orchard,
Putley,
Ledbury,
Herefordshire
HR8 2RG
Tel No: 01531 670071

Web site: Once Upon a Tree