In the second of our posts written by Anneliese Appleby to accompany the forage themed Tinsmiths 2020 calendar, we have a recipe which puts rhubarb centre stage.
Other hedgerow forage found this month: Nettle, Chickweed, Common Sorrel, Crow Garlic, Dandelion root, Hairy Bittercress, Wood Sorrel
1kg Rhubarb – use only the newest bright pink tender stems
400g White Caster Sugar – don’t use golden/brown or you’ll lose the beautiful pink from the Rhubarb!
Wash the rhubarb, trim and discard the leaves at the base.
Cut into lengths of approx 1” (2cm). Place into a large clip top jar (or a bottle) and sprinkle over the sugar, close and then gently shake the jar to coat all the rhubarb in sugar. Leave to stand overnight. Next day, add the gin.
Give it a good shake and leave to stand for 4 weeks.
After 4 weeks you can strain off the fruit and bottle the gin or serve it straight from the jar adding pieces of rhubarb to the cocktail. Alternatively strain off all the fruit and use it to make a lovely boozy pudding such as trifle, crumble or fruit fool.
This recipe can also be used for many other Summer and Autumn fruits including damsons, sloes, raspberries and blackberries. It’s also possible to replace the gin with vodka (if you’re not a fan of gin) to make an equally delicious flavoured spirit.
When using dark berries, such as damsons and blackberries, try adding half a teaspoon of real vanilla extract to the full bottle to give a subtle depth to the flavour. If you’re using damsons or sloes you will need to pierce the skin to release the flavour – this can be done by hand with a cocktail stick or by putting the fruit in the freezer overnight, before starting the recipe, to burst the skins.
In this, the first of a series of posts written by Anneliese Appleby to accompany the forage themed Tinsmiths 2020 calendar, attention is turned to the nutrient-packed watercress plant.
Other hedgerow forage found this month: Cowberry, Chickweed, Common Sorrell, Crow Garlic, Hairy Bittercress, Wood Sorrell, Winter Cress, Wild Cabbage
January is a month where foraged food is less abundant which is why watercress has been chosen as this month’s subject.
In Victorian times watercress was often known as Poor Man’s Bread, as impoverished labourers would have access to watercress even if they couldn’t afford bread or, where meat wasn’t available, watercress was often used to fill sandwiches. Watercress is packed with nutrients, it is rich in vitamin A (from beta-carotene) and vitamin C, and is a source of foliate, calcium, iron and vitamin E. It also contains useful amounts of vitamin K, thiamin, vitamin B6, potasium and Iodine. Watercress, along with nettles, really is an amazing secret foraged superfood!
Please note, only harvest wild watercress from watercourses that you know to be clean, unpolluted and away from livestock. Watercress can be a source of Liver Fluke, a group of harmful parasitic trematodes.
1 tbsp Olive Oil
1 tbsp Butter
1 Onion, chopped finely
2 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
½ tsp Nigella Seeds
1 small stick of Celery, chopped finely
250g Watercress, washed
1 pint Vegetable or Chicken Stock
Salt + Pepper, to taste
½ pt Double Cream to garnish
Heat the Oil and Butter in a large saucepan. Add the Garlic, Onion, Nigella Seeds and Celery
and saute gently for 5-10 minutes until the onion becomes clear but not browning.
Add the Watercress, stir to coat in the buttery oil and onion, cover with a lid and wilt for 7-8
minutes, turning over the leaves with a spatula occasionally.
Add the stock. Bring gently to the boil, simmer for 5 minutes.
Whizz in the pan with a handheld liquidiser.
Season to taste
Serve piping hot with a generous swirl of Double Cream
On the side try a crusty loaf of bread, lashings of butter and a lump of a fine French Cheese. Enjoy.
The 2020 Tinsmiths Calendar takes it’s inspiration from nature’s seasonal bounty. For this, our twelfth Tinsmiths Calendar, the theme is foraging. Beautifully illustrated with linocut designs by Anneliese Appleby, each month showcases a different forage suggestion from locally grown, seasonal produce. The calendar has been a collaboration between Anneliese Appleby and Martin Clark of Tilley Printing, who has printed all of our previous calendars to date, using original type, blocks and linocuts and then printed on Tilley’s trusty Heidelberg letterpress (which, we’re reliably informed, is due to celebrate it’s fortieth year of hard work in 2020).
Throughout 2020 we will bring a monthly ‘forage’ post, kindly written by Anneliese, to accompany the according month illustration in the calendar. Foraging is a great excuse to get outdoors, learn more about the local habitat and enhance your diet and cookery with new flavours, colour, and healthy nutrients. Foraging can be a fun activity with children and a wonderful way of teaching them about where food comes from. There’s nothing quite like the excitement of going out for a long walk to find the forage and then bringing it home to make into a tasty meal. It’s also an excellent reminder of the seasonal heritage of our food.
Before foraging there are a few important things to bear in mind:
- Always follow foraging ettiquette; use a good quality foraging guide to help you identify plants that are unfamiliar to you, particularly, for example, when you are hunting for mushrooms.
- Be mindful of the natural environment you are about to forage in and consider if you have right of access to the land. Leave nothing but footprints!
- Ensure to leave enough of the plant for it to continue flourishing successfully, including casting seeds or spores, take no more than you actually need.
- Wash the food thoroughly before cooking and consuming, it may have been exposed to pesticides or run off from commercial farming. It may also have been in contact with domestic or wild animals.
As you turn the page of your calendar each month don’t forget to revisit the Tinsmiths blog for the latest foraging entry which will be peppered with poetry, tips and recipes.
Bayeaux Tapestry, depicting the events of the Battle of Hastings and Norman Conquest in 1066, record of it first appears on the Bayeaux Cathedral inventory in 1429.
Well, I thought I knew what was meant by Crewel Work, but there is debate amongst embroiderers, historians and enthusiasts. So, to be specific, I am describing raised embroidery on heavyweight linen or cotton using wool rather than silk or any other yarn. I say “raised” because the designs do not completely cover the back cloth, leaving a texture to the fabric. Traditionally, a rough pattern was marked on to the back cloth using either a pricked pattern and a pounce (a talc-filled bag, padded onto the pattern and allowing talc through to mark guides) otherwise the technique was “free” allowing interpretation and embellishments, in contrast to the thread-counted silk embroideries.
This curtain is from a set of bed hangings which, when pulled closed around a bed, provided warmth and privacy. They were usually the most important part of the bed, generally referred to as the ‘furniture’, and were often valued more highly than the wooden bed frames they decorated.
The curtain is embroidered in a technique known as crewel work, from the crewel or worsted wool used. Crewel work was popular through much of the second half of the 17th century, and was used extensively for bed hangings. It was usually carried out on a strong ground fabric of linen and cotton twill. The embroidery is worked in stem, satin, coral, herringbone and link stitches.
Needlework was a skill taught from early girlhood in 17th-century Britain. Adult women might earn their living from it, or use it in the upkeep and decoration of their households.
The seventeenth century was a high point in the production of crewel and it is often referred to as Jacobean embroidery featuring highly stylized floral and animal designs with flowing vines and leaves. Many of these would be exotic and incredible to their audience. The term “Crewel” is thought to be derived from curl, meaning the staple or average length of fibre used to spin into the yarn used for such a technique.
Image traditionally called Dorothy Cary, later Viscountess Rochford, c. 1614-1618 showing richly embroidered waistcoat.
Outlining stitches such as stem stitch, chain stitch and split stitch create areas that are often filled with satin stitch, using tonal graduations to give the impression of shade and light. Occasionally couched stitches (where one thread is laid on the surface of the fabric and another thread is used to tie it down and create a trellis effect), Seed stitches and French knots embellish the overall design.
The crewel work of the 17th century was used lavishly for bed drapes and wall hangings – it was a time of affluence in Britain and, with the establishment of trading links via the East India, crewel work began to be produced in Asia. A wave of interest also carried across the Atlantic to America and there are many fine examples of crewel work appearing in the USA in the 18th century up to the time of the revolution.
Bed rug, 1796
Maker Unknown (American)
Colchester, New London County, Connecticut
Linen/cotton and wool;
The Arts and Crafts Movement of the late 19th century next saw a revival in the UK. Led by William Morris, the movement believed in going “back to the earth” and his marriage to Jane Burden and the establishing of their home was the pivot that steered Morris to his devotion and study of the decorative arts. In particular, Morris invested time in producing natural dyes to provide soft shades of blue and green woollen yarn. Morris expanded medieval design to reflect his generation and need. The long and short stitch was nicknamed the Kensington stitch and a cottage industry was formed to produce the embroideries.
Embroidered hangings or bed curtains designed by May Morris (1862-1938) in 1891-2 and stitched between 1898 and 1902. Worked in crewel wools on natural linen in stem stitch with satin, chain, running and knitting stitches and French knots, the ground is of narrow widths of hand-spun and woven linen with the edges butted and seamed prior to embroidery.
When we, at Tinsmiths, found a supplier of crewel work fabric a couple of years ago, we decided to offer the fabric on the basis that it has a weirdly austere luxury – a contradiction in terms but one that describes a cloth that is quite distinct from any other.
You can find our “Hall” fabrics Berrington & Morants in the patterned fabric area of our on-line fabric shop. If you are inspired to sew some crewel of your own, linen backclothes can also be found in our web-shop. We would suggest using a linen such as Wholemeal, Highland or Linen Flax.
Until now our working lives have been those advanced in their careers. Luis, at 19yrs and just six months out of college, is at the beginning of his working life and we asked him few questions.
How did this begin? “When I was fifteen my school programme of work experience came along and I had no idea how to spend the five days allocated. ‘Well, think about what you have enjoyed most in your life to date’ suggested my Dad.”
“A day with Ben Orford, a multi-disciplinary craftsmen, had so far been the best day of my life. With Ben I was allowed to really use tools and equipment to forge a blade and horn mount a woodsman’s knife” and Luis’ response led to a week with blacksmith, Alex Wilkins at Stretton Grandison, followed by six evenings at Holme Lacy College. “I was lucky that I had just had my sixteenth birthday – allowing me to enrol for the evening class and follow up my work experience”.
* Luis (14yrs) linishing at Ben Orford’s workshop
How did you learn? From there, after GCSE’s, Luis spent three years at Holme Lacy College, which is part of Hereford College of Technology, learning blacksmiths’ “sets” – that is the sequence of processes to achieve particular functions. The sets are essential and these were practiced over and again until perfect; a thorough approach that “sold” the course to Luis. “The college felt so different to school. There was mutual respect; I showed that I wanted to learn and the teaching staff gave me 100%.”
* Handmade Tongs for specific tasks, made at Holme Lacy
In a summer break, Luis built a forge at home and about that time began selling his small fire irons. “My forge wasn’t perfect – I little poisonous in fact – but selling my work was really encouraging, it was great to know that people wanted what I was making.”
* Water Twist Fire Pokers by Luis
Luis completed his course this summer and turned to improving his own forge and building up equipment, “It was quite a shock to come from the biggest and best equipped teaching forge in Europe to a small outhouse with forge and anvil – with rather inadequate ventilation! At college we learnt to make all our own handtools, but that didn’t stop me missing both the power hammer and the company of enthusiastic students”. Time management and self-discipline would be a challenge to most teenagers but Luis tries to put in six hours at the forge most days, admin and designing taking up more time. “If I’m working on a new idea or in the flow of making a group of pieces I work until I’m finished, recently I’ve been making for three Christmas events and have commissions to get out too”.
Plans for the future? Get a driving licence and go on the road. Luis is keen to get working alongside experienced blacksmith in a team or as an assistant on larger projects.
Did family background play a part? “I think there has been a sub-conscious influence on me as I was growing up – having parents who are skilled in art and craft has trickled down to me. Most of their friends are creative and work on their own in this field so it was normal to me to see people working fairly autonomously. However, college really opened me up to learning, exciting my interest widely, so I’m thinking of a little more education – I’ve always enjoyed Biology and would like to speak Spanish.” Well, all he needs to find is a Spanish Blacksmith, making enormous animals who needs an assistant!
Luis’ work can be found in little Tinsmiths – toasting forks a speciality
This morning was not the best time to turn up at Cilla Clive’s Fruit Farm, Redbank, close to Ledbury.
Cilla Clive Fruit Grower
Despite the pressures of harvesting, monitoring ripening apples and huge decisions to be made as the fruit market across Europe reels at the fallout from Russian blockades, Cilla was welcoming.
“I grew up on a farm growing hops, cider, blackcurrants and Hereford cattle. My father believed that women should have proper roles and, when I planned to go to agricultural college at Seale Hayne, he suggested I study agriculture, rather than specialise in dairy from the start. He didn’t want me to be tied to a cow’s tail”.
Cilla’s Father, Denys Thompson.
Her father wasn’t the only person to encourage Cilla to furnish herself with the knowledge that she needed to be an independent woman and fruit grower. In 1974 she embarked on a “crash” course in fruit growing with instruction from Dick Clive.
Dick Clive Grafting
The winter of 1976 found Cilla planting strawberries in the snow on the south-facing banks of Wall Hills, near Ledbury which became Red Bank – the nucleus of a many enterprises in later years. The strawberries were a cash crop to help fund the longer-term investment in orchards which have been Cilla’s main concern in the intervening years.
‘Long term’ is a phrase that crops up around fruit growing – commercial fruit tree nurseries and marketeers need to know what you will be planting in the next five years and what you will be harvesting in the next decade.
Preparing the Ground 1976-1977
Redbank before Fruit 1976
Clearing Orchard Boundary 1976
Planting the First Strawberries 1976
Building the First Apple Store 1978
First Strawberry Harvest 1978
Weighing them up 1978
Work starts at Red Bank at 8am at this time of year when workers arrive and the length of the day depends entirely on the season.Cilla at 73 yrs, has only just, under advice from medics, given up tractor driving but is firmly in the driving seat making decisions daily if not hourly.
Cilla Preparing the Ground 1976
First Apple Harvests
Buckets of Apples
First Apples for the Apple Store
Of course, Cilla takes advice and she takes it widely and with great care. I was struck by the way she is constantly comparing fruit growing across the world, listening and filtering facts and anecdote. What in her working day would she gladly be rid of?
“There is a ton of office work, which is a pain, but I am lucky to have the back-up of my son’s business, Haygrove, which allows some relief from it. I am a grower – that’s it”.
Orchards on a Misty Morning at Redbank, Sept 2014
So what to grow in the future and what drives her forward?“Inheritance Tax!” she exclaims, and, as it turns out, global warming. The champagne regions are on the move North and growing grapes for wine is becoming a real option in Ledbury. But this isn’t the first time that the slopes of Red Bank have been vineyards.
In 1266, Thomas Cantilupe, Bishop of Hereford and last English Saint, visited his palace in Ledbury to hunt boar on the Malvern Hills, instructed that the vineyards on the south facing slopes of the Wall Hills be re-planted. Now Cilla is doing it again. Bacchus (grape variety) is gradually re-claiming the slopes, and in this, its first year, looking good.
“I realised that apple growing was unlikely to be of interest to my son whereas grape-growing and wine-making would excite him. I put it to him and was delighted by his interest.”
Cilla’s excitement at this new area of activity is tempered by her practical, business-like approach and years of experience; she explained that it is always important to grow for demand rather than personal preference and to spread risk in this weather-dependent realm of horticulture. The world of wine-making is short of Bacchus, hence Bacchus……
First fruitings of Bacchus at Redbank 2014
Cilla has no plans to retire, she enjoys being part of a multi-generational and international fruit growing community all around her home in Ledbury and making research trips nationally and internationally.
“I had a great road trip two years ago to see my first batch of young grape vines growing in a specialist nursery in Luxembourg. The nursery-man was surprised to see me, apparently nobody visits their young plants, but it’s good to make the connection and I think people make a special effort in response”.
Jazz Apples at Red Bank
Many thanks to Cilla Clive for an hour of her time – in the middle of apple picking! I look forward to a Spartan, Jazz, Cox or Bramley soon and a little later, a glass of something from Bishops’ Vineyard.