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Preserving Letchworth’s Harvest

This is the time of the year when Transition Town Letchworth would usually be busy setting up apple pressing events, helping local people turn their excess fruit into a storable product, but with current restrictions this has not been possible. Fortunately, we have not missed out on a bumper harvest as many trees have also had a quiet year!

We have often discussed the possibility of investing in re-usable glass bottles and pasteurising the juice but have never quite felt the energy to master this after a day on the presses. So, this year we decided to invest in a food thermometer and some glass bottles and have tried out different techniques for pasteurising our juice. Once set up we found it didn’t take much effort to pasteurise batches of juice bottles at 70C for 20 minutes each, in the kitchen. With a single re-use of the glass bottles the apple juice will be more cost effective than shop bought juice, with the added benefit that it removes single-use plastic from the shopping basket.

With Letchworth community orchards in Manor Wood, Hillbrow, Wilbury Road and Croft Lane there are apples that we can all enjoy. But a word of warning, before you pick a bag full, even of the rosy red ones, taste them first because a lot of the trees are for cider making, especially in the Croft Lane orchard, and are not good to eat.

With expertise in cider making and apple juicing in the town, along with plenty of apples, our hope is that before the next apple pressing season a ‘Core’ group of apple juice and cider makers can come together and will be able to support new people to join in with preserving the apple harvest. There is plenty of scope for getting discounts on bottles and other equipment through group purchasing and Transition Town Letchworth have already invested in apple pressing equipment.

Apple juice is just one way to preserve the apple harvest, dried apple rings, done in a low temperature oven, keep quite a long time and are a good alternative to chocolate bars in a lunchbox. Chutneys can use up green tomatoes and apples, and home-made ‘Christmas Mincemeat’ needs apples.

Apples are not the only crop that abounds at this time of year. Many walks around the town now have blackberries just waiting to be eaten. Blackberries store well in the freezer and can make a warming winter dessert, what’s not to like about an apple and blackberry crumble? They also defrost well enough to add to breakfast cereal, an alternative to imported out-of-season blueberries. So, preserving our harvest is a tasty way to reduce our food miles and repair our climate.

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