HISTORIC Powderham Castle opening its heavy wooden doors for a celebration of food in autumn is more than appropriate.
For, in days of yore, as the warm summer estuary breeze turned cool, the apples ripened and the berries decorated the hedgerows, the castle – particularly its kitchen and still rooms – was a busy place, with the focus on preserving the harvest for the looming, lean months of winter.
There were once great hooks in the kitchen's vast inglenook fireplace where hams were smoked. Great earthenware crocks were used for salting and shiny old copper pans and stoneware pots were brought out for concocting jams, vinegars and cordials. Autumn was the time when the larders were crammed with great sides of pork to be dried, cured and turned into hams and bacon, and milk and cream were destined to become cheese.
This year, the focus of the celebration will also be pickling, potting and preserving, from these skills' ancient roots to space food technology.
In addition to talks on how preserving methods developed by Nasa for astronauts have impacted on our domestic kitchens, visitors will be able to discover how to preserve the seasonal largesse with talks and demonstrations on drying, smoking, salting, jam-making, pickling and brewing.
There will be more than 100 producers exhibiting with demonstrations, talks and tastings by artisan makers, growers and experts in the field of food preservation.
This year's special guests are the award-winning Incredible Spice Men, as seen on BBC2. Friends Tony Singh and Cyrus Todiwala are coming to the festival to share their entertaining take on British food which is "among the finest in the world", with ideas on how to spice it up.
Television gardening presenter, Toby Buckland who lives nearby and owns the Toby Buckland Plant Centre at the estate, will also be there on the day giving a talk on How to Grow your Garden and Eat it, before hosting a panel of experts for a foodie gardening Q&A.
There will also be a charcuterie duel between Peter Grieg of award-winning Pipers Farm butchers and Steve Williams of the Good Game British charcuterie. The pair will examine the preservation of meat through smoking, salting and spicing and will be duelling over who makes the best coppa and salamis.
The forward-looking festival is also playing host to Sophia Griffiths who is the digital content editor at the Institute of Food Science and Technology. The development of space food has been evolving since Soviet cosmonaut German Titov became the first person to eat in space in August 1961. American astronaut John Glenn followed a year later, lunching on apple sauce from a tube. Before these events no one knew if humans would be able to swallow in weightless conditions.
Providing astronauts with adequate nutrition is essential to the success of their missions but its nutritional value has long been the fascination of Sophie who will talk about food eaten in space from the early days to the current planning of the mission to Mars.
Paul Courtney, of Courtneys of Whimple apple juice and cider producers, Annette Cole of the Devon Lady Guns, Ben Bulgar, head chef at Exeter's Magdalen Chapter Hotel, John Crompton of Rossini Rubs, and students from the prestigious Michael Caines Academy at Exeter College, will also be hosting demos throughout the day.
And there will be live music, a preserves competition, children's gardening activities, apple pressing and talks and workshops with the castle's Victorian Cook.
The Powderham Food Festival is sponsored by Helpful Holidays. Doors open on Saturday, October 5, at 10.30am until 5pm. Tickets are £5.