Starting of the school year is hovering over everyone like a dark cloud as we continue to wish and hope for summer to linger, hot weather to stay and the days to remain long and fun-filled. Exhibitions and county fairs, incredible picnics, blueberries ripening blackberries plump on their canes and tassels emerging on the corn are a sure sign that August is here and summer’s end is drawing near.
The Halifax county exhibition has an extensive history and a modern example of the joys yesteryear still thriving and active, not locked in a buried time capsule. For over 125 years the Halifax County Exhibition has been owned and operated by The Middle Musquodoboit Agricultural Society, dating as far back as 1819.
In 1884, the first Halifax County Exhibition was held in Cole Harbour, Dartmouth. The exhibition resided there for two years before moving. The exhibition has been hosted in the village of Middle Musquodoboit since 1886, making this specific fair one of the oldest and last of the old-fashioned ‘open air’ agricultural fairs.
Years ago, people came from all over the province. Many competitors may have entered a competition in the hopes of winning that coveted 1st place ribbon; this still happens today in a variety of divisions including livestock such as cattle, horse and poultry, non-livestock such as horticulture, floriculture and life skills including crafts, foods and photography.
The Halifax County Exhibition is known across the province as a ‘family exhibition’. It is a traditional venue for local and area farmers to showcase their livestock and agricultural products. People come for the 4-H displays and demonstrations as well as the oxen, horse and truck pulls. The 4-H clubs that participate in these exhibitions are very impressive young people and is an exceptional way for youth ages 9-21 to learn and develop skills that are priceless and difficult to come by. Public speaking skills, professionalism through showmanship and community involvement, ownership and how to excel through their projects and build self esteem through exercising the 4-H motto, “Learn To Do By Doing”. It is an excellent program to network and to create friendships through sharing common interests and taking pride in accomplishments. Locally there are 4 clubs, Shu-Mil, Riverside, Hardwoodlands and a newly formed Halifax Regional Municipality club.
Also in celebration of summer grown bounty, the incredible picnic has been a hit to both promote and inspire to eat good and support our farmers and economy as a community. Inspiration for the event came from the 1,000-kilometre cross-country picnic held on Bastille Day in France where participants celebrate with local food.
Each picnic has a great mix of producers and chefs selling everything you need to put together a fabulous picnic lunch, or you can bring your own basket full of local foods. Buying local and eating fresh products is important to an increasing number of Nova Scotians, so I urge everyone to come out to one of the picnic locations.
Cooking in season and locally as well as restocking the pantry for the year ahead, this is one of my favorite fruit preserves. This fruit butter is almost jam like but cuts out the pectin, cuts back the sugar by nearly half and has a full, fruity flavor.
Slow Cooker Blueberry Butter
makes about 3 1/2 pints of butter
• 8 cups of pureed blueberries
• 2 cups sugar
• 1 lemon, zested
• 2 teaspoons cinnamon
• 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Put the pureed blueberries in a slow cooker. Place a lid on the pot and turn it on to low. After about an hour, give it a stir. At this point, you want to use something to prop the lid a bit. I found that laying a wooden spoon across the rim of the cooker and then placing the lid on gave it just enough room to let the steam evaporate.
My blueberry butter spent about six hours in the slow cooker (from 5:30 p.m. when I got home from work, until 11:30 p.m. when I canned and processed it). At the beginning of hour five, I added the spices and the sugar, removed the lid completely and turned the heat up to high, in order to speed the cooking down.
Once it’s cooked down sufficiently*, pour into jars (leave a good 1/2 inch of head space), wipe rims, apply lids and screw on bands. Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes. Eat on fresh scones and store unopened jars in a cool, dark place.
Here is to hoping the tail end of August and the start of September treats everyone with warmth and abundance!!