Parish teams from across Orkney are turning up the heat in preparation for next month’s big home produce showdown in the County.
Organised by Orkney Food and Drink, the Homemade in the Parish event will see dedicated home bakers from throughout the islands go head-to-head in what’s expected to be a fiercely contested competition.
Parish teams will submit products across a wide range of categories – everything from jams, chutneys, shortbreads and cakes, to home brew, cheeses and savoury pies. There’ll also be a special ‘showstopper cake’ section and a baking category for children under 12.
A panel of judges will sample the parish produce at a special event in Kirkwall Grammar School on 6 May, before deciding on category winners. Members of the public will also have the chance to taste and vote on the food being judged.
The inaugural Homemade in the Parish competition - staged two years ago and won by the island of Westray - proved hugely popular, with 12 teams entering.
So far, 11 parish teams have entered this year’s event, including Birsay, where Val Johnston has been coordinating local preparations.
“I’ve organised different people to do the items on the competition list,” she said. “I’ve tried to look for a few new folk too as it encourages them to support events and gives Birsay the chance to show off all its talents! I’ve twisted a few arms, but the competition is great fun and it’s really good to see what the other parishes produce. It was great banter the last time and there was a real sense of community spirit.”
Val added: “Of course, we’re going to win this year. Birsay is the best! There's nothing better than homemade bare bannocks and oatcakes made using Barony Mills products. You can't buy anything as good from the supermarket.”
Parishes will have to enter at least nine of the 13 competition categories, with rosettes and points being awarded to the top three products in each class. Each table/parish will also be judged on presentationand their interpretation of the competition theme ‘Orkney's History, Heritage & Archaeology’.In addition, members of the public will get the chance to vote for their favourite table, with a special Food and Drink Parish Cup awarded to the parish with the most points overall.
Out in Westray, the defending Homemade in the Parish champions are quietly determined to make sure the winner’s trophy stays put in the island.
“We’ll be trying our hardest to win again, but we know all the other teams in Orkney will be producing very good entries,” said Ena Fergus, who was part of Westray’s 2015 winning team. “We were surprised and delighted to win the last time. It was a good day and we displayed our rosettes and the Parish Cup in the windows of local shops. Westray is proud of all its home produce and home baking is much in demand at bake sales and coffee afternoons.”
Ena added: “We would certainly encourage folk to enter the competition. It was a very enjoyable and friendly event.”
Edgar Balfour, development manager for Orkney food, drink and crafts, said: “You can really sense the anticipation around this year’s event and it’s shaping up to be a fantastic day. The good-natured inter-parish ribbing has started already and there’s clearly a lot of local pride at stake. All the other teams have got Westray in their sights, in the nicest possible way, but they’re undoubtedly going to have a fight on their hands!
“Ultimately, this is all about celebrating Orkney’s great produce and our wonderful community spirit,” he added. “There’s a fine home produce tradition in the islands and that’s definitely something we should protect and develop for future generations. And, of course, we all like a good competition too!”
Although the competition is only a month away, Mr Balfour said there was still plenty of time to enter.
“We’ve got 11 parishes confirmed and, whilst that’s in line with last year, we’d certainly welcome more entries,” he said. “Every parish has folk who are known for their home produce, so it’s worth twisting a few arms, as Val has done in Birsay, and pulling together a team. Don’t be shy. Get those oven gloves on, dust off the family recipe book and show the rest of Orkney your scones!”