There are several reasons why I preserve and why I am so passionate about doing this the same as I am passionate about youngsters being taught to cook not just for six weeks here and there but a good few years continuous cooking. It is a necessity a life skill. The schools should teach the pupils as many cooking techniques as possible like I was and many ladies of a similar age group were taught. So many youngsters today do not know how to cook which is sacrilege.
Ostensibly if you have not already gathered I am from a traditional family where hard work was never an issue and expected and demanded. My family worked hard to earn a wage and they worked hard in their spare time to keep the family fed by growing whatever they could and in the sake of my grandparents also rearing their own chickens for eggs and meat and also their own pigs. My grandparents originally had about 6 acres of land.
They had orchards mostly apple orchards but also growing Black Diamond plums with bright yellow flesh that were absolutely delicious and there were also about four Victoria plum trees, a couple of Conference pears and a greengage plum and originally a couple of damson trees. Soft fruit such as the pears and plums were bottled (before the advent of the freezer) for puddings during the winter months. These were also supplemented by collecting wild foods such as blackberries in the autumn. The bulk went for eating but Nan always made loads of wine too. The same with the rhubarb plants the rhubarb was bottled, and made into wine. There were also copious amounts of ginger beer as well.
The apples both cookers, codlings and eaters (the keepers) were put into store for over-wintering and pies and puddings were made from these as well as home made mincemeat and wines, and cider. For ease of use Nan also used to bottle some apple slices for use in pies. She also worked full time during the war years as a Cook in the NAFFi and then later on as the School Cook in the village school.
There were two large vegetable plots (one of which was left fallow on a bi yearly basis) and grown on the following year. They grew all manner of vegetables organically before organics became popular.
They also had honey for several years until my Granddad got stung badly and blew up like a balloon and became allergic and had to give his bees up. He was heartbroken about this. If and when I get my bees I will be a fourth generation beekeeper as both my Uncle and my Dad both kept bees too.
We always had honey on toast for breakfast along with cereal such as porridge or later on All Bran or Shredded Wheat. You had to be kept regular and if every so often things went topsy turvy you were given Syrup of figs to rectify the matter. Yuk - you don't know how lucky you are today.
With keeping their own pigs there was quite a bit of meat that needed to be preserved there were roasting joints as well as their own bacon. Sausages were made and the whole of the pig was used. Roast potatoes were always cooked in pork dripping. Faggots and haslet were also prepared but short lasting and their own ham.
Christmas dinner was Roast Goose, and would be the Goose that would be running around the Orchards in the summer. Geese although hissy fitty make the best guard dogs.
My grandparents had very little choice in the matter of living this way. They lived in a small village in the middle of Lincolnshire there were no buses like they are today to start with. You had to walk into Lincoln which was some seven miles away for your shopping and then carry it back. Later buses started to run although not as regularly as the buses do today and then my granddad got his car "Phyllis" as she was affectionately known and then they used to go shopping for fresh stuff to the market in Lincoln. The bulk foods only being bought once a month.
They grew as much as they could to eat on a daily basis but they also preserved it for the long winter months. My Nan had a very large pantry lined with shelves all down one side, a meat safe at the bottom and meat hooks from the ceiling.
Nan also had a Rayburn which she used to cook on and which did sterling service for 60 plus years before having to be sent to the scrap yard. It was past repair. Nan always did the weekly bake, and also made her own bread. She was a good plain cook and her food although not fancy was substantial and she could make a very good meal with very few ingredients.
As a child when I went to visit I you wanted to talk to my Nan you had to follow her wherever she went and whatever she was doing. Whether that be following her down the gardens to the chickens to collect the eggs, or to the veg plot to dig the veg for dinner. Subsequently we learnt at her knee how to do things.
One of the tasks we used to be given as young children was to prepare the mint sauce from fresh leaves, stripping the leaves, and adding a little salt and sugar to them on a chopping board and then an adult used to chop them finely with the blade of a sharp knife. When we were old enough we were taught how to use the knife and chop the mint. The same as how we were taught how to pick, apples, pears, plums etc. so that we did not damage them.
Jams were always made, as were chutneys and pickles in fact whatever came their way was stored for the leaner months by whatever method they could.
Bartering used to go on if someone had an excess of an item it would be swapped with something someone else had and which you had a need for, This was the country way the cottager way of dealing with things. They were frugal and sensible and made a little go a long way. A good diet with good food equated to good health.
So really living this way came down to some priorities/choices.
They lived in the middle of nowhere and there were no shops. They couldn't just nip out to get what they wanted.
With the earnings they did have they could not afford to necessarily buy things and therefore if you do not have the money to buy you go without or you have a bash at doing it yourself and as you practice you get better. However you also need to keep the practice up and use the skill because often if you do not use it you lose it.
Will carry this post forward later.