Tuesday, 9 August 2016

I like to encourage people to have a go

... and make some preserves for the pantry shelf.  When you don't have a lot coming in you try and make the best of what comes your way. Making jams and jellies from what I could find in the countryside the wild fruits was where it really started for me - then it just cost me my time and the price of the sugar and a little gas to turn said produce into something useful for the pantry shelf.  It was also a time for me to dream as I was preparing the preserves and stirring the pot, a chance for me to relax and create something and put something useful on the table.

It is false economy not to preserve especially if you have a family.  1kg of crab apples, 1 kg of sugar - I currently can buy a 1kg bag of sugar for 45p - produces approximately 4 to 5 jars of apple jelly over a two day period.  Jams and jellies can in most supermarkets cost around 2 a jar often more - Lidl and Aldi being the exception but how often do you see apple delly  - apple jelly for sale in the shops.

Apple jelly can be enjoyed on toast, on crumpets, it can be used as a glaze on meats such as pork or as an accompaniment to roast pork and used like apple sauce - and it is yummy.  It can be used in gravies to give a sweet and sour element - really there is no right or wrong way to use a preserve and it is entirely up to you how you enjoy your preserves. Usage of preserves changes from generation to generation and a lot of how we used to use them has been lost; which as a result has had a knock on effect as people are not always sure how to use them.  So it is really is just a matter of trying things and if they work for you use them again. Unfortunately we are conditioned from an early age that mint sauce goes with lamb, apple with pork. etc. when in reality if it works for you use it.  My OH plonks mint sauce on everything - he is fond of it - but I make that myself as well too.

I make a plain version and I make a spiced version of apple jelly.  Both have their charms.  I also make use of the different coloured crab apples as the green and yellow ones give a golden yellowy amber preserve where the red ones give a lovely pink colour.  We eat with our eyes first and foremost and if our eyes like it then our mouths usually start to water.

There is also a lot of food snobbery about these days.  I LOVE good honest food the more simpler it is served the better.  I grew up with being provided for Saturday night tea with something on toast.  Sometimes that would be bramble jelly on top of hot buttered toast or with crumpets.  Another week it might be tinned sardines in tomato sauce served on toast and sprinkled liberally with pepper or hot fried buttered herring roes on toast or even poached egg.  It was a meal.  It fed us and kept us warm and the wolf from the door.  Things like beans on toast or tomatoes on toast still put in a regular appearance here as does jam or jelly on toast.  We are grateful for what we have and the way I keep my pantry has got us out of a mess on no end of occasions.  So in times of plenty I stock up and make the most of whatever comes my way.  Then when times are lean we live out of the pantry and eat well and we are able to concentrate on paying the bills whilst knowing that there is going to be plenty of food for the table.  Its a good place to be in when money is tight.

When you have nothing much by way of income - it hurts and it makes you feel not good enough  - second class as though you cannot cope or feed and look after your family properly.  I have been there and I learned a lot of lessons which has evolved over the years into the way I keep my pantry.  It also comes down to life choices.  We had cake but I did not buy it  - I made it.  I worked out what I needed to do each week and month and calculated how much heating and gas and electric I actually needed for a month and did a big bake once a week - just simple things like a Victoria sponge, butterfly cakes, home made shortbread, tiffin, chocolate refrigerator cake, scones, coconut cheesecakes, apple pie, and bought puff pastry you can do all sorts of exotic things with very cheaply. Little egg custards little quiches they all are useful for packups and it does not cost you as much to make it yourself.

The kids when they were at home were going through that much yogurt it was costing me an arm and a leg.  That's when I started making it myself it was always plain live yogurt and I was getting a litre at a time for the price of a litre bottle of milk. I came across the Easyo flasks in the health food shop way before they were popular each flask just requiring one kettle full of hot water to stop them off and to help the yogurt form and set.  I bought little tubs with lids on and dished fresh fruit and natural yogurt into them and kept them in the fridge - the kids had them for puddings and for pack ups - there was also no extra sugar in there. 

I bought a juicer and we always get cheap fruit at the veg shop on the corner and I used to give them freshly squeezed orange juice or apple juice and sometimes if there were grapes reduced grape juice.

I made my own muesli and granola - something which I still do.  A big bag of porridge oats costs 1 at the Co-Op and then I add dried nuts, chopped apricot,  dried fruit, toasted sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, chopped dried dates, mango and pineapple the choice is yours. You do not need much and I do keep a baking bank of ingredients in at all times.  Granola can be made from the same base and  has runny hunny mixed into it and then baked gently in the oven. 

You do not have to subscribe to consumerism per se but in search of good honest food  - if you don't have the money to actually buy it then you have a go at making it  - well you do in my family.  Sometimes I do not have time but I make time as I endeavour to make sure that all who come under my roof are well fed and nourished.  You have to feed the body, the spirit and the soul.

I have some older marmalade that whilst still perfectly okay is going to be turned into some marmalade muffins.  Rather than waste it - it is going to get used up one way or another.  There is always something that you can do.

Blackberry season is nearly upon us.  What I suggest is you get out there and collect the blackberries and pop them in the freezer then when the crab apples are available make bramble jelly, or crab apple and blackberry jelly or jam.  If you freeze them you can take them out to make your jams and jellies when you have the time.  The added advantage of freezing them is that you can tip them into crumbles.  Pears also go well with blackberries and you could make a pie mixture up for the freezer consisting of pears blackberries and apples. 

Sometimes people think they cannot afford to have a go at preserving and actually do things because of the outlay.  You just need a good heavy based pan to start with a wooden spoon, measuring jug, scales and your ingredients.  Yes you need jam jars but get people to save and recycle the jars for you - jars washed in a dish washer or in hot soapy water with some fairy liquid rubbed into the label and a pan scourer soon remove the labels on jars.  Lids can be acquired from several sources  - a standard 1lb jar you can get replacement lids from Lakeland for about 3 for a pack of twelve.  You start small  - Rome was not built in a day.  Your family like what you have made they want more of it next year double your recipe.  Then add new recipes to the list.  Then you start to budget for those Kilner jars  - you buy one or two to start with and add a few throughout the year when you can so when it comes to next summer you will have the jars ready to have a go at bottling fruit like pears in syrup, white fruit salad, red fruit salad.  Something special that you have made to bring out to have as family fare or at Christmas. A home made chutney, a chilli sauce.  It all starts from something small and grows like topsy. 

Then you start getting creative with the way you serve your dishes.  I had some elderberry jelly in the pantry that needed using up.  I had two racks of ribs for tea and no barbecue sauce so using the elderberry jelly as a base I made my own sweet and sour mix for the ribs - and it was delicious.  I also make Chinese plum sauce in its own right which goes extremely well with chicken and duck.

This evening I have also picked up five tubs of double cream reduced to 20p per pot  - I am going to make some herb butters and also some ice cream  - I also have another 4 pots in the fridge which will get sorted out tomorrow evening when I get home from work.  I have my little hand butter churn - one of the new Kilner ones and it works like a dream.

Today I have also bought my pie tins home.  They cost a lot of money but I have three of them quite fancy from Lakeland I have had my eye on them for well over a year.  Sometimes I manage to get the stuff I am after another time not possible but everything has a rhyme and a reason a time and a place and whilst we are in this mortal coil we have to do what we can to get by - and that quite simply means to me having a roof over my head, good food in my stomach and a little heat and warmth and everything else is a bonus. You make the most of what comes your way.

Sorry for rambling but this subject is very dear to my heart.

Catch you soon.




  1. As always a good post, it makes me want to rush out and have a jam session. I do have plenty from last year but will be freezing blackberries and bottling apple chunks and puree.

  2. What a lovely inspiring post. It makes me want to go out and see what I can forage. I always enjoy reading your thoughts. Love fluffy

  3. hi pam and fluffy

    thank you both and glad that you enjoyed the post. I just love playing with the preserving pan. naughty me.

    take care the pair of you




  4. I think I want to come and live nearer to you! (To get 1-1 tuition!).
    I've found a source of free raspberries, will collect them this morning when the dew has dried.
    Throughout my village there are big blackberry thugs, possibly from one original garden variety as they all have huge berries and taste devine, they are even in my garden, just need to get them before the birds(although usually leave some for them) and my hens get them.
    Up a lane are, rosehips,sloes,elderberries,hawthorn hips and crab apples, so will wander up there several times over the next 2 months!
    Thank you for a wonderfu, inspiring post xxx


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