Its a wet morning here in Peterborough' the rain is gently mizzling down - gentle rain that will do the plants and the soil good rather than rain lashing down and tearing everything to bits. A gently although damp start to the weekend but that's by the by. I am here to write about having a go at doing your own. My doing your own results in what I call the "Putdown" each year which is basically everything I make for long term keeping that is then installed into the pantry. There are also some short term preserves as well.
Having a go at doing your own or in my case (my own) resulted from a lack of pennies and curiosity as to how things were actually made and also being brought up against the backdrop of a family and extended family who had always done this. However, you do have to find your own way and to start with I was very unsure but each time I have done something it has been a learning curve. Yes, I have made mistakes but that is quite normal when you are learning things and I think by making mistakes you learn far more in the long run especially if the lesson is taken and you do not repeat the mistake. In all honesty I think that you fall into one of two camps what I call a Techy one who can learn from written instructions or as in my case I am a visual learner and really need to see how something is done before I go on and have a go. I pick up far more from being shown than I do by reading although I am a reader and I love reading.
There are lots of books out there with ideas and recipes and all the ones I have come across have been brilliant and have passed on time worn knowledge and recipes. You always need the recipes. However, the big thing about doing your own is diving in there and having a go. It may only be for example making your own Cherry Brandy (simple as in the most basic recipe you stone/pit your cherries) and then macerate (soak the cherries in the brandy for about three months). You can then eat the cherries with some cream or ice cream but the liquid you drain off and I filter through a coffee filter or a piece of very fine muslin, then decant into clean sterilised bottles, put the lids on label and put away on a shelf in a dark cupboard and then either bring them out in the cold winter months to drink yourselves or pass on to friends as part of a Christmas hamper. One thing I have found is that even if they do not do stuff themselves most people seem to appreciate a small bottle of home-made this or a small jar of that. It may only be starting off with some pickled onions or shallots, or pickled beetroot but it is having a go. With me it has grown like Topsy, and the more I do the more I need and want to do as at the end of the day I end up with a very distinct larder and choice of ingredients from which to choose and make my meals from. Or it may be that your interest stems from making nice things to give as a gift to a friend which does not only encompass food ingredients but all the crafts of sewing, needlework, crochet, patchwork, gardening, herbs, wine making and so on and so on. Then you start collecting bottles and jars, closures, corks, lids, seals, greaseproof paper, recycling jars, specialist kitchen equipment, chocolate making moulds, different cake tins etc. etc. which it has in my case. Oohps! I am a bit passionate about this. So be warned one thing can lead to another.
One of the reasons why I have so many books is that they are very tactile and I am a tactile person. The other reason is that I like to see how that person has interpreted a design or a recipe or put their own twist on an old favourite as this often sparks off an idea with me and I am in due turn able to put my own spin or twist on things. I particularly like to see the fresh new ideas and different take on things - some of which I don't like or don't agree with but I am entitled to. What is special though is the creativity of that person and their own personal form of expression.
However, the main reason I do what I do is to put food or drink into the pantry and then on to the table. What I do is also calibrated to how many pennies I have available. I choose to put a lot of my food budget into fresh ingredients that are ultimately turned into something for the pantry shelf or the freezer or home-made wine and liqueur type drinks, ginger beer, cordials and beer or cider. I don't make everything but I do make a lot of stuff especially basics, things like:
Pickled Red Cabbage.
Bottled Dark Red Cherries
Blackberry and apple jelly
All sorts of different jams
But that's just me. I wish I could do more. I am very lucky in the greater scheme of things but the wish is to be able to grow my own and although I have some capacity to do a little the land we have is not really big enough to do what we want to do. However, we are making the best of what we have and doing a bit but the dream is to go on and have somewhere with a bit of land and a bigger pantry. Even if it does not have a pantry I would consider having a large pantry built, but I would also want a large utility room or separate room in which to store all the jars, demijohns, equipment etc. There is no point in investing in equipment especially expensive bottling/canning jars and other expensive equipment for it to get broken so really, I do need somewhere safe in which to store all the extra equipment I have safely. One day I will get there.
I was having a lay in this morning and I had a stack of books to look through and re-acquaint myself with - I am looking for recipes as usual and I was in a big heap in the middle of the bed with the quilt wrapped round me and have spent a good hour and a half filtering through looking for bits I want to do. It was a pleasure to leaf through the pages and just spend some me time. Books sorted recipes sorted, recipes marked for future use especially on the dairy and meat front so to some extent I have a visual of what I am going to do and how I am going to do it. Just now need to get on with it. But I have a tad of kitchen sorting to do first.
During the book browse I came across an old faithful book which has lots of useful little bits in it. The book is beautifully presented and it is different very different but it is the recipes and what to do with those recipes and instructions that are really the key part of this book. It has something for everyone in it and is one to look out for. It is simply presented and it does have some beautiful photographs and ideas.
If you click on the photographs above and go to original size you should be able to read what is written on the book. Then when you have finished reading click back on to medium it will take the photo back to the size of the rest of the photos in this post.
I hope that has whetted your appetite to seek out this book. It has recipes for home made sweets, savouries, liqueurs like Cassis, pear crisps, vegetable crisps, muffins gardening information soap making home cosmetics, chutneys. bramble jelly, blackberry gin, home made toffee apples, different things to do with herbs, home made leaf teas, catnip toys for the cats, soap and bath bomb making, articles on scented pelargoniums etc. etc. I have found that this book I am always back and forwards to for something or the other perhaps because of the variety of things to do in it but it is another lovely book and well worth book shelf room for beginner and experienced alike.