One of my older pals who popped in when I was making pickles the other day, and picking and freezing berries, said that she didn’t know why I bothered preserving these items of food for winter, as I could just go to the supermarket and buy things out of season when I needed them now adays. This is true in our present culture of convenience, but it is only recently that mankind has not had to dry herbs, preserve vegetables, process meat, and stock up on food to get them through the winter. Our ancestors have done it for hundreds of years.
I am lucky in some ways as I don’t preserve food for the colder months because I have to in order to survive, but it does help me save money and means that I do not have to work, as I can manage on my small work pension income. It actually brings me joy as well to know that I am eating something that I have grown or foraged, and preserved. Memories of summer come flooding back as I tuck into salsa, or add grated courgette to some muffins cooked on a bleak January day. I also know that it is organic and there are no nasty chemicals in my food. Another advantage is that I can afford more luxury items of food through following this practice too. I buy them during the summer when I am eating mostly out of the garden, and so only spending under £5 a week for a few essential food staples. Luxury items that I buy are tahini, cocoa, dried fruit, some cereal, nuts, spices, crystalised ginger, peanut butter and tins of tuna. None of these would be possible on my £700 a year food budget if I did not have ways of growing and finding free food, and preserving it for when money is tight in the winter time. My preserved items add nutrition and variety to my food, and although we do not buy a lot of food, I feel like we eat like kings.
She asked me what else we preserve. I thought that I would list some here to give people ideas if they are not used to preserving, or in case they just want inspiration. I make fruit gins and vodkas for presents, I make foraged wild garlic pesto and freeze it. We make various cordials such as elderflower, or rhubarb and strawberry from fruit that we have grown. We have two freezers and freeze fruit and vegetables from the garden, including tomatoes which you can just throw straight in to cook with later. We make chutney, piccalilli, fruit leathers, pickles and jams. We bottle pasta sauce, salsa and passata. We bottle apple sauce from foraged apples, make cider sometimes, and dehydrate apples for snacks and to add to muesli. This year I am drying bilberries to add to muesli. Last year we bottled pears but unfortunately our tree got a disease and so had to be chopped down. We dry herbs, individually, and to make our own version of mixed herbs. Mr S makes mustard from seeds. We make vinegars, like apple cider vinegar, or raspberry vinegar (the latter is lovely on salad). We dry dock seeds and nettle seeds to add to bread. We freeze lots of blackberries which provide crumbles and pies on cold winter evenings, or compote to add to our morning porridge, or to eat with ice cream or custard as a quick dessert. We also freeze summer dishes made from garden ingredients like ratatouille, curry, or stir fry to be enjoyed on a miserable, rainy day. This year for the first time we will be preserving a home-grown grain hopefully, as I am growing quinoa. However, it is not just food we forage and preserve. We dry conkers to make washing detergent, or use ivy leaves during the winter for washing as it is more eco-friendly, and free. I still wash my whites with detergent, though. The list is endless as we are always looking for new things to forage or grow, and new preserves to make that will enhance our meals in the winter time, and save us from having to visit the supermarket.
What are your favourite items to preserve, that you enjoy to eat in the winter time, and that save you money?