July 26, 2023

Why I still preserve food for winter

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?

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  1. Agnes July 27, 2023 at 5:39 am - Reply

    My favourite is definitely jam. I love the look of glistening jars on the shelf, like trapped gems and jewels, with their beautiful colours and shine. When we open a jar if strawberry or blackberry jar in the winter, it’s as if summer had a little peek into our kitchen🙂

  2. Patricia R July 27, 2023 at 9:48 am - Reply

    Like you I preserve to save money for other things, because I-like to know what is in the food I eat, and just because I enjoy the feeling it gives me .
    I make a variety of different pasta sauces , depending on what is ready to pick, at present its using up all-of last years frozen veg in the freezer to make way for new stuff this year. This weekends batch will be made from aubergines, green peppers, basil, some green beans and plenty of tomatoes, it makes a great base for so many quick meals.
    I make pickles, & chutney with any green tomatoes at the end of the season , I mush berries with icing sugar to make a compote type thing to portion up to put onto yogurt or icecream etc .
    Im hoping for enough loganberries this year for some Jam, a neighbour I swap veg with has apple , plum & pear trees so I generally cook them and freeze as pulp for crumbles etc in winter.
    Im shredding /freezing all my dark green cabbage leaves for adding to stews& stir fries in winter, also my glut of spring onions were chopped and open froze then bagged up to add to lots of things later. Ive had lots of potatoes so made various “ pattys” and frozen those, a type of fishcake using tinned tuna, some using cheese & red onion , and some with cooked dried beans & sweetcorn .
    I will freeze sliced aubergine , our corn cobs and tomatoes , we have a good cropmof yellow peppers coming too.

  3. Nelliegrace July 27, 2023 at 11:45 am - Reply

    Jams and jellies of course, to preserve home grown and foraged fruit. I make the odd jar of jam from yellow-stickered fruit from the supermarket too. I appreciate homemade jam even more now as so much bought stuff has Highly Processed nasties.
    I freeze two dozen of our hens’ lovely fresh eggs, just lightly beaten, in individual pots, just in case the two pullets we buy in August don’t lay through winter. The older hens stop laying for Winter and start again when the days get longer. It is enough eggs to make a fruit cake a week.
    The garden and foraged apples from the canal-side and the common, stored well in stacked, plastic mushroom trays in the garage this year. We used the last in May. They needed checking regularly, and I missed a few weeks with Covid. They were definitely “wonky” apples, not pretty, but they had not been sprayed with chemicals. DH ignored them in the bowl, but would eat a sliced apple a day. Even blemished apples were used, we had the best bits as stewed apple, the chickens enjoyed plenty, and the worst went into the compost.

    • ToniG July 27, 2023 at 2:25 pm - Reply

      That sounds like you are well organised and that foraging and preserving adds a lot to your food as well. I find the canals are brilliant for foraging. Thanks for sharing x

  4. Eleri July 27, 2023 at 11:59 am - Reply

    I’m intrigued by nettle and dock seeds (I “grow” lots of both!). I’d appreciate some info on how and when you harvest them if you have chance xx

    • ToniG July 27, 2023 at 3:05 pm - Reply

      I harvest the nettle seeds at this time of year. I get them from the females seeds which droop down. I collect them on the branches using gloves and then take the strands off at home and dry them in my conservatory. I store them in a glass jar and add to bread. There are dry dock seeds around now but I wait until a bit later in the year, about September time. I hold the stalk and just pull up to get hands full of seeds. I use a coffee grinder to blitz the dock seeds and their casings to flour but never substitute about a fifth of the flour in the recipe for dock flour. I hope that helps

      • Eleri July 27, 2023 at 7:53 pm - Reply

        That’s brilliant
        Thank you so much xx

  5. Eleri July 27, 2023 at 7:52 pm - Reply

    That’s brilliant. Thank you so much xx

  6. Amanda Dobson August 14, 2023 at 4:05 pm - Reply

    I love all your amazing inspiring posts.
    I get so much pleasure in preserving food, although as I can’t grow much I don’t get any gluts to freeze, but I ferment lots of different veg and get seasonal veg that is cheaper, to preserve for when prices are high in the winter.

    • ToniG August 14, 2023 at 5:16 pm - Reply

      aww thanks. Well done. I wish I like fermented food. It is so good for you.

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