Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Natures Harvest & Sustainable Preserves

With the return of the house to a new normal, I've found myself with a little more time on my hands.  After the initial rush of tackling the clutter post Christmas - and rushing to get homemade birthday presents finished for friends - the lull in activity did come.

In large part it was welcome - a little rest is good for the soul after all.  But since my accident, I do struggle with a need to be 'productive'- especially once the chores are done and the children are at school, it sometimes feels as if my role as stay at home mum is defunct.  To combat this I set myself tasks to do which support the family and our more frugal way of life.  One of those things is to make jams, jellies and chutney from the fruit that was harvested from our apple trees... and berry picking which happened this past autumn. 

I did add some jars of chutney I'd made already to the homemade hampers I gave as Christmas gifts to family.  I also froze some fruit I didn't have time to use in the autumn and last week made more chutney to enjoy over the coming months with cold meats and cheese using recipes I'd not tried before.  They'll mature in around 3 months and hopefully taste lovely then!

Another way to satisfy this need in me is to grow a little produce in our veg patch - it comprises a small raised bed and over the past years we've had good success with courgettes and dwarf French beans.  These are ideal for chutneys and work wonderfully as additional vegetables in homemade meals (while fresh).  2013 was no exception with 27 courgettes being collected from a very small space.  I would love to have an allotment but my physical health just doesn't allow this although I enjoy selecting what we will try to grow each spring in our little space.

My parents were my tutors in this way of life.  I'm the only person I know that preserves in my 'real / non blog' world - so many of my friends say they enjoy the results but don't have the time.  My Father had a truly inspiring garden.  As a family of 5, we lived off it throughout the spring, summer and autumn.  Colanders of strawberries, raspberries, loganberries, gooseberries, blackcurrants, rows of potatoes, runner beans, swede, onions - simple, sustainable vegetables and fruit - plus chickens for eggs.

Some of my most vivid childhood memories are of my late father leaning on his fork tending his crops after work.  It would have been his birthday yesterday and it left me reflective on all the things that he imparted that still live on in me and my family.

Plus vivid memories of my mother stirring her huge preserving pan filled with jam or hanging a pillow case from a nail in an out-house to strain bramble fruit through to make jelly preserves.  She still does this now and is an amazing preserve maker - her preserving pan is older than I am and has had much use!

As a child in my home village, we'd also get more fruit from neighbours who didn't want to waste their 'glut' or didn't like the look of their windfalls.  Windfalls are great for jamming - it just takes time to peel and cut out the bruises.  With the Harvest Festival at the local chapel, there was the following harvest auction, where we'd buy boxes of home grown produce for pennies to go towards the chapel roof or some other community project.  Now that produce gets used by Food Banks and it's no longer possible to capitalise on - but they are such happy memories.  So much opportunity for chutney, jams and jellies plus a whole number of pudding and baking opportunities!

The cycle continues as my children enjoy foraging for blackberries and picking apples from the trees during late Autumn.  We go blackberry picking around the fields of two of my friend's farms and usually have a good haul - enough for jamming and lots for apple and blackberry crumble!!

If I can provide an element of such inspiration, understanding of sustainable living and simple joy to my children I feel sure that I will be doing something worthwhile...  There is something immensely rewarding to yield a crop from something that has minimal negative impacts on the environment and is essentially Free.  And during this period in time where cost-effective home making is beginning to be more valued again by more families, I wholeheartedly choose this simple path. 

It is sustainable for our body, mind and soul.  I shall be proud to pass this on to my children and create new memories based on this way of life.  Memories of picking apples on daddy's shoulders and mummy stirring her preserving pot.

The natural rhythm of these Simple Things and the cycle of it all is a real JoY.

Thanks for reading and welcome to all my new followers.  Remember there is still time to enter my giveaway here - just drop me a comment on that post before the 13th!

Enjoy your week whatever you're doing, J9 x


  1. What a beautiful post Janine, I have never done any preserving because I find the thought rather intimidating and don't have my own produce to preserve so it seemed that it would be too expensive. My Mum did lots when we were children - my favourite was marrow and ginger jam which didn't taste of marrow at all, just jumminess!! xx

    1. Ah Amy - as long as you follow a recipe it goes fine!! I can understand though - I mainly do it to save apples and other produce going to waste. Sometimes I strike it lucky in Aldi or in a veg market and grab a bargain but it usually is either foraged or gifted!! Hope you're having a happy valentine's, J9 x

  2. Janine, this was lovely. I have tried my hand at jams and marmalade, and I enjoy it very much, but I'm still learning. I'm so glad to know you're imparting these priceless values to your children, as your parents did you.

    1. Jennifer - you are so right - it is a learning process! I've tried a few new recipes this year and although tasty we have some favourites that comprise a good amount of chilli, garlic and ginger - that flavours chutney's up superbly to our taste! J9 x

  3. hi, what a lovely post... i grew up on a mountain and our house was surrounded by fruit tress of all kinds. i recall the vegetable garden that my mom would spend of her evenings at... the chicken coup and the barns my dad loved to tend to... reading this post brings back such fond memories and all of a sudden swell up with fondness of the simple life....:)

    1. Wow - your childhood mountain home certainly sounds idyllic. It is interesting how smells, tastes and activities can stir such strong memories - as they did in me. J9 x