17 October 2013

Welcome to the October 2013 Natural Living Blog Carnival: Meals that Keep.
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Natural Living Blog Carnival hosted by Happy Mothering and The Pistachio Project through the Green Moms Network. This month, our members are talking about how they preserve food to reduce waste and stock their kitchens! Check out all of the posts to get recipes ideas and learn more about putting up food for your family.

We eat seasonally and as locally as possible, we love the changes of vegetables and fruit this gives us that as we come towards the end of a season we can look forward to the vegetables from the next one.  Our local food comes from a variety of sources and this autumn we have been using many, we have some we have grown, some from a local veg bag scheme, some we have been given and some we have foraged from hedgerows and trees.  What we also have is a glut, an abundance of produce that we could not eat before it perished so we have turned our hand to preserving some of it to last us through the coming year.  We have tried old and tested methods and new ones.


We are lucky to have the space to own a chest freezer, it sits in our garage and at this time of year is often quite full.  I am not very good at methodical storing in there so it is often in a mess, I know what is in there just can't always find it easily!  This year we have frozen fruit, we do so by spreading it out on a tray and placing in the freezer before bagging up and labelling, we do this in one pound quantities.  The exception to this is apples which I core, peel and slice thinly place in a bag and freeze.  This fruit usually ends up in puddings over the course of the year our favourite being crumble, I can empty the bag straight into the dish for defrosting cover with the topping (4oz flour, 2oz of butter rubbed in and 2oz of Demerara sugar for crunch).  I sometimes use the fruit in flapjacks, stirring it in to the mix from frozen.  This year we have frozen, black and white currants, rhubarb, raspberries, blackberries and apple in total over 20lbs of fruit.


These are made using a combination of ingredients usually fruit, vinegar and sugar with added flavour from spices which are all cooked to thicken them and intensify the flavour.  I usually make apple chutney each year but we still have several jars in the pantry from previous years so with the weather turning cool and my tomatoes still being green I made some green tomato chutney using this recipe, which is an amalgam from those I found in my recipe books:

Green Tomato Chutney
750g green tomatoes chopped
500g shallots or onions peeled chopped
200g cooking apples peeled, cored and chopped
300ml vinegar
small piece of ginger peeled
1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
100g raisins
1 dried chilli
1 tsp salt
200g brown sugar

Put tomatoes, onions and apples in a pan with half the vinegar, bring to the boil and cook for 30 minutes until tender.
Put chilli, ginger and mustards seeds in a muslin bag and tie, bruise with a rolling pin and add to pan with raisins.
Cook on a low heat stirring from time to time until mixture thickens.
Add salt, sugar and remaining vinegar stirring until sugar dissolves.
Cook until thickened again.
Remove muslin bag.
Pour into sterilised containers and seal.


Towards the end of the summer when the temperatures start to cool we always have a glut of cucumbers. There are only so many cucumbers a family of four can eat in a week. Sadly these fruit do not store well for long periods, neither do they freeze. A few years ago we tried making picked cucumber and found they were delicious and make a good present as I have never seen thesefor sale. We use this recipe, my mother gave this to me and I am not sure where it came from:

Pickled Cucumber
3 large cucumbers
1 large onion
570ml white wine vinegar
200g soft brown sugar
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tbs mustard seeds

Slice cucumber thinly with the skins on, slice onion thinly.
Lay in layers in a colander sprinkling each layer with salt.
Put a plate with heavy weight on top and another underneath and leave to drain for 3 hours.
Put vinegar, sugar and spices in a pan and stir over a medium heat to dissolve sugar.
Add cucumber and onion slices bring to the boil and simmer uncovered for 1 minute.
Remove from heat and lift slices with a draining spoon into sterile jars.
Return vinegar to hear and boil for fifteen minutes, uncovered.
Pour over cucumber and onion slices and seal jars.
Leave for a month before using.


The chutney didn't really make a dent in my supply of green tomatoes I still had lots left. I cannot eat tomatoes so did not want to make any more chutney as we had plenty for my husband to eat. I searched for other recipes for preserving green tomatoes and found one for ketchup. This was tested a few days after making it at a barbecue, I am told it is delicious!  The bottle I made is in the middle of the Chutney picture above.

Green Tomato Ketchup
3lbs green tomatoes roughly chopped
1lb apples roughly chopped
1 medium onion roughly chopped
1/2lb sugar
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp salt
Pinch each of coriander, mustard, allspice, clove and ginger powders
1 dried chilli
1/2 pint cider vinegar

All the recipes I found (this is an amalgam of several) suggested finely chopping the tomatoes, apples and onions. Three pounds is a fair amount of tomatoes and after finely chopping a couple I went for the rough method and threw the whole lot (toms, apples and onions) in a food processor to let the machine do the work for me.
I put this and all the other ingredients in a large pan, bought it to the boil and simmered gently for a hour stirring occasionally.
Then you sieve the mix and return to the pan.
Reboil and simmer until mixture is desired thickness.
Bottle into sterilised containers.


I tried making Rosehip Syrup a few years ago and it was so revolting that we threw it away. I think it probably didn't have enough sugar in it. Inspired by a friend who had made some this year I thought I would give it a go. Rosehips are high in Vitamin C and during WWII the government encouraged people to make the syrup due to the lack of citrus fruits. We have a Rosehip hedge growing down one side of our garden it does a good job of keeping some of the wind at bay, we live in a very windy place! So I picked some hips, trimmed them, weighed them, chucked them in a pan covered them with water and bought them to the boil. I left them of about twenty minutes boiling gently, then sieved the mix and returned to the pan with a little more water and the same weight of sugar as the weight of the rosehips at the start, heated gently to dissolve the sugar and poured into sterilised containers.
I have been enjoying this on my porridge for the last few weeks!


I have made a few jars of jam during the year, we don't eat much of it, a couple each of strawberry and raspberry. We picked a huge amount of apples from a local orchard and I wanted to find different ways to preserve them other than freezing and making chutney which is what I usually do. A search through my cookbooks found a recipe for apple butter from this book which is no longer in print.  My copy is falling apart it was the first vegetarian cookbook I bought, as a student, back in the 90s. Despite the name this is actually a thick, firm and delicious apple jam.

Apple Butter
3lb Cooking Apples
1 3/4 pt Water
Approx 3lb Golden Granulated Sugar
1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon (optional)
1/2 tsp Ground Cloves (optional)

Wash and chop the apples without peeling or removing the cores.
Cover with water and simmer gently until pulpy.
Sieve and weigh the pulp and return to pan.
Add 3/4lb of sugar for every pound of apple pulp.
Add spices if using.
Heat gently, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved.
Boil until thick and creamy.
Pour into sterilised jars and seal.

I don't think this will last long in our house we have already eaten one jar!

Fruit Leather

I had never attempted to make these before and understood them to be easy to make. I did a lot of Internet research to work out what I needed to do before starting. The recipe, if you can call it that, was to cook your fruit sieve it, spread it on a baking tray and place in oven for the lowest setting for 12 hours simple right? It took me three attempts to make these. The lowest setting on my oven is 40°C which is not really warm enough I have found the ideal to be 60°C. All the blogs etc I looked at suggested spreading the fruit to a 1/4 inch which I did but again it did not dry as it was too thick, perhaps the writers do not actually know what 1/4 inch is! The ideal thickness for me was between 1/16 and 1/8 of an inch.

I used apples to make these leathers but now I have found the best method to make them I will try this with other fruits next year as they come into season. My children love to snack on these.

I have had real fun making all these different preserves, I just hope they last the winter!
Visit Happy Mothering and The Pistachio Project to learn more about participating in next month’s Natural Living Blog Carnival!
Please take some time to enjoy the posts our other carnival participants have contributed:


  1. Oh I am so glad I saw this post on the GMN carnival! I need to try chutney and there is still time to do it this summer! I also would love to make homemade ketchup as well. Thanks for this!

  2. WOW, you have been busy! Sara made fruit leathers a few years back, the damson batch was the best. The scribbles on the blackboard look interesting! Hope you are doing OK x

  3. I can just imagine how well stocked your cupboards and freezer are! I love the idea of green tomato ketchup. I've never come across that before but I bet it's delicious. x

  4. Great post. If I can just get my printer to play ball I'm going to get a copy of all those lovely recipes. We have lots of rosehips in the garden, I think I will try making the syrup this weekend.
    Never tried fruit leather, always though I needed some kinda fancy equipment to make it!

  5. Love your list! I really should look into chutneys more and fruit leather is on my to-do list!


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