Tuesday, February 14, 2012


While we were far away on our road trip last year, sometimes I'd try to visualise my life back home. I'd try to imagine what I would be doing and how I might be feeling. And for some reason I always had the same picture in my head. I always imagined myself right in the heart and heat of preserving time.

I imagined myself in my kitchen, wearing an apron, surrounded by buckets and baskets of produce, stirring pots and peeling and coring and deseeding fruit and vegetables and slowly filling jars and containers with summery goodness.

I'm here. That picture is now. Right now, my life is almost all about preserving. Preserving summer so we can feel it's warmth and abundance in winter.

Life right now is picking and gathering the fruit and berries from the orchard. It's about washing and weighing. It's about freezing and cooking and dehydrating and pureeing and straining. It's about jams and relishes and chutneys and syrups.

There are lots of preserving books on our kitchen table. Some recipes and techniques we know by heart from years gone by, and others we are learning as we go. We are not experts. Far from it. We've had a few mishaps already this year, but plenty of successes too. (Who knew you could only use those Fowlers preserving rings once?)

These are the books we've got on our kitchen table at the moment:

The River Cottage Family Cookbook by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
Secrets of Successful Preserving by Fowlers Vacola.
Fowler's Method of Bottling Fruits and Vegetables by J. Fowler.
Wonderful ways to prepare preserves by Ayers and James.
Preserves by Pam Corbin.
The cook's companion by Stephanie Alexander.
The Permaculture Book of Ferment & Human Nutrition by Bill Mollison.
Homemade Jams and Preserves by Family Circle.
The River Cottage Year by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
Home Freezer Cook Book by Good Housekeeping

My life right now is sticky and pink.

And man, I do love preserving! I love how wholesome it feels. I love the connection I feel to history and to those who have been doing this in some way or another since we began. I love that the produce I am preserving is homegrown, certified organic, local, no food miles. I love the thought of opening these jars and bottles I am now sealing in the cooler months to come and enjoying their contents. I love that preserving food now for later is thrifty and frugal. I love company in the kitchen and I love doing it alone. And I really, really love the process too. It's such fun.

Are you right into preserving season at the moment?
Are you making jam or bottling tomatoes?
Are your fingers stained red?
Or are you on the other side of the world, dipping into your stores?
Do you have memories of preserving with your parents and grandparents? Pulling the elastic bands onto the Fowlers jars and clipping on the clips?
Do you love the look of jars filled with colourful jarred produce as much as I do?
Don't you agree that a gifted jar of homemade jam is the best present ever?

Or is preserving something you would like to try but haven't? If this is the case, then please do. It is such fun. Get some books, pick some produce or buy some from your local farmers' market, get your hands on some jars and get right into it. You'll love preserving, I'm certain. We sure do.

Happy, sweet days.

ps. funny how in my preserving fantasy my kitchen was sparkly clean, the dishes were always done and my apron was frilly and spotless...reality, not so much.


  1. We bottled our first apricots last week. That was an experience, the apricots have floated in the jar & some jars had bubbles in them.... So we went out & bought more of the Fowlers jars for the nectarines.... but the nectarines aren't ripening at the same time... so we had to stew some instead and the new fancy schmancy bottles are still sitting on the kitchen table. .. sigh..

    1. That's what happened to our first batch of plums.
      The Fowlers book says some stone fruit just do that.
      They still taste great tho.
      Have fun. xx

  2. I love homemade jams...yours look lovely Kate xx

  3. Oh I really love this post :) And guess what I spent most of the day doing? Yes, my first batch of jam for the season. Apple and blackberry. Before we built this house, I too had images of myself with bowls of apples and fresh produce with lots of cooking and preserving going on in my kitchen (incidentally the biggest room in the house) and the past few days I've felt quite contented with mounds of apples and berries in bowls. Definitely got that wholesome feeling :)

  4. Hi there,
    Last month I decided to make jam for the first time - strawberry and apple. I was reading, reading and reading some more while making it to make sure I did it just right.
    Instead of being a lovely pinky red, it turned out brown. Instead of being a lovely thick slightly runny jam, it was more like a lolly. Instead of tasting delicious and like Grandma's, it tasted burnt.
    Obviously I let it cook too long on the stove. Lesson learnt. Jam drop biscuits were made!

    1. Oh man, I am so scared of that happening that I sometimes go the other way, too runny.
      I do hope you give it another go though and that this time it is delicious like grandma's.

  5. For so long I avoided making preserves just because of the effort involved in sterilising. But then I tried a really easy marmalade recipe and there is no looking back. I have tried to make a strawberry jam too. Thought I would have enough for a few jars but ended up with only one!

    1. Ooh, yes. I had loads of strawberries and finished with two teeny jars. I thought it was because I cooked them too long!

  6. I am on the other side of the world and I love making jam. Just last week I was given some bitter oranges and I made marmelade.
    I like looking at jars filled with jam, I shiver with pleasure at the sight of the jewel colours of my concoctions: strawberries, lemons, quince...

  7. Hello!
    Where are you selling your gorgeous jams? Anywhere down here in Melbourne? You have made them sound soooo delish.

    I've got my preserving jars out, but I'm making candles in mine :-)

  8. Tee heee, no it's all sticky!
    I have tried my hand at green fig jam, which I absolutely love. Not to successful yet, got crystals, some too runny, but we'll get there. Much actually rescue some ripe figs before the birds get everything. We have a huge humongous tree, plus a smaller one, and that's what sold the house to us :-)

  9. mmmm, such a lovely way to live in the now. so romantic, the idea of bottling up some summer!
    Love this post kate x

  10. I am just contemplating a date with my Fowler stuff very soon, my kitchen benches are getting overrun with tomatoes at various stages of ripeness, I planted Black Russians and Romas and a few other random varieties, and they have all done well. I think I will mix up the dark and red types to make the jars look pretty! Might even have enough for a batch of passata - yummo! I made a batch of raspberry jam last month and it was delish, only got one jar left. You are right it makes you feel like a great homemaker, a domestic goddess!! Happy jar filling! :) julie

  11. Yum. It all looks delicious.
    Our fruit trees hibernated this year and we've only had a handful of white nectarines. I think a day out at the berry farm is in order. Homemade jam is the best.
    I always get nervous about over cooking it. I test it anxiously over & over again. I often finish too early, leaving me with slightly runny jams. Delicious nonetheless.
    Have fun jammin. x

  12. I so relate to your lines about the wholesome, and the connection to history. I'm just getting into preserving. I've made jam the past couple of years, and now i've been blackberrying for the first time in my life and made blackberry jam, and had a go at preserving some blackberries in a light sugar syrup. We don't actually use a lot of jam, but these I could have on my breakfast cereal, or with ice cream or jus cream! Yum. I'm hoping to be able to get one more batch picked this weekend, if the rain doesn't get to them.

    It's all new for me, but I have a vision of a winter cupboard filled with home preserves that I'm working towards. It won't happen this year, but we're making a start, learning as we go, and I love it :)

  13. I'm just waiting on my quinces..! Actually a lot of them have fallen off early, I wonder why? I hope there are enough left to make jelly, I love making quince jelly. And eating it too! Have fun sticky fingers.. xo

  14. Your life sounds so fabulous Kate :)
    I love jam making but have never attempted anything other than strawberry....I do dream of the day where we have a stockpile of lovely preserves made in our kitchen. Hopefully that day is just around e corner.

  15. Thanks for the reading list - it's just what I needed.

    I just got a Fowlers Vacola bottling urn thingy, and so far have made two batches. The first was a bit of a disaster (all my own fault) - I wasn't following the instructions and managed to splash boiling water in my face. It really, really, really hurt!

  16. Does eating lots of homemade jam on scones count? Because I am all over that one at the moment!! Hoping our tomato plants will give us enough to bottle as well. More pesto to be made too, since our basil is flourishing. :)

  17. i hear you, Kate!
    i just blogged about our peach glut and all the stuff I'm doing with peaches at the moment to be a wee bit inventive!

    Your jam looks awesome!

    I'll swap you for a jar of peach jam.

  18. Oh yum! This looks amazing! Would definitely like to try growing/preserving berries into jam! yuM!

  19. oh i'm right in the thick of preserving here... i'm quite obsessed with bottling as much as i can at the moment... i'm over 100 fowlers bottles into my preserving... and still plans for more :)

    1. Oh my goodness, your flickr preserving pics are amazing and totally inspiring Virginia.
      Delicious. I love how addicted to the jars you are.

  20. Oh I do love your post! I've always wanted to try preserving and have felt the pangs of failure before beginning (funny how we do that to ourselves). This got me thinking about it again! After school settles down in our little nest I'll have to buckle down and do it!



  21. This sounds like great fun, especially since it's freezing temperatures in my part of the world. We're working our way through jam made last year - apricot jam is one of the great joys of life. Based on your posts, I'm really looking forward to doing some preserving in the summer!

  22. Love jammin'. Sticky, sweet and you are so right, absolutely nothing better than a gifted jar of jammy goodness.

  23. Does anyone use pectin? That is what i use to make strawberry jam. I am inspired to try some new jams this summer.

  24. I don't like jam. Shocking hey? I don't really have a sweet tooth. Made marmalade once for my love. He likes jams and the like.
    I prefer pickles. It's still preserving though isn't it?

  25. From the other side of the world we are counting down. Will our last several jars of strawberry jam get us through, a few jars of salsa left, will it be enough? We did not preserve as much as usual last year and now I am crossing my fingers we will have enough till next harvest. I love putting food by, the history, the local produce, the jewel colored jars! Ah, but the cleanup...not so much. Happy preserving!

  26. Down here in tassie i have made greengage jam, nectarine jam and tomato and chlli relish...on the weekend i will pick blackberries to make blackberry jelly (oh so very yummy!!)...my larder is getting nice and full for the winter months, have sent jam to n.s.w to my mum and dad, my nanna was a farm lady and made all her own jams etc,I love preserving, jam and relish making it gives me so much pleasure..have fun in your kitchen, i must pop out and pick some more tomatoes to roast!!!! :)

  27. Blackberry jam (indeed, any jam!) is even more fabulous if you make it with palm sugar. And for the grown-up version put a tablespoon of posh vodka/Cointreau/kirsch in the bottom of the jar before you pour the hot jam in. Leave at the back of the cupboard for six months and WOW!

  28. I am busy pickling dill gerkins and bread and butter cucumbers...with all the rain up here the cucumbers are going off but everything else is waterlogged! Your jams look yum....

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