Thursday, 15 September 2011

life preserving

Boy, I’ve been working hard! I’m spending all my spare moments storing food for the winter. All the apples, pears, plums and quinces from the allotment, the runner beans, courgettes, tomatoes, onions, beetroots, and other people’s windfalls too, as well as foraged berries, are being wrapped, chopped, boiled, pickled, jammed, brewed, frozen and stored away for the winter months. Why? Perhaps because it’s been an abundant harvest, perhaps because I’ve reached a new level of competence/obsession. It’s extreme.

As I spend yet another evening with my face over splattering vats of vinegar, I often ask myself whether it’s worth it. I can pop down to the shops and buy this stuff, for not much more than it costs me. Certainly, if you build in my time, it’s not worth it at all. So what’s it about? Part of me wants to develop skills that I feel we’re going to need some time soon. Part of me is almost invoking the spirit of my pre-supermarket forebears, who had to do this to alleviate winter food boredom, and I can also feel their joy and gratitude for the food that sustains our lives. 

But mainly, increasingly, I want to preserve food for its own sake. As we live more and more from the food I grow on the allotment I can feel in advance the taste of sunshine in the autumn raspberries taken from the freezer in February. I can taste the summer echo in my tomato pickle eaten with a root stew in March. The damson jam will be brilliant on hot toast on a cold day. And of course some of it will go as presents.

Really, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Next year I’ll just have to make sure I set aside time in September to focus on preserving, just as I prioritized vegetable growing in March and April this year and bees in May and June.
Such deep pleasure, even just in anticipation! Is it possible that by simplifying we are inviting more abundance and happiness? It’s all a great mystery.

Pic by MG Montoya


Mark Watson said...

Sounds like you're going great guns on preserving food, Adrienne. My mouth is watering after reading this! Is it damson jam you're talking about here on hot toast on a cold day, or another way of preserving them?

Yesterday I collected damsons from a neighbours house - it really does take time, doesn't it? I kept picking and shaking them into a tray and it seemed to take ages to fill.

Now for the second step, compotes, jams. I'm waiting for Charlotte to return for that, she's better at it than me. But don't tell anyone!

adrienne campbell said...

sorry Mark, the world now knows! Yes, it's damson jam, probably the best jam I've tasted, after blackcurrant and raspberry. Do you know you can make a delicious 'fridge jam' out of the autumn raspberries that are so abundant now, just by squishing them in a jar with sugar in the fridge - it keeps for a week or so... Just off to scrump some russet apples off an abandoned tree. Have fun! Winter will be here only too soon...