The past few weeks I’ve been suffering from what I believe is technically known as a glut. People with allotments have these – it’s an excess of fruit or vegetables growing on your patch.
The difference for me is that I don’t have a patch. I live in an attic, and so the statistical chances of me suffering from a glut are low. Nevertheless, recently I’ve been fairly overwhelmed by what I’ve foraged and picked, and what others have given me from their allotments/gardens/foraging expeditions because they know I like the fresh and wild stuff.
I’m not complaining. I have a letterbox sized freezer and the appetite appropriate to a small woman, so having a glut has just meant getting innovative with the challenge of what to do with it all. After all, it can’t be wasted.
So I had to consider where I might find the help I required, and to do it, I needed to go back in time, to when we were a more frugal and leaner society. Back to the Future style I began to build my time machine…
Not really. Instead I *borrowed* my mum’s copy of Marguerite Patten’s Everyday Cookbook. It’s the 1974 edition, given to my parents before I was born, along with a pressure cooker and other items considered essential in the Seventies. Marguerite Patten used to broadcast a cooking programme on the radio during the Second World War advising people on how to cook good meals with their rations. She’ll be 100 in two years time, so whatever she was cooking obviously served her health very well.
Referring to a wartime cooking celebrity for advice was the perfect solution, since freezing was not the obvious option when she began her career. And so to my joy I found an entire section dedicated to jams, chutneys, preserves and bottling. She doesn’t assume you even have a fridge to be able to chill a plate to put a blob of jam on to do a wrinkle test to see if it’s ready. Instead she tells you how much the jam should weigh once it’s boiled down enough. For each kind of fruit. That’s how knowledgable she is.
Plus the book is full of really cute line drawn illustrations, that are quite cool in a retro kind of way. I keep finding myself drawn to its secrets, the lure of ‘how people made the most of things in the old days’ proving irresistible. I feel like a culinary archaeologist.
Or probably more appropriately, a historical recreationist. Since I discovered Marguerite, I’ve made eight jars of Victoria plum jam, two jars of plum and apple jam, I’ve bottled pears, made a pear and date cake and a large tin of oat, apple and date slices. I’ve made vegetable lentil soup, I’ve wrapped apples for dry storage and have dried the ones that were bruised into rings.
My freezer’s full, I’ve nearly run out of jars, and then last weekend I added to my glut by going mushroom hunting. But more on that another time…