My family

52 Ancestors: Week 40 – Preservation

I am taking part in the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge for 2021. The challenge is organised by Amy Johnson Crow who provides a weekly writing prompt. I should by now be writing week 52, but study, work and life got in the way. I’m aiming to catch up over the 12 days of Christmas.

As a genealogist the obvious place to go with the “Preservation” prompt would be something about storing records, but a brief chat with my family for inspiration has taken me in a completely different direction. I have written before about my maternal grandmother in the kitchen. The huge chest freezer in the pantry was a vital part of the domestic regime. The freezer, one of those big enough to hide a body, filled about half of the pantry. This was a cold store, next to the kitchen accessed from the hallway, down three or four stone steps. The floor was tiled, and there was a huge stone shelf on which salad items, homemade potted meat, butter (in the summer) and all manner of food stuffs were kept cool. There was a small fridge in the kitchen but the pantry was the place for food storage.

Whenever we stayed, until not long before Grandma had to go to live permanently in a care home there were pies and fruit desserts made from the freezer. I remember that frozen rhubarb and strawberries had to be eaten together, if one ran out we couldn’t have the other!

Grandpa was a keen gardener, and as well as strawberries and rhubarb, other fruits were grown and preserved in the freezer for use over the rest of the year. My sister remembers it being full of bags and boxes of homegrown fruit and vegetables. But Grandma didn’t just use the freezer, although it was a gamechanger for her.

Throughout my childhood the debate about Yorkshire puddings wasn’t about which meats they should be served with, but which course. They were mainly served for pudding, drenched in blackberry or raspberry vinegar. This was a very sweet homemade concoction.

Bessie Tomlinson’s recipe for blackberry vinegar. 1.5 pints blackberries, 1 pint vinegar, 1lb sugar. Put blackberries in a bowl and pour on vinegar, stand for 3 days , stir every day for 3 days, then strain through muslin. Boil with sugar for 15 mins. When cold bottle and cork well.

When we eventually cleared out the house there were plenty of Kilner jars. I don’t remember them being used, but Mum told me “Before the freezer she used to bottle things (hence all the Kilner jars). When I was a child she used to buy a whole tray of peaches to bottle. Most fruit and veg were only available in season, so preserving was much more a thing.” and “She also used to salt kidney beans to preserve them.”

Thinking about it, I may take after Grandma in some ways. I have a jar of homegrown redcurrants in honey on the kitchen worktop to spoon onto breakfast. There are homegrown apples, blackcurrants, mint and parsley in the freezer. I am not sure what Grandma would have made of kombucha which I make in Kilner jars.

If you haven’t come across Too Good to Go, do look up the App. It lets you buy and collect food that shops and restaurants would other throw away at the end of the day- at a great price – so it gets eaten instead of wasted. You don’t know exactly what’s in your order until you pick it up. Our local greengrocer wholesaler is particularly good! This box cost be £4.
In a particularly good Too Good To Go Magic bag this summer I received a honeydew melon and some fresh tarragon. I pureed the melon and froze in an ice-cube tray, and made a syrup with the tarragon. One cube of melon, mixed with white rum, tarragon syrup and either prosecco or seltzer makes a lovely cocktail!

Maybe Grandma would turn a blind eye to the alcohol and be proud that my favourite Christmas tipple this year uses preserved redcurrants in the form of vinbärssaft. I made the syrup made from homegrown redcurrants in the summer. I froze it in an ice-cube tray, one cube is the perfect amount for this cocktail.

Hard Ginger Vinbarssaft

inspired by

  • 1 tbsp Vinbärssaft
  • 50 ml whisky
  • 200 ml ginger ale/beer

Shake whisky & vinbärssaft. Pour over ice and top with ginger

Summer Kiss

inspired by

  • 1oz tarragon syrup
  • 4oz white rum
  • 100ml melon juice/puree

Stir/shake, poor over ice. Top up with seltzer or prosecco

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