Monday, 30 July 2012

July goings on.

July has been a busy month so far. 

Inspired by this book:

I thought I'd have a go at bottling (or 'canning' in America) gooseberries. I bought some from a PYO farm I came across to eke out the ones I grew myself.

I used my new preserving pan to sterilise the jars and lids, with a tea towel folded at the bottom as instructed. 

Topping and tailing the gooseberries was rather tedious, but necessary. Miss Read, in her Fairacre series of books, says she uses a pair of nail scissors but I prefer my knife.

I packed each jar with fruit then added hot syrup (Just sugar and water). I screwed on the lids and slightly loosened them, then lowered them into the hot water and brought the water to 88 degrees Celsius for the amount of time it said (20 mins I think - it varies, depending on the fruit used).

The finished result. Now that the fruit has softened there is loads of room left in the jars!

 I was amazed at how the jar lids dimpled down, indicating a vacuum has formed. When you think about it this is just the same process as tinned fruit that you buy in the shop. 

I'm very excited about all this! I love seeing the pictures of Amish cupboards filled with jars of produce, and I love the thought of preserving food without needing a freezer. I've bought some smaller Kilner jars to preserve rhubarb, chopped peaches and chopped pears. I would like to preserve vegetables, soups and stews this way too but, due to low acid content and the danger of botulism therefore, I would need to get a special canning pressure cooker for these.

This month in the veggie garden, after weeks of rain:

First potatoes dug up.

Courgettes (zucchini) are forming. Had to pick these a bit smaller than usual due to slugs nibbling the skins off!

My one remaining Pumpkin plant is now flowering. It always amazes me just how big Squash flowers are! I caught this one in the morning; by midday it had curled up again.

The mint plants, which grow wherever the mower can't reach, are also coming into flower. The bees LOVE them!

And finally my 3 'helpers'....



and Flopsy.

What have you been up to this month?


  1. Bramble and Luna (a dark moon?)do look remarkably like my two! Your preserving reminded me of childhood - just those two words "Kilner Jars" and I remembered how I thought they were something Mum had invented and magicked into being all by herself, until years later when I came across them again! I wonder where they all went.
    Spuds look very yummy. Our badgers are rather fond of the odd nibble of courgette!

    1. Hi Kat! We named our two cats with their colouring in mind; Bramble because of the fruiting BLACKberries (not because he scratches,as a friend thought) and Luna, of course, because of the moon. Love the thought of little Kat thinking her Mummy invented Kilner jars! And Badgers eating your courgettes! Never heard of that before! I have a fence round my veggie plot to keep a certain lop-eared Bunny out. ;-) x x

  2. Hi Hawthorne,
    I have been canning for years, we do fruits and veggies, the work is very rewarding, and the jars beautiful to display. We do lots of tomatoes, green beans, peaches, and beets. We also do sauerkraut, this takes about six weeks of fermenting in a crock in our basement before canning. We store most of our canned foods on shelves in the basement, but I always put a variety of jars on display on shelves in our dining room, the colors are pretty to see. If you do get a chance to do peaches you should, they are just beautiful when canned, not to mention very enjoyable to eat.
    Glad your gooseberries went well, I was born and raised in England and remember eating gooseberry fool, no one grows gooseberries in Indiana I am assuming our weather is too extreme and I have never seen them for sale anywhere.
    I very much enjoy the Miss Read books, I have collected most of them over the years and they are comforting to return to year in and year out.

    Blessings to you and best of luck with your adventures in canning.

    1. Hi Bean!
      Yes, I agree about how beautiful the jars look - what a good idea to display some. I wonder when peaches are in season? Obviously in modern supermarkets they are available all year round, but who knows how old some of those might be!
      I loooooooooove Miss Read books. I was brought up in a tiny village with a two roomed school, just like Fairacre. There were about 25 children at the school when I was there and, of those, 2 were my brothers and 3 were my cousins! I re-read them all the time. I love the character of Miss Read, and how she gets her life back in perspective by observing the seasons in nature.
      I'll think of you when I do my next batch of canning! x x

  3. I can certainly see how the Miss Read books would appeal to you, she used to write short stories that were published in Punch and and educational publication, they are all not as good as the Miss Read stories. However the short stories really do show that the attitude towards teaching children was quite different.

    Just wondering if you have read any Barbara Pym, she is another excellent British author, I believe she wrote 7 or 8 novels.


    1. Hi Bean. Not heard of Barbara Pym - will have to look into it. I was a Primary School teacher myself for 26 years and have seen plenty of changes in the education system here. Two big differences that always leap out from reading Miss Read books: 1)she can take children out on a nature walk whenever she likes, without having to write a long health and safety report, get other adult supervisors, or wait for permission slips from parents 2)she actually argues back with school inspectors instead of feeling cowed by them! ;-) x x

  4. Yes I love the freedom Miss Read has to actually teach to the needs of her students, she is preparing them for the community that they live in, and I suppose for their station in life. I can see the needs of the rules in modern society, but all of the rules and regulations we have to live by can be rather stifling, and somewhat quash spontaneity.

    Barbara Pym books are set in the 40's with the most recent set in the early 70's. Barbara and her sister never married, their father was a clergyman and most of her plots pull from her life experience as a child growing up in a vicarage and her years at Oxford. Pym is rather like the Jane Austen of the 20th century. My favorites are Some Tame Gazzelle and Excellent Women. I also really enjoyed Crampton Hodnet. The books have a droll humor and a well written story. Pym is truly worth a read.


    1. Thanks, Bean. Will look for those books to order from the library. x x