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Authors Of How To Store Your Home-Grown Produce Demonstrate How It’s Done

Authors Of How To Store Your Home-Grown Produce Demonstrate How It’s Done

“Over the last 100 years we’ve seen a revolution in the way our food is produced, how it is stored and distributed, and, above all, in our attitudes and relationship with our food,” say British authors John and Val Harrison as they introduce their book, How To Store Your Home-Grown Produce: Canning, Pickling, Jamming, and So Much More.

“In many ways, this revolution has brought improvements,” they continue, “We are able to go to a shop at any hour of the day or night and buy almost any fresh produce regardless of the season. Ready-prepared meals that can be taken from fridge or freezer arrive on the table via the microwave within minutes.

Yet despite this ‘best of all possible worlds,’ more and more people are growing their own food,’ the authors say, “The reason is, we believe that people want to be in control of exactly what goes into their food, and not rely on a manufacturer who may add preservatives, colorants and anti-oxidants. Those fresh strawberries and tomatoes at Christmas no longer amaze us, but we realize that however good they may look, they lack the basic quality of flavor. That’s before we even begin to consider food air-miles and the carbon cost of growing out of season.”

Whatever the actual reason, the fact is that we’re growing our own, cutting out all the middle men and carbon costs, and ensuring the quality, safety and flavor of the food we eat,” they note. “Growing our own food has created a problem for us though: how do we store the fruits of our labor? When the potatoes are dug up, how should they be kept to last until the day, many months later, when the new potatoes arrive? What should we do with those green beans awaiting harvest when the family cries, ‘Enough for now!?”

The Harrisons say, “That’s the purpose of this book: to show you the best way to store your produce, so you can enjoy your green beans in the depths of winter and keep those potatoes until the new crops arrive. These are skills that our grandparents and great-grandparents took for granted, but have been lost for many of us as our parents felt they no longer needed them and didn’t pass them on.

That’s not to say this is a nostalgic, ‘how the Victorians or pioneers did it book,’” they quickly add, “Far from that, it’s a practical manual firmly based in the twenty-first, not the nineteenth, century. The means to store our food practically and safely are more available and affordable now than ever before.

“Perhaps most importantly is the availability of a freezer at an affordable price,” they note, “We take refrigeration for granted nowadays. Do you know anyone living in a house without a fridge? Yet in living memory home fridges were not all that common and very expensive to buy. Of course, there are green issues with freezing. The process uses water and electricity, which is the argument against. On the other side of the coin, home-grown produce doesn’t attract food miles, and that has to more than balance out the equation.”

The Harrisons also noted, “Some of the old methods, such as drying foods, are now much easier to undertake, thanks to modern developments. An electrically-powered food dryer can be picked up very cheaply, or you can even build a drying cabinet yourself with a little ingenuity and skill. In a nutshell, we can keep the virtues of growing and storing our own foods with far less effort and a far higher standard of hygiene than that available to our grandparents and their ancestors. This book shows you how to do it.”

To demonstrate the Harrisons’ preservation prowess, here are three recipes from the book you might like to try:

Green Tomato Chutney

(Makes about 6.5 lbs. of chutney)

  • 5 lbs. green tomatoes
  • 4 red chillies
  • 1 lb. onions
  • 1 Tablespoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 oz. salt
  • 12 cloves
  • 8 oz. seedless raisins
  • 18 oz. demerara sugar
  • 8 oz. sultanas
  • 21 fl. oz. malt vinegar
  • 1 oz. root ginger

“Wash and finely chop the tomatoes. Peel and finely chop the onions. Place the two together in a bowl, sprinkle with the salt and leave for at least an hour. Transfer into a pan with the raisins and sultanas. Bruise the ginger and chillies, and put with the other spices into a piece of muslin; tie firmly, and add to the pan with the vinegar. Bring to the boil and then switch down to a simmer, add the sugar, stirring frequently until dissolved. Continue stirring occasionally and press onto the muslin bag until thickened. Remove the muslin bag. Pour into hot sterilized jars and seal.”

“This is a traditional chutney for using up surplus green tomatoes. Makes a good ‘cook-in’ sauce for chicken, as an accompaniment for curry and is excellent on a cheese sandwich.”

“Never add hot chutney to a cold jar. The thermal shock can crack the glass, or in the worst case, cause it to shatter.”

Basic Tomato Ketchup

(Makes about 2.5 pints of ketchup)

  • 6.5 lb. ripe red tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 10 fl. oz. distilled (white) malt vinegar
  • 8 or 9 oz. granulated sugar

“Wash the tomatoes and chop them. There’s no need to peel or remove the seeds. Put in a pan and heat slowly until pulped, stirring occasionally. Press through a sieve and return the puree to a clean pan. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat and simmer gently until the sauce has thickened. Pour into hot, sterilized jars and seal. Process using a fast hot water bath, ideally raising the temperature to 170 degrees F. for 30 minutes. If you don’t have a thermometer; at this temperature, you should see a small amount of bubbles raising from the bottom of the pan, but not enough to call the water boiling.”

Pickled Beetroot

  • Beetroot
  • Water
  • Spiced Vinegar

“Wash the beetroot carefully without rubbing the skin. Cook gently in a large plan, covering the beetroot with water, until tender (the length of time will depend on the size of the beetroot.) Allow to cool; and then rub off the skins. Large beetroot can be cut up into slices of about ¼- inch or diced into cubes. Pack into clean, sterilized jars and cover with cold spiced vinegar. Seal and label with date and contents. You can use boiling spiced vinegar instead—this makes the storage life longer, and it retains the color.”

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