A Busy Time of the Preserving Year
At this time of year we are busy thinking of Christmas plans, things for our own family and what to make or gift to those further afield. At Rosie's Preserving School we try to present ideas for quick, easy and cost-effective preserves to make lots of different Christmas gifts for hampers, stockings, table gifts, tree gifts - whatever your usual Christmas is like. Some of them are not strictly speaking true preserves but nice to have as a treat. Indeed, we have made some of the videos that we have done in the past free-to-view so check them out for drinks to make that are very good indeed either for home consumption or to gift. Amaretto, chocolate liqueur, Irish cream liqueur and may others - they are mostly based around vodka and you can used the cheapest supermarket brand to be transformed.
Hold Your Head High
A good idea is to make gift tags that give the recipient some idea of what to do with what you have made and gifted to them. It will also highlight that you have made something especially for them - I don't know when this idea that homemade was some sort of second best effort started? Truly, using your skill and knowledge, plus your resources to produce something handmade? It should be the mass produced bought-without-thought gifts that are looked down upon. So, every time you gift - although maybe Christmas isn't the best time as it is so busy - this is your opportunity to explain what a difference having control of your own food makes. The incredible flavours, the variety, the savings on waste, the cost savings, Not in a heavy way as that gets tedious but you will find, as I do, every time you explain to someone else how simple it is, it all gets a bit clearer for you. It makes you realise how far you have come and - if you are anything like me - how much you still have to learn. Every day's a shool day. You could offer to show them how in the New Year when things have calmed down a bit. Or maybe suggest that you work through some of the videos in The Library of Rosie's Preserving School together, many of which are now free-to-view. Don't leave it as a vague idea for the future - 'how about next Saturday?' is the approach to adopt!
Be Generous with Knowledge
A lot of the time we stumble on, not quite sure if what we are doing is right, and then it all falls into place. What I would like to see is cohesive, gentle, preserving communities. A bit less of the social media posts of racks and racks of jars and the smug 'that's us sorted for the next year' sentiments and more 'yes, I made that and it keeps for at least a year at ambient temperature - would you like me to show you how?' A bit less of the 'I've grown so much I don't know what to do with it all' and more of the 'I'm having a Ratatouille Party on Saturday - come round in the afternoon to help and you can take some jars home with you' vibe. How much would we gain from that? Share the load, laughter, chatter, a supportive atmosphere, children playing together - maybe two, three generations sharing their knowledge, sharing the work, sharing the harvest. It doesn't need to be a big, formal group - just two or three friends gathered together, not too stuffy.
Take that forward into year 2 - make it A Thing. Use the Winter for planning who will do what. One person could grow the beans, another tomatoes, a third onions and garlic - all the seeds in the packet get used, everyone feels they have contributed. If you don't have a garden, grow herbs, get spices or provide the refreshments for the cook-ins, collect jars together. It would all be so much easier not being responsible for everything yourself.Personally I have a large box of opened seed packets - I can't bring myself to throw them away - but neither can I trust myself to plant 'old' seeds and trust they will germinate - so I buy new each year and hope the mice in the shed will eat the old ones! If we grew as a community there would be little waste. The downside I can forsee is a total failure of one, or more of the crops. If there were no beans, for instance, nobody would have any beans but on the other hand there would be far fewer courgettes in the world!
When it comes to preserving, apart from recycling - always a good thing - the most important difference to preserving alone would be the buying of other ingredients, like sugar, extra jars and lids would all be cheaper if the purchase is combined. To take advantage of better prices;this would become a significant saving if some foods were pressure canned as buying in bulk of dried beans or meat would create buying power.If you can get it delivered, so much the better, but even so, making one journey to collect everything is much more cost effective and the cost could be shared amongst the group. Similarly the energy costs could be shared by contributions of money or the host receiving a greater share of the processed products.
Think about it.
It's what used to happen, years ago.
Rosie's Preserving School and Lovejars.co.uk ( me and Trev! ) are supporting new initiatives in the New Year to bring preserving groups to your locality.
We have named it The Canning Club and our role will primarily be to support local experienced preservers to run their own Club, from home or a local facility, to help those who would like to learn the basics to get the help they need. This isn't about qualifications or testing - it is what used to happen. Someone who had experience sharing with someone that doesn't, in a time and space that suits them. We will help with awareness and logistics, providing Club discount for supplies but otherwise keeping back from joining in, unless asked. It isn't about Lovejars bombarding a target audience with all kinds of deals etc. - we have enough to do already!
The local organiser is free to make his or her own decisions about costings - whether there is a charge and what that charge should be. That should be decided on remuneration for Village Hall hire fees for instance, ingredients, and to cover for the time and input of the organiser. Lovejars/Rosie's Preserving School would not wish to get involved with that. If you would like to become an Organiser please get in touch with a short email detailing your experience and what types of preserving you would feel able to help with.
We would also put the call out to our Pressure Canners as there is a great need for face-to-face demonstrations around the country.
If you feel that this is something that you could get involved with, in any way. then we would be pleased to hear from you. We would like to have something started by the time the new School syllabus gets underway, which is the beginning of February. Talk to us, let us know how you think this could work - what do you think we need to provide to make it work?
We appreciate that there isn't a modern-day model for this so we are ploughing a new furrow - which is exciting because it there is one thing I am sure of it is that one size won't fit all!
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