Archive for Make Do and Mend

A Polish Secret : Raspberry Cordial

I once worked with a lovely Polish lady called Maya. She grew up and lived in Poland under what was then the Russian state control, and her story of growing up and living in that system was fascinating. Many things that we take for granted with our supermarket and shop cultures today were unavailable to them then, and one particular thing she told me about stuck with me.

She was a great advocate of raspberry syrup, which they made themselves as a home-made medicine for a fantastic range of ailments. It was probably THE thing to have at all times at home in the  family”medicine chest”. I know that it is still renowned by the Polish because even the local supermarkets like Tesco here stock it on their Polish foods shelves. But it is easy to make and quite fun too and has a shelf life of two years, so below I shall put the recipe. You will need bottles with proper stoppers to seal it, these can be bought in various sizes from mail order companies supplying home cookware. Here in the UK I use a company called Lakeland for pretty much all my requirements. Of course being glass, they are reusable. I know that raspberry leaves are also used in traditional medicines but since my knowledge of this is very limited, I do intend to cover that here. Any search of the internet will soon yield results if that interests you. The raspberry syrup can be diluted for a refreshing drink, as can the blackcurrant which I also will give details for. We all know how high the vitamin C content in blackcurrant is. Later in the year [Autumn], I will give detail as to how to make rosehip syrup, so high in Vitamin C that children during the war were given days of school where they were expected to harvest rosehips for the nation’s health. Now they still grow in the hedgerows and are a much unused and under-valued free commodity.  Certainly as a child we were given a spoonful of rosehip syrup daily as our vitamin C boost [along with cod liver oil and malt extract before going to school]. I have made rosehip syrup for the past few years as I believe it, combined with vitamin D to be a very effective barrier to these horrid flu’s that pass round the world. Who knows…but its served me well so far anyway!

Before you start always remember that you bottles must be sterilised before use, either a quick cycle in the dishwasher or a hot wash and dry them in a low oven will do it. [Same is true for jam jars, preserving jars…]

Raspberry Syrup.

Raspberry syrup

You will need:

1 kg raspberries

75 ml water

Preserving or granulated sugar.

Put the raspberries and water in your bowl and mash well. Set over a pan of boiling water for 1 hour, mashing occasionally.

Pour into a sterilized jelly bag and leave for a few hours until the dripping has ceased. Squeeze the bag and then filter the juice through a double layer of muslin.

Measure your juice and allow 400 grams of sugar for every 500 ml of juice. Now put juice and sugar into pan and boil stirring until all the sugar is dissolved. Skim off any froth and boil hard for 4-5 minutes. Do not overcook though as mixture will start to set!

Pour into hot sterilized bottle and cork, or place stopper in. Leave to cool and cover cork with wax if you wish.

This amount will give about 750 ml of syrup. It can be diluted to drink, or poured over ice cream, and deserts.

Blackcurrant Syrup.

Blackcurrant syrup

You will need:

1 kg ripe blackcurrants

Preserving or granulated sugar.

Puree the blackcurrants in a food processor or liquidiser. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and leave for 24 hours.

Pour the puree into sterilised jelly bag and leave for a few hours until dripping ceases. Squeeze the bag, then filter juice through double layer of muslin.

Measure juice and add 400 grams sugar for every 500 grams of juice. Stir well until sugar has dissolved.

Pour juice into sterilised bottles, filling them to within 5 cm of the top. Cork. Wrap in cloth and stand on metal rack at base of large lidded pan. Pour in enough water to cover cork by 2.5 cm. Cover, bring to the boil and allow to boil for 25 minutes if using a 500 ml bottle. Remove from pan with tongs, leave to cool completely. Wax if desired.

As the blackcurrant syrup requires heat processing, it may pay you to make up several batches of this at same time, so they can all be popped into hot bath at same time for processing.


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How To Make A Clay Oven

I found this a couple of days ago and love it so I thought I would share it. How to build a clay oven. I think it is a very sensible idea, to be able to cook if the electricity is off, but even great fun to be this independent anyway. The website is full of great ideas and I think you will enjoy looking round it…very interesting company.

It looks easier enough, pictures on right of page, instructions on main page and a book to buy as well, with lots more detail…

Clay Oven

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Slow Cookers and Hayboxes: Modern and Ancient

If I had to choose just one piece of equipment in my kitchen to save…yes it would be hard to choose, but for sheer flexibility, making my life easier and great results time after time, it would have to be my slow cooker. I am a number one fan of slow cookers. They are economical with electricity, you can leave them to simmer away quietly whilst you go out and live your life, and they will welcome you home with my version of “fast food”, something hale and hearty but something you have not had to slave away in the kitchen for hours over! I am also convinced that my slow cooker saves me large amounts of money. I can bulk cook in it and freeze several meals from one “cooking”; I always make all my soups in them and home-made soup is way superior to anything you can buy, plus way cheaper…I cook my Christmas puddings in them, I know it will make cheaper cuts of meat succulent and tasty, and in fact they remind me of the function of the low cool oven in the AGA of my childhood.  There are numerous recipe books out there for slow cookers. For those not familiar with a slow cooker, there are many types available. I do like the models which have temperature adjustment dial so you can choose, low, automatic or high. I usually cook everything on low anyway, but for some recipes, you may have to start on high and then switch to low for example. If you are buying one for the first time, get the biggest one to save money and really make it work for you.

Slow Cooker

The Slow cooker is actually the modern-day version of the haybox. Hayboxes used to be used quite regularly, and are still used as a primary method of cooking in many parts of the world.

 The concept of the haybox is the same as the slow cooker really but  you got the food up to boiling point first and then transferred it to the haybox where it would continue to cook to perfection slowly for hours in its insulated place. Hayboxes are easy to make, and easy to use. I think it is perhaps a really handy skill to know, because if your electricity went out for a long period of time…how would you cook?  We are told that a major solar flare could take our power grids out for a length of time, so better to know this now than have to worry at the time! To make a haybox…you can do it with cardboard, but my haybox is a wooden chest. It sits in my hallway, no-one would think anything of it being anything other than a wooden chest, and it is handy for when I want or need it. So get yourself a wooden chest.

Wooden Box

Line it with hay quite thick. Then add hay all round the sides. The idea is that you nestle your pot in the middle of the hay ‘nest and then put lots of hay on top as well, then shut lid. Like this.


Saves on electricity whilst we have it, and is how to cook when you don’t have it! Without electricity you would have to heat your food up on a fire. Then once it is piping hot, transfer to haybox and voila! Trial and error on timings, but pretty similar to a slow cooker. My great grandmother had another use for her haybox. She used to make one up with a stone hot water bottle in it, and take it with her on the train, to keep her feet warm, in the days before railway carriages were heated! My mother now aged 86 says she was fascinated by this as a child! I think I would be too. Anyway-build yourself a haybox for emergencies, and definitely have a go with slow cookers, they can save you a fortune and produce lovely food to come home to after a long day at work, out, or whatever. Will post up a few favourite recipes over the next day or two. Here is Great Granny Edith Maria Scott who liked to keep her feet warm!

Edith Maria Scott

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The Home Medicine Chest

First and foremost be sensible. If symptoms persist go to your doctor.
However, there are certain things you can do to help those minor things that affect us all from time to time and they may be worth a try too.

Whilst you have your lemons and ginger about, if you are making the lemon marmalade, here is a good homemade cough syrup. Keep it in the fridge.

2 lemons scrubbed and thinly sliced.

6 teaspoons grated fresh ginger.

 Honey as needed.

In a glass jar layer the lemon slices and grated ginger until jar is full. Pour honey into jar. Store in fridge for 2 weeks before using. Then take 1-2 teaspoons of the liquid 3 times per day as needed, for coughs and sore throats.

Ginger Tea

Ginger tea taken twice a day can help relieve flu symptoms such as headache, sore throat and congestion. Make the tea by steeping [soaking for a decent amount of time] 2 tablespoons of fresh ginger in a cup of hot water. Make sure not to exceed your ginger intake by more than 4 grams of ginger a day as it can cause irritation of the mouth, heartburn and diarrhea if taken in excess.

Lemon and Ginger

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The First Post: Horsemeat: No Thankyou

This blog is an idea that I have had for quite a long time. I know that skills that were once held by everyone, are being lost, and I know that they are still as relevant as they ever were. So it is a simple decision to hand on these skills and tips so that lots more people can follow them and hand them down to the generations to come. But the impetus came this last week; when I found myself horrified at this report in the newspaper; following a warning of heavy snow to come:

‘There were frantic scenes at a Tesco store in Aberdare, South Wales, where hundreds of people turned up after the Met Office issued a rare red warning for the area, meaning travel should be attempted only if absolutely necessary.

Rhiannon Griffiths, 38, said: ‘It was a real scrum. People were grabbing loaves and milk and dashing to the tills. I managed to get two small loaves and some pitta breads – but that was all that was left.’

A member of staff at another supermarket in Newbury, Berkshire, described scenes that were ‘busier than just before Christmas’. ‘It’s almost a sort of mass hysteria,’ she said. ‘People are rushing in and blindly grabbing what they can see, frightened there will be nothing left.

‘The shelves are emptying as fast as we can fill them – they’re after bread, milk, dairy produce, fruit, vegetables and lots of people seem to be stocking up on the tinned stuff, like soup.’

One small snow warning and panic sets in. Supermarket shelves clear within a couple of hours leaving the vulnerable even more at risk of going without. This amazes me on several counts. One, it is unthinkable that so many people have to do this because they are not prepared for such things to happen. It is so easy to have stocks of food within the house that should cover such events. A few years ago the lorry drivers were considering striking here in the UK. It took Lord Sanisbury to approach the government and ask the Prime Minister if he was aware of how much food we stock in this country. No said the PM. Lord Sainsbury then informed him. We hold 3 days food in this country. Apart from that we are reliant on food coming in, and our transport systems working properly to get it both from the ports and farms to the distribution centres and on to the supermarkets and shelves for the customers to access.

Then came the news of horsemeat being put in burgers for sale here in the UK from those big supermarket names. You need to know what you are eating folks, and there is only one way to know that…take control of what goes in by doing it yourself.

Natural disasters can strike at anytime. A massive solar flare can knock out power supplies and electrical grids. ATM’s are reliant on those grids as are the tills in the shops and the reordering systems in the shops. No power means no sale of goods. Severe weather events happen, and they have happened throughout history. How will you feed yourselves and your family and keep them warm, if an event happens? Whilst we cannot prepare for the truly unexpected, we can and should take steps to ensure that we are at least prepared for at least a three week period, this being about the timeframe that it takes for governments to be able to assess and step in to start putting things right. For those who have freezers, that is a start, but dont forget that if your power goes down for more than 48 hours, the food you have in there is unuseable and will have to be thrown out. In the winter of 86 I was living at the farm in Norfolk with 5 small children aged under 9. We were without electricity for 3 weeks, and had no heating as the oil fired heating required electricity to run it. We had electrical cooker, fridge, and the hot water was run by the oil-so no hot water either. The snow was to deep for vechiles to run and we were cut off by snow for 3 weeks. If we had not been prepared for such events, how would we have fed and kept our young children warm with temperatures dropping to minus 10 and more? Now people may say, well we live in the city, we can always get to a shop…yes but the shop may not be able to be stocked, and if there is no electricity…and you cannot get your money out of an ATM and your debit/credit cards are not working…So to be prepared is a simple common sense precaution. To know that you can feed, and keep your family warm for 2/3/4 weeks independently of whatever else is happening surely makes sense. And those sorts of things are what we will be posting on. These things can be done gradually throughout the year; until you have built up into a rhythm whereby it becomese second nature. What you make and or preserve will taste better than anything you can buy, and you will know what has gone into them. It will also save you money. You have the choice nowadays, we didn’t, when we were growing up it was this way or you didn’t have it! Organic food was the norm, it came out of our garden with slugs attached and dirt all over it! No sprays…that would have been “a waste of money” to our parents. I never saw a cabbage without holes in the leaves until supermarkets opened! And apples came in all shapes and sizes…no European dictates then [that led to tons of perfectly good fruit being wasted].

Nowadays we are also being asked to take notice of the carbon footprint of our food, and to try and eat from more locally sourced produce. When we were kids, the trek of our fruit and veg was from the back garden to the kitchen. What you didn’t grow you did not eat in 90% of fruit and veg produce. Oranges and tangerines only appeared at Christmas. We did have a huge variety of food but it was always seasonal, and when eaten in season it tastes so good! Peas straight out of the pod, strawberries straight off the plant, somehow made each season special becasue of what it produced; and knowing that you could not have at any other time of year made each crop you loved special and each that you did not like bearable! Either way…it would not last long!

I will also just include various other odd things which I hope will interest people, so I really hope the people that visit this blog will enjoy it and contribute their own tips and skills in the comments as well.

Lets start taking back our skills and be less dependent on the big corporates to provide our needs for us shall we?


Veg Garden

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