Posts tagged Preserving Food

How To Make Cheese From Powdered Milk

A good one to have stored up the sleeve in case of necessity…


Leave a comment »

Cherry Cordial: Packed with Vitamins and Anti-Oxidants

I posted up how to make raspberry and blackcurrant cordial; but am going to experiment this year with a new one-cherry cordial. I have a lot of cherries I put in the freezer, as I read somewhere that if frozen whole with stems intact, they will defrost just like fresh cherries to eat. They do actually, although you need to eat them pretty quickly as they do go mushy after a day. Anyway I have lots left and so this year I think I am going to use them up by converting them to syrup giving them another 2 year life span, as well as using more fresh ones when they come into season. I have just ordered my muslin to strain through, very reasonably priced on Amazon so once that arrives I shall give it a whirl, following the raspberry syrup method.

Looking around though I did find that cherries are packed with goodies to keep us healthy [which is why I froze so many last year], and I am now considering and consulting/negotiating with Granddad about possibly planting some of our own wild cherry trees. Here is the low down on how good they are for us. I always bear in mind these nasty flu viruses and like to have something handy to boost the immune system that is natural and nice from about September onwards here in the UK. Does it work? Well 3 years ago I was staying with my son and his girlfriend; when my son went down with the so-called swine flu. He and his girlfriend were wiped out with it, very very poorly; and I did not get the slightest hint of it. They were prescribed Tamiflu. I was with them before their symptoms and during the flu itself. Luck? Or my boosted Vit C and especially Vit D? I think its worth doing anyway!

  • Cherries are pigment rich fruits. These pigments, in fact, are polyphenolic flavonoid compounds known as anthocyanin glycosides. Anthocyanins are red, purple or blue pigments found in many fruits and vegetables, especially concentrated in their skin, known to have powerful anti-oxidant properties.
  • Scientific studies have shown that anthocyanins in the cherries are found to act like anti-inflammatory agents by blocking the actions of cyclooxygenase-1, and 2 enzymes. Thus, consumption of cherries has potential health effects against chronic painful episodes such as gout arthritis, fibromyalgia (painful muscle condition) and sports injuries.
  • Research studies also suggest that anti-oxidant compounds in tart cherries help the human body to fight against cancers, aging and neurological diseases, and pre-diabetes condition.
  • Cherry fruits are very rich in stable anti-oxidant melatonin. Melatonin can cross the blood-brain barrier easily and produces soothing effects on the brain neurons, calming down nervous system irritability, which helps relieve neurosis, insomnia and headache conditions.
  • Further, they are also mild source of zinc, moderate sources of iron, potassium, and manganese and good source of copper. Potassium is a heart-healthy mineral; an important component of cell and body fluids that regulate heart rate and blood pressure.
  • The fruits, especially tart cherries are exceptionally rich in health promoting flavonoid poly phenolic anti-oxidants such as lutein, zea-xanthin and beta carotene. These compounds act as protective scavengers against harmful free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in aging, cancers and various disease processes.
  • Anti-inflammatory property of cherries has been found effective in reducing heart-disease risk factors by scavenging action against free radicals.
  • Acerola or West Indian cherry has exceptionally very high levels of vitamin-C (1677.6 mg per 100 g or 2796 % of RDA) and vitamin-A (767 IU per 100 g).


Leave a comment »

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.

Leave a comment »

For Like Minded Squirrells

At this time of the year I am getting into preserving, and this year intend to do more what we call  bottling in the UK, and the Americans call Canning. I have just done some bottled apricots. Bottling is an amazing method of preservation which does not rely on using electricity for storage as a freezer does. I think this is one of its strongest points, I certainly feel we all need to become more aware of the fragility of the systems such as electricity that we take for granted. Another bonus is the beauty of those bottles of different colours and contents stacked up on our shelves and the feeling that we can feed our families a variety of foods throughout the year and in emergencies. Since the glass jars used for preserving are reusable it is an environmentally friendly way of being a squirrel! For like-minded squirrels, this book which I have detailed below looks like a dream. I have just pre-ordered it, it is due to be released 1st July. I have given you the UK link, to find it on American Amazon, just copy and paste the title and put it in search on your own Amazon. Cant wait for mine to come through!
From the author of “The Homestyle Amish Kitchen Cookbook” comes a great new collection of recipes, hints, and Plain wisdom for everyone who loves the idea of preserving fresh, wholesome foods. Whether instructing a beginning canner or helping a seasoned cook hone her skills, certified Master Food Preserver Georgia Varozza shows people how to get the very best out of their food. Here, readers will find: a short history of canning; lists of all the tools and supplies needed to get started; basic instructions for safe canning; recipes for canning fruit, vegetables, meat, soups, sauces, and more; and guidelines for adapting recipes to fit personal tastes. With its expert advice and warm tones, “The Amish Canning Cookbook” will become a beloved companion to those who love the tradition, frugality, and homestyle flavor of Amish cooking!
Amish Preserving Book

Leave a comment »

The Elephant In The Room

A virus gene that could be poisonous to humans has been missed when GM food crops have been assessed for safety.

GM crops such as corn and soya, which are being grown around the world for both human and farm animal consumption, include the gene.

A new study by the EU’s official food watchdog, the European Food Safety Authority(EFSA), has revealed that the international approval process for GM crops failed to identify the gene. As a result, watchdogs have not investigated its impact on human health and the plants themselves when assessing whether they were safe. The findings are particularly powerful because the work was carried out by independent experts, rather than GM critics.

It was led by Nancy Podevin, who was employed by EFSA, and Patrick du Jardin, of the Plant Biology Unit at the University of Liege in Belgium.

They discovered that 54 of the 86 GM plants approved for commercial growing and food in the US, including corn and soya, contain the viral gene, which is known as ‘Gene VI’. In this country, these crops are typically fed to farm animals producing meat, milk and eggs. Significantly, the EFSA researchers concluded that the presence of segments of Gene VI ‘might result in unintended phenotypic changes’. Such changes include the creation of proteins that are toxic to humans. They could also trigger changes in the plants themselves, making them more vulnerable to pests.

Critics say the revelations make clear that the GM approvals process, which has been in place for 20 years, is fatally flawed.

They argue the only correct response is to recall all of the crops and food products involved. Director of the campaigning group, GM Freeze, Pete Riley, said the discovery of the gene, ‘totally undermines claims that GM technology is safe, precise and predictable’. He said: ‘This is a clear warning the GM is not sufficiently understood to be considered safe. ‘Authorisation for these crops must be suspended immediately, and they should be withdrawn from sale, until a full and extended review of their safety has been carried out.’

Typically, GM crops are modified in the laboratory to give them resistance to being sprayed with powerful weed killers such as Monsanto’s Round-up. This means that, in theory, fields can be doused with the chemical, so wiping out the weeds and allowing the food plants to thrive.

The modification process involves inserting genes into the plants using a technique that allows them to piggyback on viruses that are commonly found in the soil and plants. It has been assumed that virus genes are not present in the plant once it is grown in the field and reaches consumers, however it is now clear that this is not the case. A review of the EFSA research in Independent Science News said the presence of the viral gene appears to have been missed by biotech companies, universities and government regulators. ‘This situation represents a complete and catastrophic system failure,’ it said. ‘There are clear indications that this viral gene might not be safe for human consumption. It also may disturb the normal functioning of crops, including their natural pest resistance. ‘A reasonable concern is that the protein produced by Gene VI might be a human toxin. This is a question that can only be answered by future experiments.’

Biotech supporters argue that there is no evidence from countries such as the USA that eating GM food causes any harm.

However, the reality is that no health monitoring has taken place to establish this. The findings will embarrass the government and the food and farming Secretary, Owen Patterson, who has embarked on a pro-GM propaganda exercise designed to win over sceptical consumers.

Mr Patterson recently rejected public concerns as ‘humbug’ and ‘complete nonsense’. Policy director at the Soil Association, Peter Melchett said: ‘For years, GM companies have made a deliberate and chilling effort to stop independent scientists from looking at their products.

‘This is what happens when there is a complete absence of independent scrutiny of their GM crops.’ Biotech firms are represented by the Agricultural Biotechnology Council(ABC).


In response to the above this is what the chairman Dr Julian Little said:

Its chairman, Dr Julian Little, said the EFSA study was one small part of a strict and complex scrutiny process. He said: ‘Over the past 25 years, the European Commission has funded more than 130 research projects involving 500 independent research groups which have found no higher risks to the environment or food chain from GM crops than from conventional plants and organisms. ‘Furthermore, nearly three trillion meals containing GM ingredients have been eaten without a single substantiated case of ill-health. The combination of these two facts can give consumers a huge amount of confidence in the safety of GM crops.’

My answer to his comment would be:

Sometimes changes caused within human systems can take many years to develop and create illness. Smoking and drinking for example does not tend to kill one immediately, but over a period of years, during which time mutations have occurs slowly, it can do. I would suggest that we may not know the outcome of GM until perhaps 50-70 years have passed and perhaps by that time it may be too late to turn back.

The companies dismissal and bullying tactics of people’s concerns and arrogance towards farmers and food growers is shown in court cases and well documented. We have no idea what GM can mean for the diversity of crops that have taken thousands of years to evolve naturally. There is no way of containing GM crops and separating them from non GMO crops, as court cases prove. And I am always wary when hugely wealthy and powerful corporate interests use their muscle to intimidate and silence intelligent debate and scientific research. Their attitudes are not acceptable and not conducive to further research and debate in democratic processes. The very fact that these are being rushed in; and that debate and research is stifled suggests that GM companies do not hold full confidence that effects will not be forthcoming and thus feels unable to be totally open with the public consumers.

Farmers were told that by the GM companies, there would be a decreased need for pesticides. This has proven not to be the case, and indeed, ever more pesticides are required. This too has a knock on effect on human health, and is now suspected in contributing towards the decline of bee colonies around the world.  GM also carries the killer gene which makes it impossible for farmers to practise saving their seeds to sow again the following year, a practise which has been carried out by farmers for thousands of years. This means that farmers in some of the poorest countries in the world are no longer able to reserve seed and sow the next year, thus impelling them to buy seed from the companies at whatever price those companies decide to charge.

I would suggest that we are only know beginning to understand the vastly complex interactions of all life, and that we are still way too ignorant to be messing about with what we do not as yet fully understand. And that it is way to early to be assertive that there are no ill effects to human health.

A report in a daily newspaper recently suggested that even if we choose organic products over others, our food chains are now so tainted that it is almost impossible to know that we are being GM free in our consumption. If we eat at restaurants, buy any prepackaged food, or processed foods then we are very likely to be consuming GM unwittingly. And this is certainly true, as it is impossible for us to know what goes into some foods, jellies, biscuits, yoghurt, cooking oils… Coming from farming I know that the bees do not keep within the confines of a GM crop. They fly around, they also stop at non GM plants…and their little wings and feet also pollinate them…the sprays of the GM drift on the wind across the field to the next door field…the GM fed animal will also end up in meat by products…

So this is the elephant in the room really, and nanotechnology is another one just as big. And to Owen Patterson, I would say “why are our concerns regarding our own health and the health of our children and grandchildren…humbug and complete nonsense?


Comments (2) »

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

Comments (1) »

%d bloggers like this: