Food Preservation at Knowle Cottage


As I’ve said before we grew almost all our own veggies and fruit at Knowle Cottage. Not having mains (electric) power the job of preserving a portion of the harvest to help us out in the winter was a long one. To avoid having to spend so much time all at once, and losing some of the produce in the process, much of the veggies would be harvested young and preserved as we went along.

Pickling, bottling and drying were the long term methods of choice. The pickling was easy, overnight soak in very salty water, drain and dry off and then into glass jars and cover with vinegar.

The bottling took a while longer as once the food was in the jars it had to sit in a big pan of water for hours on end to seal the tops on the jars so that the food would last until the winter. Most fruits kept very well like this, something to do with the acids in them.

The drying was easy, I would grate hard things like carrot and parsnips and spread them on a metal tray and pop them in the range with the door slightly open. Spinach and such I would wash and dry and then crumble them up when they were really dry. When I thought everything was totally dry I would stir them around and then dry them for a while longer, just to be sure. Any dampness and they would spoil.

When they were ready I would store the produce in jars, heated to make sure they were totally dry inside. The dried produce went into stews and casseroles throughout the winter, and it was about the only time the kids would eat with no complaints at all because they couldn’t work out what the small bits were!

Fruit would also be turned into huge amounts of jam, and some of the apples and beets would be made into chutney. Both of these things would be spooned hot into hot jars and a wax disc of paper put on the top before screwing on the lid. If the lid dipped in the middle it would keep well. The ones that didn’t dip in the middle got eaten first.

Things like Brussel sprouts, swede (Editors note: rutabega) and parsnips all do well through the frost so some of those were always left in the ground, and some would be layered in boxes lined with straw in the scullery which was always cold.

Potatoes kept dry and in the dark also lasted for weeks in the scullery but Ernie preferred the ones he had buried in the straw holes in the garden, he said they tasted better. I preferred stuff to be kept in the scullery…less vermin, I hate rats and mice and there were always a few of them around though the feral cats and their families kept them at a manageable level.

Most years we had enough to see us through the winter provided the summer was kind to us. The lean years were really lean, but that’s for another day I think.

Well, you have a good weekend, love to the family,



Granny Spear was born in a small cottage in Devon, Southern England in 1925. Married to farm labourer Ernest, she raised her family in the heart of the countryside without any of the amenities we rely on today. Using skills passed down from her mother, who had learned those same skills from her mother, she not only survived but positively thrived living a self-sufficient, off grid lifestyle. Outliving her husband, one of her children and two of her grandchildren she stayed in the cottage until 2003 when a serious fall saw her hospitalized. She now lives with her daughter just four miles from her old home. For her 89th birthday her grandchildren and great grandchildren brought her an iPad, which she instantly rejected until they showed her Angry Birds…After much persuasion she has agreed to share some of her knowledge with us about what she calls the ‘old days’

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Originally published August 29th, 2014
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