Preservation, preservation, preservation

It’s that time of the year again when produce is abundant – both in the garden and on the market – and so my mind turns to preserving it for those future lean times.

As a result I had two main jobs this morning: first a visit to the Friday fruit and veg market and then cleaning the family preserving pan. The shopping trip can only be done on a Friday, so I had to miss going swimming. They set up in Newcastle Emlyn early, so I left home at 7am in order to make sure I got there before what I wanted had sold out. I arrived before 7:30 and started selecting my bulk purchases. I returned home through the early-morning mist with two large trays of tomatoes, two trays of nectarines and a bag of 20 peaches. I will return for more produce in a week or two (when, hopefully they will have plum tomatoes like last year and trays of peaches), but what I bought will keep me busy for a little while.

And so to the next task. All this preserving – passata, bottled peaches, nectarine purée – will be greatly facilitated by my second preserving pan. However, having spent several years in my mother’s barn, it needed a little cleaning. A quick internet search suggested that brass could be cleaned quite easily using a mixture of white vinegar (half a cup), salt (one teaspoon) and flour (enough to make it into a paste). All you do is dissolve the salt in the vinegar, add enough flour to get a spreadable consistency, smear the paste on your brass, leave for 10 minutes and then wipe/rinse off and dry. And I’m pleased to say, it worked. I did the inside of the pan twice and the outside once… and if it was for decoration I might do it again, but for my purposes, it looks good and was very easy – no elbow grease required!

So now, there are tomatoes roasting in the oven and for the rest of the weekend I will be getting sticky with peaches, nectarines and sugar syrup.

Food with friends and ginger

Today we went round to see some friends for brunch, being treated to fresh pineapple, bottled damsons, blackcurrant jam, homemade bread and Grossmutters Rührei mit Schinken* (that’s grandmother’s scrambled eggs with ham, in case you weren’t sure). It’s lovely to have friends from round the world in order to be exposed to different culinary experiences from a home kitchen rather than a restaurant. As you might guess, one of our hosts is German, so the bread was sourdough and the scrambled eggs were not the usual British variety.

Suppliers of the Llwynhelyg Farm Shop (from

Suppliers of the Llwynhelyg Farm Shop (from

On the way home we called in at one of our favourite shops, the Llwynhelyg Farm Shop. As always, the place is stuffed full of local food (some local and some very local), although at the moment we don’t need to buy any vegetables as we are well supplied with lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes, mange tout and courgettes out of the garden (and we will soon have runner beans and sweet peppers). However I needed live yogurt, as mine had turned whilst I was away over the weekend and I needed a new culture to get going again making my own. Of course we were also tempted by a variety of other produce and, just as we were about to pay, I noticed a basket of root ginger that was starting to sprout (ok, not everything they sell is local). It was all a bit shrivelled and unlikely to be bought by anyone planning to cook with it, but I wanted some.

Sprouting ginger root

Sprouting ginger root

I used to have a ginger plant grown from a root piece that I bought in a supermarket, but I lost it one winter and I’ve been keen to get another one going ever since. So, I bought a likely looking piece and came home to read up on what I need to do to nurture it. According to the ginger section on the Plant Cultures website, which is run by Kew, they are relatively easy to grow, but it’s unlikely that I will manage to harvest useable roots and it will probably  die over the winter (like the last one). Apparently they need high temperatures (more than 30C) and lots of light… according to the website, it’s the lack of light that does for them over the winter. Anyway, I have planted it in some potting compost and it’s currently residing in a toasty greenhouse. I try not to believe everything I read, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I will be able to produce some local ginger and keep it alive over the winter; if not, I will have had fun cultivating it and will have used something that was probably just going to be composted otherwise… not a bad outcome either way.


* The recipe can be found in Free Food for Rats by Anja Forrest Dunk; she also writes a lovely food and family themed blog.

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