More treasure – with an interesting twist.

Warne’s Model Cookery and Housekeeping Book

The autoharp wasn’t the only treasure to come my way yesterday. This elderly cookery book, from 1895, also found its way into my bag. I rather like old cookery books, as much for the social history aspects as for the actual recipes: “The footman is required to make himself generally useful, though, of course, the number of men kept will diminish or increase his work…” I was surprised to find that it, too, is probably worth much more than I paid for it, but I’m not going to part with it until I’ve “mined” it for useful recipes, if ever! There are sections on preserving, pickling, cheesemaking and winemaking as well as everyday cookery, and although I will happily use modern aids and methods, old-fashioned methods have their place in my armoury too. Especially when the modern ones don’t actually work.

Whilst the pages are mostly in good condition and the cover is pretty clean & bright for its age, apart from a few fingermarks, the spine is very worn and only attached by a sliver at the back. And I was intrigued and entertained to find proof that our ancestors didn’t waste anything much:

Recycling 1895-style!

The adverts are as much fun as the recipes:

Fancy cooking on one of those?

But some of them would cause hilarity rather than improving sales, in this day & age…

I hope Her (previous) Majesty enjoyed…

Off now to find out what some of the more arcane ingredients are in modern parlance, always supposing they are available – or indeed legal – today! Saleratus, anyone? Lambstones? Puff paste…?

Freecycle Chutney…

Well, what else can I call it? We’re not short of apples on our own big Blenheim Orange tree this year, although it’s hardly a bumper crop, but I’d gathered a handful of those pretty little red crab apples from the riverbank to make some crab apple jelly with. However there weren’t an awful lot on the tree, and I know other people like to use them too, so I didn’t feel I could be greedy & help myself to too many. There are other trees I know of, but they’re quite a walk off the road and the weather’s pretty soggy just now. And I’d found some other interesting-looking crab apple recipes online; several chutneys, crab apple butter, and slow-roasted crab apples, to name but a few, which looked well worth a try. I also seemed to be rather short of jars; the box I thought was still out in the garage, wasn’t, when I went hunting for it. So I asked on one of our local Freecycle groups, both for crab apples and for jars. And I was lucky enough to get two replies, one from Maggie whose elderly mother loves honey & goes through at least a jar a week, so had a full box of jars saved up, and one from Stan, who said he had not crabs, but apples…

Oh boy, does he have apples! I am now suffering from serious orchard envy. He and his wife moved to their cottage 20 odd years ago, on retirement, and he has been building up his orchard ever since. Sadly he’s struggling to manage his garden now, as his wife is very ill and he’s finding it hard to bend, but the place should be declared a national treasure. There are all the well-known varieties, and some lesser-known trees too, grown from cuttings, interspersed with gooseberries, currant bushes and an enormous row of runner beans. Anyway I helped myself to three huge bags of windfalls, mostly of small yellow apples with little red splashes, which taste a little like Golden Delicious, and he handed me a bag of jars too. I’ve promised him a jar of the results, and some Egremont Russets, too, as his Russet has stopped a-russetting & now bears pretty, delicious red apples that only bear a slight resemblance to an Egremont.

On the way home, I spotted some small red fruits lying on the road into town, and realised there’s a crab apple in a roadside garden there. So I pulled into the nearest car park, plucked up my courage & knocked on the door. The owners professed themselves delighted to let me pick up their windfalls too. So I came home absolutely laden with bounty…

I mixed the little yellow apples & the red crab apples with a couple of damaged quinces from our own garden, which won’t keep until I get round to making the quince marmalade; I’m willing to bet that the crabs & quince will make up for any lack of zing from the yellow ones. The slow-cooker is full to the brim of apples, cranberries, rosemary, onions & garlic turning gently into chutney, and I stuffed both my big preserving pans full to bursting with apples & boiled them up to make lots of pretty pink juice for crab apple jelly. The drippings from 4 muslin bags have now filled the 10-litre pan, and the chickens will dine well on the fruit pulp tomorrow. But I hadn’t thought about sugar… it would take every ounce we currently have, and then some, to turn that lot into jelly. So off to the supermarket I shall hurtle, tomorrow, and trust that they’ll have enough; they don’t always have the big bags.


We won’t eat all this ourselves. Apart from the jars I’ll return to the donors, I like to make up a basket of home-made things – I hesitate to call them goodies – for various family members at Christmas. Some will get given to produce stalls in support of one organisation or another & some will be inflicted on absent offspring’s flatmates. I will go out & gather more crabs, to try the slow-roast idea, when the weather’s not quite so damp. But I still have rather a lot of apples to process/give away/eat and I haven’t even really started on our own home-grown ones yet!



Don’t get me wrong; I am actually really grateful for all this & will do my best not to waste any of it. I’m just goggling a bit at the sheer size of the task I have before me! And it triggers some interesting thoughts about life before or without freezers & dehydrators, as the seasons turn. I may have to haul out some demijohns…

In a ferment…

Useful things, jars. Sadly it’s a bit too easy to come by them at the moment, and thus to take them for granted and send them off for recycling, or even just throw them away. More than once I’ve had to run out at the last moment & buy preserving jars to make jam, because Him Indoors has happily decluttered my unruly hoard. For jam you need lots of small jars, but some of the other things I like to make need larger jars, and they are surprisingly difficult to track down as “there’s no call for them any more…” So whenever anyone has any, there’s a queue for them! I was delighted to find several very large glass jars, with lids, at the Tip a few weeks ago. One has gone to my neighbour to house a Kombucha SCOBY that I passed onto her so that she can make her own Kombucha tea. One’s been filled with home-made Kimchi, a Korean version of Sauerkraut, which is providing a delicious accompaniment to my lunch every day, though sadly I can’t persuade anyone else to try it. And one has just been filled up with onions which I hope will pickle gently in good time for Christmas. The Kimchi recipe has worked really well, much better than the last one I tried, and the result is not only tasty but crunchy too, so I thought I’d try making pickled onions by lacto-fermentation this time, rather than by vinegar pickling. And a couple of mid-sized jars and a kindhearted fellow-Freecycler have allowed me to restart my adventures & experiments with Kefir; there’s cheese a-making even as I type…

And then there’s bottles. I’m still hoping to acquire more swing-cap bottles, but they’re fiendishly expensive to buy new. I have enough for most of the Kombucha, but sadly my ginger beer is having to ripen in plastic bottles for now. Ah well, at least they are being re-used, and it only tends to stay in the bottles for long enough to become drinkable.

For some reason, this house is good at fermentation – perhaps because there’s always something more interesting to do than clean it! I noticed years ago that if I left a saucer of milk down overnight for the cats, in the morning I’d have a saucer of yogurt. No effort needed on my part at all, no scalding or sterilising, and it never seemed to be “off” milk, just nice thick creamy yogurt which the cats enjoyed hugely. When I tried making a sourdough starter, it started to bubble gently within a day. But it’s not popular with the family, so mostly I don’t bother, but it’s nice to know I can make bread with no hi-tech ingredients if I ever need to.

I remember one of my friends laughing gently at me at the school gates a few years back, and saying, “Oh come on! Life’s too short to make your own marmalade, when you can just go out & buy it!” Well, where’s the fun in that?