Make hay (or jam!) while the sun shines

In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.  ~William Blake


We’re having a lovely mild autumn right now. It almost makes up for the nonexistent summer! My tomatoes are finally ripening in the sun and I’m eyeing up the pumpkins under their mantle of mildew-speckled leaves, trying to judge the ideal moment to pick them for maximum ripeness before the frosts get ’em. In the kitchen I’m bottling roasted tomato sauce, apple puree, jams and pickles. My laundry is hung with drying maize, beans, onions, herbs and seeds.

Preserving helps me to avoid wasting the late summer glut and allows me to spread it over the winter months to come. Like many people I have tried and tested family recipes (not to mention more than a few disasters) but I also like to test out new crops, recipes and preserving or storage methods.

Where do I turn to learn how to pickle my pumpkins or clamp my carrots? The library of course! Whether I’m looking for a book or an online resource, the library can help. There are plenty of preserving books to help you fill those Agee jars and some great how-to manuals on other food storage techniques. Have a look on The Source for the Culinary Arts Collection (you’ll need your library card and pin number handy), and try a search on food preservation for more intriguing information on old food storage methods.

By the way, the image above shows the Hayward Bros. pickle, sauce and vinegar factory, which used to be very close to the site of our new Central Library Peterborough – it opened just down the road in 1890, on the corner of Peterborough and Victoria Streets. You can look at more of our fabulous heritage image collection on our website.

What crops to you end up overrun with at this time of year? How do you deal with them? Go on, share your favourite preserving recipe!