Keeping foods safe and edible

I accidentally left a jug of milk out, and in this warm and muggy weather it ‘turned’ and became solid. Now my daughter would have thrown it straight out, but of course, being brought up when and how I was, I knew this semi-solid jellified milk could be made into something resembling cottage cheese – waste not want not! I lined a sieve with muslin, poured – or rather slithered the cheese to be onto it, added a pinch of salt, wrapped it loosely and put a saucer on top, just heavy enough to help the moisture squeeze out. A couple of hours later we had a small amount of home-made cheese to share for lunch.

I’ve been writing about storing foods, sharing hints from a seventy-seven year old book, Cookery for To-day and To-morrow, by Nell Heaton. Using up things which were – as we’d express it, past their sell-by date, was always an option, but better was to make sure in the days when there were few domestic refrigerators, and freezers, or deep freezes as they were first known, only appeared during the early 40’s (and I guess only in the USA)

So should you want or need to opt for a non-tech way of keeping foods safe and edible, here’s how you should store vegetables:

  •  Artichokes Globe: Cut off the heads and stick the long stalk into sand, away from the frost. Cut a piece off the stalk every day.
  • Artichokes Jerusalem: Store as potatoes or leave in the ground.
  • Beans: store in salt.
  • Carrots: Leave in the ground till the frosts begin, then pack in slightly moist sand.
  • Celery: Store in sand in a shed or cellar.
  • Leeks: leave in the ground till required.
  • Onions: Put small bulbs into net bags. Rope or string the larger bulbs together.
  • Parsnips: Leave in the ground as long as possible, then store in a cool place covered with sand.
  • Potatoes: Store indoors in bags, or dig them into a shallow pit in the ground (this is known as clamping).
  • Turnips: Clamp in the same way as potatoes.
  • Green vegetables: Store on a cool floor or in a vegetable rack.
  • Marrow or gourds: Leave on the plants till the frost is expected, then store in a cool dry place.

This is an interesting insight into the sort of crops ordinary people would be growing in their gardens. I’m not sure many younger ordinary gardeners today would grow either artichokes, or turnips, or marrow. Celery is apparently difficult to successfully grow – or to grow and taste anything like we would expect, and gourds – maybe Nell meant pumpkins, squash or courgettes? Who now knows.

Yesterday I wondered if Nell had a recipe for tomato jam; yes, she does:

Tomato Jam

Use only sound fruit for making Tomato Jam. Plunge the tomatoes into boiling water and then into cold to blanch them, remove their skins and return them to the pan with just enough water to start cooking them. When they are soft, rub them through a hair sieve and return them to the pan. Allow 1lb of sugar to each 1lb of pulp, and the juice and grated rind of 1 lemon, and boil together till set. Pot immediately in hot jars.
This jam may be made with added apples to give extra pectin, if lemons are not available, and a pinch of cinnamon may be added if desired.

  • 1 lb of sugar
  • 1 lb of tomato pulp (from blanched, skinned tomatoes, cooked inn water and rubbed through a seive)
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon or ¼ lb of a cooking apple if no lemons available
  • pinch of cinnamon (optional)
  1. Boil tomatoes, sugar, lemon/apples together until ready to set
  2. add optional cinnamon
  3. pot immediately in hot jars

What I haven’t mentioned about this little book, it has beautiful line drawn illustrations by someone called W.A. Burton. I haven’t been able to find out anything about them, not even whether they were a man or a woman. The book is small, the type face very small, the paper rough and cheap, because of course paper was rationed during the war. Was ink rationed? I’m not sure, I must look into it!


    1. Lois

      Yes, so practical and low-tech. I guess though they mostly apply to vegetables grown not bought but as it was written during the war when food was rationed it’s not surprising!


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