Preserving Your Own Food for Winter
Now that the nights are drawing in and the weather during the day isn’t always conducive to outside activities, we may well be looking for ideas on how to get ready for the winter months whilst hopefully having some fun at the same time. One of the most enjoyable ways to do this is collecting seasonal fruit and vegetables and then cooking with them or preserving them to eat over the upcoming months. There are also many winter holiday traditions that involved food and preparing these treats in advance can only serve to heighten the delicious anticipation.
Completing some of these cooking and preserving tasks can also be a lovely way to spend time with family, and especially with children. Obviously you will need to read the methods thoroughly beforehand and ensure that they are safe for the children you are cooking with, but once you’ve done that you can look forward to a very happy, and no doubt messy, few hours! I have spent hours hunting for blackberries with my two children over the last few weeks and feel as though I’ve exhausted every possible recipe for them, but it was so rewarding to share every stage of the process with the boys, from picking them to enjoying the the ice-cream/jam/crumble/cake, etc.
Here are a few other suggestions for autumn and winter food fun, with links to recipes and other relevant advice and information.
Making jam or chutney
This is a nice way to use up larger quantities of any fruits or vegetables you may have grown and picked over the summer and early autumn. The sugar does reach a very high temperature during the cooking process, so be aware of this fact before attempting it with very young children. It is possible to keep the results of your hard work for quite a few months as long as you sterilise the containers properly and jams and chutneys can be a lovely personal gift for friends and family at Christmas. You could even use odd pieces of material and ribbon that you might have lying around to make pretty lid covers, as well as decorating labels to stick on the jars. Once you’ve made a few batches, why not experiment with more unusual flavour combinations?
Learn to make jam by following this link:
How to Make Jam
As with jams and chutneys, pickling vegetables is a good way to preserve any excesses from your garden or allotment (although you can just as easily buy all the ingredients if you don’t have the means to grown your own). Pickled onions might be the most well-known example, but there are many vegetables that could potentially be pickled. These could also be given as gifts and then consumed along with leftover meats and cheeses for a very simple and tasty holiday buffet.
Drying fruit might initially seem like an arduous process, but just imagine how satisfying it will be to know that you have a stash of healthy treats that you’ve prepared yourself. You could present them in pretty little boxes or bags, as well as using them for a nutritious snack in children’s lunchboxes for school.
Making Christmas cake
This is something that can be done very close to Christmas or quite some way in advance, purely depending on when you have the available time. If you make it months beforehand, you will need to keep ‘feeding’ it with brandy (or some other type of alcohol - see the recipe for details) to keep it moist. You could even use some of the dried fruit you might have created. Children can be involved in the making of this cake, but are likely to particularly relish the decorating of it, which will take place nearer to Christmas itself. It could even become an annual family activity and building up to it over the preceding few months will become a source of seasonal excitement!
Making flavoured alcohol
Clearly, this is not something that is appropriate to do with young children, but it can certainly be a nice addition to the adults’ holiday parties. You could use fruits, vegetables and flowers that you have grown yourself over the summer, or you could select your favourite ingredients whilst doing your grocery shopping. Either way, you’ll be able to combine flavours and ingredients with your favourite spirits in early autumn and then leave them to work their magic over the next few months. Once the holiday season arrives, you could then give them away as gifts or use them to develop your own bespoke cocktails to dazzle people with at parties.