Mud himself has frequently extolled the benefits of home growing, proudly telling anyone who would listen (and many who actually didn’t want to listen), about how many varieties of vegetables from our garden appeared on his dinner plate the previous night and he has gone on to express his desire for us to be able to produce most of our vegetable requirements for the year. Of course when he says ‘us’ he actually means me. Also, lack of space currently precludes the ‘most of our vegetable requirements’ but he has plans to drastically alter the layout of the vegetable plot which should allow us to increase our overall growing space and, with the addition of netting, the inclusion of the Brassica family.
Mud is also happy to wax lyrical about my home baking, especially when it comes to supplying cakes to his office on his birthday and following my jam making efforts earlier this year, declared to all and sundry, that my jam was better than anything he has ever bought. High praise indeed.
Over the years I and thousands of other home growers, have had gluts of things and it is what to do with these gluts that puts me into a quandary these days. Yes I can freeze things or dry them but what can be done when there really isn’t any room left for yet more frozen beans and you still haven’t finished last years dried chillis!
An excess of fruit has been dealt with quite successfully this year in the form of jam making, flan making and the Mudlets eating strawberries morning , noon and night – not that they complained. But in years past, my efforts to use up excess vegetables have had to run the gauntlet of Muds’ nose!
Mud has a sensitive nose and he isn’t afraid to let it be known when something I am making offends it. Obviously, this is a very discerning nose, preferring, it seems, eau de Series Land Rovers (that would be a heady blend of diesel, EP90 and oil) to the aromatic pickling processes, employed by me at various points in the last few years, to preserve some of the excess produce.
“Urgh! What’s that disgusting smell?” is often Muds first reaction when he walks into the house whilst I’m pickling, quickly followed by “It’s making me feel ill!”
The words ‘people’, ‘glass houses’ and ‘stones’ will often pop into my mind as he wafts on by, leaving behind him that distinctive smell associated with old diesel engines.
I have persevered though, making Cucumber Relish when we had dozens of cucumbers that, despite the best efforts of the Mudlets to eat them all, still needed to be used up. Cucumber Relish was chosen as the most appropriate recipe due to the fact that it was a favourite of Muds’ from way back when. Of course once I had sliced the cucumbers and the 4 LARGE onions (just saying) and, ignoring the remarks about the vinegar smell (what did he expect – I was making a pickle!), cooked up the relish and then poured it into the jars and sealed the lids, Mud decided that the chunks were too big and perhaps I should blend the mixture!
I chose not to unseal, empty, blend and then rewash, sterilise, refill and seal the jars again and , although he found the relish very tasty, he did pointed out at every serving that the chunks maybe should have been a bit smaller. Really? Whatever!
Piccalilli, another of Muds’ favourites – allegedly, was the next preserving exercise to offend ‘the nose‘ but again, believing that if you want to grow your own then you have a duty to do whatever is necessary to use, store or preserve your produce, I carried on making it. Jams are all very well and good and smell gorgeous during the making process but I don’t believe that courgettes, cauliflower of beans would do well as a jam and so pickling has to be undertaken and, for the most part, the end result, once allowed the appropriate time to mature, is very much worth the hot vinegar smell which permeates everything, for what is usually a relatively small period of time.
“Far too chunky,” was Muds considered opinion, when he opened a jar that Christmas to have with slices from the roasted ham joint, “Needed to have blended it.” Thankfully, the piccalilli was appreciated in other quarters and tasty pretty good, even if I do have to say so myself.
This year, my project was the school plums and the turning of them into chutney. Of course, you won’t be at all surprised to learn the Muds’ nose once again failed to appreciate the finer points of preserving and frequent checks on the chutney cooking progress were accompanied by loud exclamations of:
“Urgh! What’s that disgusting smell? It’s making me feel ill!”
I have managed to produce 7 jars of chutney, totaling 2.4kg in weight and these will be on sale to parents at the Christmas fair. The jars are a little mis-matched but with the addition of a pretty label and a square of fabric over the lid, I’m hopeful that these will sell reasonably easily.
Mud has decreed that any future pickling, relish or chutney making will be done outside because he can’t abide the smell of the vinegars cooking. My feeling is that it’s a good job he wasn’t alive during an earlier era, when housewives would have been pickling and preserving on the kitchen range as a matter of course and that these aspects of ‘growing your own’ are part and parcel and so, as the housewife in charge of using, storing and preserving the vegetables I grow in our garden, I’ll do what I need to do, when I need to do it and I won’t be cold, wet or windblown when I’m doing it 🙂
I am also attaching the following photo as a reminder of the time our kitchen was turned into a vehicle paint drying space and how the unmistakeable aroma of coach enamel drifted aimlessly into all areas of the house for several days …. and I shall say no more.