Wednesday, 23 September 2009

A morning well spent, and waste not, want not.

A small part of last year's apple harvest. The trees are resting this year . . .

I am easily pleased - but I don't think that is necessarily the sign of a simple soul - more that I take pleasure in simple things.

Today was jam and chutney making (continued) and I set off with a will first thing and now have about 8 jars of Blackberry and Apple Jam cooling on the side. Whilst I was chopping apples and simmering them on their ownsome, and then with some blackberries for company, before shaking the sugar over the cooked fruit and gently incorporating it with my special wooden jam spoon, getting worn on the bottom edge and permanently stained purple from years and years of blackberry and elderberry juice, I listened to Radio 4.

As the chopping and cooking didn't take too much concentration, I was able to pay attention to Woman's Hour and listen to the most exquisite rendering of Vaughan Williams' Lark Ascending that I have ever heard. The violinist was Nicola Benedetti and she played a genuine megabuck Stradivarius. The pitch and music of the violin was superb and sent shivers up and down my spine. Of all the instruments, the violin can touch the soul like no other. I'm not a music buff by any means, but I know what I enjoy.

The Woman's Hour Drama this week is Jane Gardam's The Man in the Wooden Hat, and for once I have made sure I follow it each day (I normally forget). I am now drawn into this late-1940s drama. I find I have little patience for some of the "modern" drama of the Radio 4 afternoon, but this adaptation is excellent.

After The Stanley Baxter Playhouse had ended, I blew the dust of a very old taped recording my b-in-law had made for me of Vaughan Williams' Lark Ascending, so I could hear it all over again. The time fled as I chopped apples from our Bramley tree, for a panful of Apple and Walnut Chutney. I also have the apples chopped for the Bombay Chutney which will follow on. That is a much deeper flavoured chutney, hotter, and one which needs keeping and improving till Christmas at least, and I have used up jars several years old which had improved with keeping like a good wine.

Now as I write this, I am listening to his Tallis Fantasia. The swell of the music makes my heart sing, and makes me think of Edward Thomas, and Englishness, and everything that I hold dear to me.

Reading GTM's blog this morning, her post on Thriving on Less rings many bells here. Money is tight, as it is for many people, and we are living a real waste not, want not policy here. Slivers of soap are used down to the last scrap, and then stuck to the back of the new bar. Washing up liquid has its last few bubbles chased out with an intake of water. A couple of spoonfuls of mince, barely a portion for one even with lots of vegetables and spuds, easily becomes the topping for a mince pizza for two grown appetites, topped with grated cheese. Of course, if you aren't fussy individuals like my menfolk, you can turn it into a little pan of soup with chopped onions, those over-ripe tomatoes from the back of the fridge, the very top of the leek which you might otherwise have thrown, a stock cube, and a handful of rice or pasta added towards the end of the cooking. Or you could mix it with cubed cooked potato with peas or baked beans and it would make the filling for a couple of pasties.

The birds rarely get the stale bread here - it is easily made into breadcrumbs to coat slivers of turkey breast for goujons, or incorporated into home-made sausages when I am in the mood, or used as part of a crumble topping, or in bread and butter pudding or bread pudding.

I've given up buying expensive wafer-thin sliced bacon, and can recommend Lidl's cooking bacon pack (mis-shapes) is really good value at about £2.26 a pack (1 kilo of meat) and includes chunks of Gammon steak, and my menfolk have decreed that they prefer this to the sliced bacon in packs now, which is good news for my purse.

This week I needed ground cloves and we happened to be in T*sco when I priced it. All they had was a Schwartzkopf jar - 35g for £2.21. I hastily put it back and later dropped my husband off at the Health Food Shop where he got me 4 x 25g packs at 55p each, so for the same price I had nearly 4 times as much. I always used to buy my herbs and spices at the HFS, but now they have shut a road in Carmarthen, it means a goodly walk from the car parks, so for convenience, I had been buying own brand herbs and spices from the supermarkets. Not any more. I also mix my own season-all and Spicy season-all, using the same ingredients (printed in the tiniest print on the label, doubtless to discourage making this at home). Once again, my son prefers my home-made version, though he did suggest I put the sprinkle of home dried celery leaves in the pestle and mortar first as they come out as sprigs otherwise!

I am watching the electricity meter like a hawk too, and we have cut right back on using the immersion heater. Unfortunately, DH has lost the instructions on how to alter the timer, and I can't find them on line so we just manually turn it off in the morning when it has been on for half an hour. I am not prepared to forgo our hot bath in the evening (and the shower produces only scolding water or freezing) but mine is the ankle-deep war-time bath . . . DH is taking more persuading that it doesn't need to be twice as deep!

A punnet of mixed frozen fruit of which I bought several on special offer this summer. Last year I used this mixture to flavour mixed-fruit brandy. This year I am using the frozen fruit to sprinkle over an apple pie before the lid goes on. It sharpens the mixture (my menfolk don't like anything too sweet) and gives a wonderful flavour. One punnet is eked out between 3 pies.

Right, the Archers have finished and my chutney calls . . .


  1. Oh this takes me back to living in London as a wartime child, and viewing it all over again with adult eyes, and hindsight. It reminds me too of when we first acquired this old house - no running water, no hot water, damp streaming down the walls, and no loo. But we and the children survived and I know you will too. Carmarthen - I am sure I discovered a Julian Graves when we stayed locally last month .. small packets of spices. English music - I am back to my childhood, too, listening to my father conducting the Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra, and running wild in the local woods and fields, which was where my love of plants, history, poetry and 'Englishness' and so much else really began. All the best with your frugality.

  2. I'm glad to hear you're a 'waste not, want not' person as well. I've always lived this way, I suppose it's because I was raised by 'depression-era' parents who used to use that very saying with me growing up. Actually, I kind of welcome this economy for the sake of the children (if not for the rest of the wasteful people!). I think kids today are far too spoiled and don't know how to work hard and play hard and appreciate what you've got (at least what I see here in the US)! I also love the fact that it's a challenge, to see how well I can economize and use what I have creatively :) Thanks for a great post!

  3. Oh, wonderful, wonderful posts this week jennie :) I can't believe how much can be wasted without proper forethought. I love the recipes and will be having a rest from painting to hit the kitchen tomorrow. My poor house has been sorely neglected lately, but I struggle to stay out of the Studio!!!

    Thanks for your lovely comment and if my things don't sell, well, you know what you'll be getting for Christmas. I'm surprised you didn't comment on Merlin with a horn though, ha ha, what a thought!!!

  4. Ann - I ran wild as a child too and part of the reason behind moving here, was to give a similar sort of childhood to our children. We, too, bought a delapidated house and lived in it whilst it was slowly being renovated - every time there was a storm we used to pray that the roof wouldn't collapse! There's a Julian Graves in town now, but we use Aardvark, the health Food Shop round the corner in Mansel Street - cheaper and stuff can be bought in individual packs or even weighed out for you.

    Elizabeth - we've always hated throwing anything away, but now it really is a sharpening up of this ethic. A challenge certainly, but we're not starving yet! If only I could pay the electricity bill in Jam . . .

    Yaarrow - little tinker your Merlin is, horn or no horn! My house is a tip too, as the car boot sale stuff only got as far as the back hall when being unpacked on Sunday . . . it looks like Steptoe's Yard back there.

  5. Hullo you,

    can almost taste the jam.......