Preserving is a culinary art form that's often handed down through generations. Most of us probably have a tattered rag with 'grandma's sandwich pickle recipe' scribbled on it in the back of a cookbook.
These recipes date back to a time before freezers were a common item in most kitchens - but that does not make them old-fashioned. In fact, jam making, preserving and pickling are making a comeback - and high time, too!
Dealing with a glut of home-grown produce has always been a challenge to the thrifty cook, but one that the English have nobly risen to. Research English food and you'll find countless recipes for pickling this and preserving that.
Unless I'm crazy busy with other projectes, my kitchen year is timed by what jams or chutneys are bubbling away on the stovetop. It starts with orange marmalade in February and ends with tomato chilli chutney and onion relish in late October / early November. What about December and January I hear you ask? Well, December is busy enough and all the tasty relishes cheer up the dark and damp in January very nicely, thank you.
In England, jams, marmalades and fruit spreads are available in a wide variety of tastes, from traditional orange marmalade, to rhubarb and soft fruits, to strawberry jam, elderberry, plum, apple and blackberry jam.
I'm not in any way special in my love of homemade jams and chutneyes. In fact, all over England jam making is becoming so popular that the kitchen appliance manufacturers are getting in on the act! These days, you can buy bread makers that also make jam (if that goes wrong, do you get toast and jam?) and Tefal have even developed an electric jam maker.
English food would simply not be complete without pickles and chutneys. They brighten up sandwiches and salads, spice up cold cuts, enliven barbecues and generally add zest and zing to everything they come into contact with!
As with jams and preserves, the best ones are usually to be found at farmers' markets or sales held by the local Women's Institute! And if you lost grandma's secret chutney recipe in your last move or clearout, you can restock your bookshelf with the collective wisdom of the WI.
I'm currently researching chutney recipes for my own larder, and I'm sure some of them will find their way here!
Return to the English Food page for more inspiration or check out the following pages for tasty jam, pickle and sauce recipes: