It’s the start of preserving time and we’re so goddam wholesome in this house that we’ve already made mint syrup and bean chutney. My first attempt at chutney a few years ago was considerably overcooked, but, while unpalatable, continues to provide the appropriate lubrication for the moving parts of the tractor’s mower.
The mint syrup, however, is an unqualified success. But then it’s from Pam Corbin’s Preserves book. I defy anyone to find a rival for it…every recipe I’ve tried is not only delicious it’s also fun to actually do.
Fruit leathers are next on the list. If you’re not familiar with fruit leathers, they’re made from sweetened fruit puree that once cooked is poured, baked into (usually) rectangular, thin strips. They look a little like they may have been peeled from the flesh of a recovering burns victim. Tastier though, I’m sure.
This is exactly the sort of snack I’m hoping to encourage myself and the family to eat more of – dragging the late summer and autumn harvest into the colder months. They’re a great energy boost, obviously much healthier than the usual biscuits. My mind has strayed onto biscuits in the last day or two, partly due to the last post on this blog, and even more so thanks to James A-S comments underneath the post itself.
Snacks used to be different. For a start the Venn diagram of snacks and biscuits looked pretty much like a single circle. Obviously I’m excluding the wonderful world of sweets, which exists more as a form of entertainment than sustenance if you ask me. The trouble with biscuits is that once they enter the conversation you can end up anywhere. I should stop myself writing, but I’m compelled to continue. You may start off pondering what makes something a biscuit and what makes something a cake (at the risk of starting a fire I can’t put out, I’d unhumbly suggest a cake goes hard when it’s stale, a biscuit goes soft), and then you stray into old-school snackery…what was the best biscuit? Do fancy biscuits (and by fancy biscuits I mean those wrapped individually) have to be considered in a separate category? And how many standard biscuits equal a fancy biscuit? Obviously this has no recourse to nutritive benefit nor volume but it’s own exchange rate that is somehow immediately understood. Three Digestives for a Breakaway always seemed about fair, although obviously enough that’d be two half coated Digestives to a Breakaway. If it was dark chocolate providing the half-coating then negotiations were often required. In the same way two Rothmans were required to part company with a single Marlboro. If only the rest of life was based on such immediately and inarguable understandings.
Trios and Uniteds were the pinnacle for me, although the Club deserves a mention – surely everyone’s favourite for a while. Which of course opens up ‘hilarious’ possibilities for club sandwich jokes.
Almost tragically my dad was a fan of the Blue Riband…a biscuit so unworthy of the name ‘biscuit’ as to be an insult to it. Built of two main ingredients (poor chocolate and coarse wafer) the Blue Riband was often the only thing that would pass for a snack that sat lonely in the cupboard at half term. You’d need getting on for a flaskful of tea to get the wretched thing to form a bolus, never mind actually get it to pass through the alimentary canal. It’s only a mild exaggeration to say that when a packet of Penguins magically found it’s way into the house it felt as if it was someone’s birthday.
There was the occasional packet of Bourbons. The fabulous thing about Bourbons was that as well as providing diversion from the Blue Riband it provided a little sport. Could any of us eat the two outer planks of biscuit leaving the inner chocolate cream intact? The answer was always the same: only my mum. Perhaps she had the witch-cold hands required to hold but not melt the cream. But the challenge was always taken by the rest of us. It was certainly worthy of inclusion in Indoor League, that finest of mid70s lunchtime entertainment, with a theme tune to rival many. This, my friends, was how we used to spend time in the days before the internet.
My aim in all this preserving is not only to get every penny’s worth out of the £8.99 I would have spent on the book if Pam hadn’t given me a copy, but also to try to make sure we’ve got plenty of delicious snacks through the winter…to keep away the specter of the Blue Riband. I want my daughter to grow up without the torture of having to scrabble around in the cupboards for a terrible morsel that answers to the name ‘snack’ only to find something that includes wafer.
So, off to pick blackberries, rosehips, apples, raspberries, autumn olives, haws and maybe some sloes for a liquid snack of my own.