14 December 2010

Preserving food and making wine

Last week, one of the ladies here ask me to show my preserving kit. Here it is in our brick garden shed. I also store excess jars and bottles there, as well as egg cartons that have been given to us. The preserver is a circa 1970s Fowlers Vacola stove-top boiler. I bought it for $20, I think, many years ago. I also have a range of FV jars, lids, rings and clips but I prefer to use screw top jars. I recycle good wide mouthed glass jars and use them several times for jams or relish. You can buy new lids for recycled jars here. The only other tools I use are preserving tongs and a wide mouthed funnel. I bought my preserving tools in a pack of five utensils several years ago but looking online just now I can't find anything like it. You can easily find funnels but you'll also need jar tongs.

If you don't have a preserving kit and want to start preserving a small amount of food, you can use a large stockpot with a round cake stand in the bottom, or, alternatively, a tea towel folded and placed on the bottom of the pan to prevent the jars touching the super hot base. Please be aware that there are several health risks associated with preserving and although the process is a simple one, you need to be aware of the risks as well. You can read some of my previous posts on preserving here, here and here.

Preserving your excess food in a water bath, which is what my preserving kit is, or making jams, pickles chutneys, relish etc, is a very worthwhile skill to learn. If you're new to it, try it first using a stockpot and if you want to get into it in earnest, buy a kit second hand.

I'd like to show you a new addition to my food kittery. My good friend Patrick gave me this wine making kit (above) a few weeks ago. He's decluttering and it was taking up space in his shed. Naturally, I accepted it with open arms. I'd like to make Perry - pear wine, as well as apple cider, elderberry wine and elderflower champagne. I've been looking for a good Perry recipe but many of them recommend Campden tablets, a sulfer tablet, which I don't want to use. Are there any experienced wine or cider makers out there who can tell me an organic alternative?

I'm looking forward to making wine. Not that we drink much of it nowadays, but it's a skill I've always wanted to learn. I'd like to hear from anyone who has already tried it. In the meantime though, I'm starting a ginger beer plant today. I've often made ginger beer in summer in past years. It's a delicious non-alcoholic drink that has that sharp and snappy gingery taste I love. If you'd like to brew along side me, it should take us about two weeks to get our ginger beer ready. We'll be just in time for Christmas day. Every couple of days, I'll show a picture of my ginger beer plant and we'll go through making the ginger beer together. It should be fun.

In a wide mouth jar, start by adding 1 level tablespoon of raw or white sugar to 1 level tablespoon of ginger powder (crushed, dried ginger). Add one cup of rainwater, or tap water that's been allowed to stand for 24 hours to allow the chlorine to evaporate off. Mix this all together and cover the jar with an open weave cotton cover that will allow the wild yeasts in but keep insects out. A crocheted milk jug cover would be perfect. Leave this concoction on the bench to collect wild yeasts and start fermenting. Well, that's our ginger beer started, we'll come back to it on Thursday.

Thank you for all the lovely, warm comments made yesterday and thank you for coming to visit me today. I always look forward to reading what you're up to and making connections with like minded people helps keep me going.



  1. I used to do a little wine making, so all of your equipment looks familiar to me! It's a fun hobby to have. I remember making wine from dandelions, fresh fruit and even from frozen juice concentrate. Most of it turned out well, but occasionally a batch was not to my liking. Those I would let turn to vinegar or I'd use them for cooking.

    I no longer drink wine because it often triggers migraine headaches for me, something it didn't used to do. So, subsequently, I no longer make it. I can still drink beer, though, so I'm considering taking up beer making as a hobby.

  2. I've tried but failed on a number of occasions to make a ginger beer starter using wild fermentation - it would go fine for a few days then bad yeasts would get it and it would go mouldy. We're having much more luck now we've got hold of a ginger beer plant.

    We've also got a couple of demijohns of wine & cider at the moment - we got all our supplies from a decluttering friend too -- it's amazing what's going for free if you just ask around! We like making wines from foraged or otherwise free fruit - so there isn't much on the go at the moment but we're thinking of starting a ginger wine soon, made with dried fruit and ginger.

    If you can't tell, we very much like ginger!

  3. I can produce and years ago learned to can meat, as well.
    I have always used canning jars and lids and rings, as I thought you couldn't use jars with screw top lids.
    I noticed previously that you said you have never had a problem with it. That is very interesting to me!

    Thanks for sharing tips and highlights from your daily life. I hope your writing is going well!

  4. Fantastic I will start my ginger beer today!

  5. Hi Beautiful Rhonda. I have been having lots of fun making honey/fruit wines, ciders and perry using a simple, open ferment process that involves water, honey and fruit or fruit juice. They are just beautiful. You can find more on my blog under "fermentation". The definitive text on this subject IMHO is a book called "Wild Fermentation" by Sandor Ellix Katz, which you would also love. I can also email you a simple, adaptable recipe if you like?

    Lots of love
    Duckie xxxxxx

  6. My father-in-law makes his own wine, as well as salami, and of course tomato sauce (as in pasta sauce, not pie sauce!). All three days he does this are really wonderful- the whole family gets together and eat and work and have a ball. My sister-in-law calls it
    'Alibrandi Day'. Will ask my FIL about tablet you mentioned and organic replacements.

  7. Hello ladies!

    Duckie, thank you! It looks like a great recipe, just what I wanted. I've just return emailed you. I'll be over to you blog in a jiffy.

    Green Mama, that sounds like a wonderful three day event. Thanks for asking about the Campden. I'm very interested.

  8. Good morning Rhonda,
    An interesting post again today. Yes, I'll start a ginger beer plant going today and join in the fun. We might hear ginger beer bottles popping all over the world in a few weeks time.

    Blessings Gail

  9. oooh, good luck. look forward to hearing more on this.

  10. Fantastic, I'm starting my ginger plant now. Approx how many bottles will I need? I will start collecting them today.

  11. in the UK, Lakeland.co.uk were selling the preseving kit this summer - I bought one to save me burning my fingers on the jars! Any UK folk wanting a kit could ask Lakeland to restock.

  12. Good morning ladies. I'm really pleased you're joining me. Renae, from memory it makes up about 6 litres.

  13. I've made wine on and off for probably 30 years, though I'm no expert. I don't use Campden tablets (except to clean demijohns and equipment) as I am allergic to it. I don't think leaving it out of the recipe will make too much difference to the end product.

    I must give the ginger beer a go as my husband is drinking store-bought varieties right now, and LOVES anything with ginger in.

  14. My brother used to brew almost entirely undrinkable wine and regularly inflicted it upon us at family gatherings. Until the year he came up with Tea Wine which I believe involved old tea bags. It was fabulous and tasted a lot like sherry. Unfortunately he moved on to root vegetable liquers until we finally persuaded him to stop.

  15. Hi Rhonda,
    Loved your post, I am another that will be starting my ginger beer today.
    I found it interesting that I use the same preserving tool kit as you do, it is still available as I stock it in my shop.

  16. kit looks good Rhonda!

    Just fyi, in the UK Perry is the pear version of cider ie alcoholic fermented juice using the wild yeasts found on the fruit...so we make cider from pressed apple juice, no additives, and use the wild yeasts on the apples and end up with cider of about 6.5% abv. Perry is the same process but made from Pears.

    The camden tablets are only used to sterilise the fermenting vessels and bottles. They are not added to kill of the wild yeasts for cider or perry.

    Pear or apple wine is different and has added sugar and uses "bought in" yeasts to ferment the sugar into alcohol....

  17. My husband and I started our first batch of wine this summer, and are leaving it for a year. I don't like the use of Campden tablets, either, and believe that they may be the cause of the migraine associated with many wines.

    We simply used elderberries (3 gallons). We boiled a gallon of water, and added 5 lb sugar, stirring to dissolve. After the water had cooled, we added this to the elderberries in a large (7 gallon) ale bucket to begin fermentation. A clean pillowcase slipped over the bucket prevented fruit flies and dust from entering. We stirred the mixture thoroughly every 3 days. After 10 days, we poured the entire bucket through cheesecloth to remove the berries, and placed the juice, 2 more lbs of sugar, and enough water to fill a five gallon glass carboy. We fitted the carboy with an airlock, and moved it to a dark, cool closet where it will continue to ferment. It will need racked off several times before drinking.


  18. I am been wanting to learn about canning so thanks for the info:)

  19. I found your exact canning kit on Ebay for 17$ thanks for showing it.

  20. thanks for all the feedback. I'm taking notes.

    Lexie, we used to stock them on our shop too. That's where I got mine from. Where is your shop and what price is your kit?

    Amoya, thanks for that. I'm guessing that's the American ebay?

  21. Rhonda,
    Our shop is in Warwick, Qld.
    The set retails for $18.99

    Cheers Lexie

  22. Hi Rhonda, have a look here http://www.selfsufficientish.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=19&t=11105 . You don't have to use campden tablets but you will have to ensure everything is sterile. I only ever use SMS-Sodium Metabisulphite generally only 2 tsps at most in about 22 ltrs of wine. I figure it's watered down enough, the alcohol will kill me before that does lol
    Making apple cider will be easier as it uses the natural yeast for fermentation, again though your equipment will need to be sterile, a good clean with soapy water and rinsed out with boiling water shoudl do the trick.

  23. Hi Rhonda, my FIL has made wine all his life, white and red...of course he is Italian, and one day I hope to bring the tradition home to our house...
    This coming January hopefully will be the first of many 'sauce' days at our home...finally the equipment will make the move from Fathers house to sons....
    Your Vacola unit is exactly what I picked up at a sale up in the Barossa a few months back, it came with thermometer, tongs, rings, and I got some jars also...I paid around $30.00 from memory..I will need to get an instruction book before I have a go at it...I would love to try some peaches like my mum used to do....
    I hope your writing is coming along...Suzanne..x

  24. Yay! I look forward to following along with your ginger beer making, started my plant today! We too have about 5 of those large brown glass bottles and wanted to use them for ginger beer, happy to hear they will work! any suggestions where I can get some replacement bottlecaps or corks though as all of ours are missing?
    Thanks for your wonderful blog :)

  25. Hi Rhonda,
    The preserving utensils set can be bought at www.redbacktrading.com.au. I've purchased my preserving supplies from them a few years ago, and found them good to deal with :) I have the wide-mouth Ball Mason preserving jars in various capacities, and just love them!
    Thank you for such a wonderful and inspiring blog! Merry Christmas to you and your family! :)

  26. Oh Rhonda! At last something I'm good at doing! I make all my own wine and it is really quite simple. I make mine by the gallon and I see in the pictures you have all the basic hardware you need. I've also made perry.

    If you would like we can make some wine together and I can walk you through it on my blog.

    I will try to get a photo together for the This-is-on-my-mind Friday! Anyone else is welcome to join in! Its fun! I love projects like this!!

    Email me if you have questions.

  27. I've never made ginger beer or the sorts before. Might try it next summer (quite cold here, now).

    I found a multi piece canning kit with funnel, jar grabber, magnetic lid catcher/ anti-bubble dealer, and maybe one or two more pieces at our local grocery store (HEB).

    I'm interested in trying pressure canning of less acidic foods, like sweet and hot peppers. They are so easy to grow here, and we get tons and dry them now, but variety would be nice.

    Love the blog, Rhonda, Thank you!

  28. Hello Rhonda, my husband and I have made wine from our own grapes for a few years now, which I have written about on my blog. It's a lot of fun, and the results have been good to great. My blog address is www.spadesandspoons.blogspot.com.au- check out the wine making labels. Hope this is of interest..

  29. I'm also interested in using elderberries .. I think they grow in our area .. and I may even have one in my natural/wild backyard. It's good to have someone show you the ropes in making wine .. or any new skill you're trying to learn.

  30. Greetings!

    I've got a box of pears I just picked from our orchard ripening in the window downstairs and am looking for a recipe for perry (or pear wine) using wild fermentation.

    Did you ever find one? :)


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