Monday 7 October 2013

Getting Ready for Winter- Part IV - Food

Here we are at the fourth (and final?) part of Getting Ready for Winter at our house.
Today I shall talk about feeding ourselves in the winter.
Those of you that have been following my blog know that I like to keep a stock of food in at all times, so you will not be surprised to hear that I like to stock up for winter! As smallholders we grow as much food as we can through the summer and though autumn is a crazy, full-on time preserving,freezing and drying, we didn't grow it to waste it. So as many of the staple crops from the garden are ready just before winter we work hard to preserve them as best we can. I know that many of you aren't smallholders, though many of you grow as much as you can in your garden or allotment. But some of the stores I would buy and put away even if I didn't grow them.
It's a well known saying in this house "If you've got some potatoes in you've always got a meal"! This year we have grown quite a good crop of potatoes, but in previous years when it hasn't been so good (the dreaded blight) I have still bought a couple of sacks. These I store in a cool, dry frost free place. I also store onions and garlic this way too. Root crop wise I leave parsnips in the ground and keep carrots and swedes in sand in buckets. Mind you I haven't been growing too many carrots of recent years. I can grow much more valuable crops in the same space and buy nets of stock feed carrots for ourselves and the animals. Winter squashes I tend to keep in a cool room in the house (they can give guests a bit of a shock in the night!)  Other veg like sweet corn, I freeze, particularly tomatoes as passata or paste. I dry different beans - Borlotti, flagolet and butter bean and freeze french beans. I don't like frozen runners, they taste SO different from fresh I don't bother - hence last winter's attempt at preserving runners in salt to medium success.
Apples I store in paper in trays in the same conditions as the potatoes or in bags in the outside beer fridge. The rest of the spare fruit goes in to Jams - pound and pounds!, jellies, pickles, chutneys and wine. The copious amounts of sugar needed for processing I buy at the cash and carry.
I like to have something growing in the garden all the year round and it has taken me many years to make this happen. I now manage to have something in the garden throughout the winter, though we would die of boredom if it wasn't for good old Lidl too.  In the garden for winter we have... winter cabbage, beetroot, parsnips, black kale, leeks and brussels.
 So that's the fresh stuff. The "under the stairs" stores are just  as important. Winter means keeping warm inside and out. So I keep in a good stock of dried foods. Bread flour and yeast, Plain flour and baking powder, sugar, dried fruits, lentils, split peas, dried beans, oats, Uht milk, oil, vinegar, salt, pasta and rice are all staples. I also keep a few tins in - baked beans, corned beef, pilchards and tomatoes. With a reasonable choice of herbs and spices there is not much we can't rustle up.
Not all stocks are for us to eat. I also keep a good supply of candles, matches, rough salt, loo paper and cat food. A small amount of cash put aside for if we can't get to the hole in the wall. Oh I almost forgot... Some bottled water. You may remember, my daughter was without water for six days one winter and with the state of the water pipes feeding our village it pays to be prepared.
Just read what I have written so far and realise I sound smug ! Sorry it isn't suppose to sound that way I'm trying to itemise what how I get stores in for winter and I'm droning on a bit..
Suffice to say I grow or buy enough to feed us if we find it difficult to get out because of the weather, illness, transport difficulties etc.
There are many posts on winter food and I won't try to better my betters! In brief, I use my slow cookers A LOT in winter, - soups, casseroles, milk puddings, pot roasts, chilli and curries and much more can be cooked with little effort or electricity. These meals also transfer well to thermos flacks for packed lunches for work or travel.
When I do use the oven I fill it with several dishes, while drying clothes- or warming gloves or wellies- and sometimes feet! in front of it.
When I come in from doing the animals in the morning in winter I like bowl of porridge, the slow release of energy keeping me going until lunchtime, which is usually soup.
I was going to do a bit about safety in winter and asked ED, who works in the Fire Service, for some input. However I think I will do that justice another day as a separate post.
I know that the lists above are not complete, but near enough for now.
I will close with a couple of random gems of knowledge  ----.
If you think you have enough wood in the for winter, (especially if you are a wood stove virgin) you probably haven't! and..
DON'T open our freezer in a power cut.
Don't say I didn't warn you!
I promise that my next post won't be as dry (boring) and will have some photos too. There! How can you resist?
Please note that I now have Bloglovin jobbo in my side bar, courtesy of YD. However, I understand that peeps are followers of your profile with this and not you blog.  eeer what does that mean?


  1. You are a woman after my own heart! We can't do much in terms of cool storage here because of the climate and we do a lot of jarring, drying, etc

    1. I've seen some of your impressive jarring and in your recent post, your drying! They look so well done.

  2. What is it with us and our store cupboards ... I've always had a 'under the stairs' ... still have although we live in the tiniest cottage .. and have no stairs!

    Vicky x

    1. Me too lol, plus two freezers in the shed and another in the house. Whatever else happens we won't starve :)

    2. That made me laugh. I'm so glad you understood what I meant. We do actually have stores under our stairs, but we also have under the stairs in a small bedroom too

    3. Dreamer We are a two freezer family too. though I forgot to talk about fthe freezers in the last 4 posts. How organised am I ?!