Saturday, 12 September 2015

Emptying more boxes, and one jar......

It has been an indoors day today, with storms and rain all day. So a good time to sort through two more boxes in the back kitchen, which were the ones used to store our flower and veg seeds. I now have a shelf I can them on.......

....these two shelves came with us from the UK, and were only cheap flat pack pine units, but they have served us well although I had to rescue them from the rubbish pile which Lester is making out in the courtyard because he said they were rickety would fall apart soon, and looked mucky and horrid, he said. Well I said that I needed shelving if I was ever going to get straight, and he said he would make me some, but he is busy, and I know that they would get made but in the very distant future, and I am a gal on a mission to get things tidy, so, as I say, I rescued the shelves, washed them down, then stained them dark brown. Sorted. I have already emptied two boxes of things on to those shelves, and yes, they are rickety, but I shall tie them together with a nice little bow and that should stop them from leaning away from each other.

.....the pile of things at the front of the photo are the packets of seeds, some of which are nearly seven years old, bought from the USA when we first arrived here by a keen husband who couldn't wait to get started with the veg patch. Well some of them were planted, but some were not, and it is these which are needing to be put onto the compost heap. And there are bags of saved seed and I don't know how old they are, so out they are to go.

.... and one very mucky and well used box, now ready to go outside. It is a relief to get another one emptied.

Alack and alas........these storage shelves are looking not quite as full as they did this time last year.... On the left second self down are the jams left over from last year, which are all that is left of the seventy jars of jam I made. The shelf below houses the chutneys. I have not made any preserves this year, so what you see on the shelves will have to last us for a while. The bags of things next to the chutneys are the dehydrates from this harvest, and they need to be sorted out when I have time.
They are to go in a cupboard in the front kitchen, all in tidy jars, so they are ready to be used without me having to hunt about to see what I have got, which is why a lot of the dehydrated food has not been used.  I am still using dehydrates from 2013, and although a little soft in texture, and probably not quite as full of vitamins and minerals as they once were, they have not gone mouldy, nor do they smell 'off, in fact most of them still carry a lovely aroma when I open the jars. This has 'sold' me in regards to dehydrating veggies and fruit, which is why I have done so much dehydrating of our harvests this year.

Lunch today........I have not been very efficient with cooking this week, mostly because I have been  feeling poorly (I am better now!).......anyway, needed to have a hunt around to see what I could cook, and decided to open one of the three jars of mutton I canned only a month ago. Now I never use recently canned food because the jars are supposed to be stored on the larder shelves ready for emergency use. Well I reckoned that today was an emergency, because I could not give Lester cheese on toast yet again.......
However........ I was not certain that these three jars were safe to eat, because a few days after I had canned them the outside temperatures rocketed up which increased the temperatures in the back kitchen, which I thought might increase the risk of nasty organisms in these jars. The house has always held a vague chilliness in the summer, but now walls have been built, doors put in, and everything has been sealed up, the house is holding its heat, this we had not reckoned with in regards to food storage, especially meat storage.
Now I always thoroughly cook the meat before it goes into the jars, (never ever would I can raw meat), and I take all the safety precautions necessary for safe canning, but I was worried when high temperatures hit us again, and I saw the lard in the jars stored next to these three jars start to melt so I had to put them in the fridge to cool down. I suppose I could have put the three meat jars into the fridge as well but that did not occur to me.
Anyway, back to today....emergency food needed......decided to open one of the jars.....very suspiciously I might the lid off......good, well sealed, took quite a pull to get it free of the glass......nose into the very top of the jar to have a sniff....all seemed a spoon, spooned several dollops of meat into the waiting pan.....gave another hearty sniff into the jar....all seemed alright, .....and carried on down the jar sniffing periodically as I to the bottom.....did a really good sniff of the last spoonful....all seemed alright....the pan put on a high heat, seasonings and other veg added........a good boil for twenty minutes.....meanwhile cut some DIY bacon into small pieces, into frying pan with sliced onion........added some rice which was left over from a meal earlier on in the week......hey emergency meal done, but should there have been the slightest whiff of 'offness' when I sniffed my way through the contents of that jar, then it would have been cheese on toast again with a side dish of savoury rice, and a dessert of left over apple pie and custard.
I am glad that the recent temperatures were not fierce enough to spoil the contents of these jars, but it is something we need to be careful of next summer when we get high temperatures again. I think we shall have to have some sort of cooling system installed, for safety.
Meanwhile,.....not so good news on the cheese storage area, which is supposed to be in the under the stairs cupboard. Went to get the vacuum cleaner from the cupboard and found a pile of scooped up stones / sand / cement mix by it. Upon inspection Lester announced that the rats were back and were probably burrowing under the newly cemented floor. ***********!!!!**** is all I can say.  I think we might have to rethink about the cupboard being used as a cheese storage area.

To get back in the saddle with cooking I had a rummage in one of the freezers and pulled out two big bags of mutton. Some is to be cooked for immediate use, the rest is to go into canning jars. I am aware that we have several sheep and one pig still to be go into the freezers before the end of the year, so I must get a move on with getting meat out of the freezers to make room for that new meat. It is cooler now, thank goodness, means that I have more energy to get this work done.


...... the new front doors are in place. They are oak, the same as the other two doors. So no rats, mice, snakes, or anything else can use this route to get into the house ever again. It also means the house is secure. All anyone had to do to get into the house before was to either lift the old doors off their hinges, or give them a jolly good shove upon which they would burst open.
It is nice to have those doors up.
Bye for now,
Vera x


Kerry said...

The shelves look great, its amazing what a lick of stain can do. Just had my first go at canning, not sure its my favourite way to peserve stuff, think I prefer freezing.

Vera said...

KERRY, I think one has to use whatever is the best method for long term storage of food. I like the canned jars (using my All American Pressure Canner)because it is quick to make a meal ...just open the lid, and in twenty minutes the meal is ready. For vegetables I would use the dehydrator, or perhaps freeze if I had the space, but all our three freezers are full to the brim at the moment, which is why I have to get some canned, plus the convenience of having quick meals of course!

Dawn McHugh said...

What lovely storage areas you have, that's a shame about the cheese area, rats a real pest I hope one day you will have a rat free home.
I like a mix of preserving, its hedging your bets and canned goods could in an emergency be eaten cold as they are already cooked. :-)

Vera said...

DAWN, we are driving the rats back, or thought we were, so it was a bit of a shock to see that mound of recently raked up flooring! I would agree with you about 'hedging your bets' with food storage....a mix of various storage methods can only pay off in the end. I am not sure about eating canned goods cold......I have canned quite a few jars now...meat, veg, and fruit, and so far I have not come across any spoilage....I might at a push eat veg and fruit cold from the jar, but would be nervous about eating meat cold. I think it is because of the many videos I have watched about canning which all go on and on about botulism and other nasties. At a push though, if we were desperate? No! Would get Lester to make a wood fire, (Or the Rayburn might be working by then!!) and heat the meat up on that!

northsider dave said...

I like the oak doors. It looks a big house and you have kept the French character.

Sol said...

Hey Vera, am loving your stores. With the wooden shelves add cross braces at the back. We have done this and they are super sturdy, and will all of our stock pile we have even had to tie them back to the wall.

Also loving the new doors. we dont get doors like that over here any more. I always whistfully look at all the amazing gates in France.

DUTA said...

The front doors are lovely! I like the color of the wood and the oval shaped windows.
As for preserving stuff, canning, if done properly, seems to me quite a good, efficient method.

Vera said...

NORTHSIDER DAVE, I don't think the house is all that big going by most rural houses here in France, but it is most certainly big enough for us. We have tried to keep it as French looking as possible despite having lost so much of the original after the house became a ruin. We have used oak all through, so I think that is what makes the house still look French, well, I hope it does anyway!

SOL, we might have to tie our shelves to the wall as well when they are fully loaded, but those little wooden ones should manage to stay upright without falling over because they won't be carrying anything heavy. I would agree with you about the gates in France.... most houses have gates to their front gardens and most of them are made of wrought iron, and absolutely lovely no matter how rusty they are!

DUTA, canning is a good method for storing food, not sure if you could do it in a hot country like yours though! Glad you like the doors...they took ages to find, and were expensive, but we thought that the house deserved pretty doors after the trauma it has gone through over the last decades of neglect by the previous owners.

John Gray said...

Vera... My friend in sidney asked me to send her some stuff she couldnt buy in OZ
is there anything you need in france?
Just let me know and i will send it you...
Email me

Jean said...

The doors are beautiful.
Rats are such a menace. We had them in our barn so we used poison and have seen no fresh mounds of earth since. Nasty things, they also carry horribly nasty and lethal diseases.

Vera said...

JOHN, a late reply to your very generous offer, and I much appreciate your kindness. We have everything we need here at the moment, but I shall keep you in mind...... Vx

JEAN, rats! Horrid things! But they were well entrenched here before we came to France, but we are gradually evicting them. It is just that they had well established paths and runs in and out of the walls of the house, which this year we have done a lot to resolve. Blocked up their holes, this is what we have been doing!