As an urban scavenger, you often end up getting large quantities of one type of food. Sometimes the quantities you get are so large that you either can’t or don’t want to eat all of it before it perishes. I hate freezing things, and often did not even have a freezer where I lived. What I then did was to preserve it. There are several methods of preserving food: what will interest you if you have gas bills to pay is whether the method involves hot or cold preserving. Cold preserving often involves the same ingredients such as hot preserving (air, sugar, vinegar, salt, fat), but usually the stuff does not keep quite as long. But then you only want to prolong the shelf life of your bargain for a bit – you’ll be forced to eat it soon enough anyway. There are plenty of recipes for so-called ‘no cook’ preserves on the net. Just google whatever you fancy right now with the word ‘no cook’ in front, e.g. ‘no cook jam’, ‘no cook pickles’, ‘no cook chutney’ etc. I have had a delicious no-cook chutney and an equally delicious no-cook jam at a friend’s house, so I’m speaking as a convert 😉
I haven’t tried these recipes out myself, but what I have tried out are preserves from unusual ingredients (for me, anyway). My favourite recipe is by a chef called Oded Schwartz whose book ‘Preserving’ is practically my kitchen bible. Unfortunately it’s out of print, but they have it at lots of public libraries (and the British Library!), so if you’re in one anyway, have a look – it’s worth it! I am planning on trying out as many recipes as possible from it (I’ve just made 2 fruit butters from a huge bag of stuff I got for £2 from the local market). The first recipe I tried was carrot jam. It was literally a revelation! It can be made extremely cheaply (you don’t even have to put the raisins in) and it tastes unbelievably good, especially on melba toast (I happened to find large quantities of melba toast in the place I moved into from the previous inhabitant). Apparently this jam can be made with other root vegetables as well, but, as he writes, ‘beets, parsnips, turnips, and kohlrabi need blanching several times first to mellow their strong flavour’.
Luckily, the recipe is on the internet, so I can let the master speak for himself:
And here is an alternative recipe from the ‘Carrot Museum’:
Great jams and marmalades can also be made from pumpkins and green, red, or yellow tomatoes. A friend gave me two pumpkins last Halloween, and I grew some tomatoes (I got the plants for 50 p each and they yielded at least 1 kg each!) on my balcony, and thus had enough pumpkins and tomatoes to try out the recipes (I made pumpkin soup and battered fried green tomatoes which came out nicely, too, and tasted great with ketchup!).
What I also discovered with the help of this book was that you can make three different kinds of preserve out of the white rind of watermelons. So you can eat or use the red stuff, you shave off the dark green stuff, and then you can either candy the white stuff or make a sweet or savoury pickle – wow! I always felt that it was a waste to chuck the white stuff away! Another useful thing to know, if you are a carnivore, is how to preserve meat and fish. Often, I come across the painful sight of packets and packets of chicken legs or even organic fish or seafood in the reduced to clear pile. Ah, humanity!