Living Smarties Preserving Night February Meeting

A report on the last Living Smartie night – Vacola preserving, freezing, jams and drying

Written by Susie and Jess (and a big thanks to them from Shani!)

Amy the happy pearl stringed house-wife, shared her inspiring experience and extensive knowledge of Vacola preserving. She talked about  why she preserved. –   Because she gardens, economics, creative satisfaction, to reduce waste, to reduce food miles (check out – to make tin cans, ore from WA is shipped to Japan to be processed, then back to Melbourne, and across to WA, a distance of more than 17 000km. And that doesn’t even factor in what’s in the can!), and having assurance about what you eat!

Amy uses the good old Fowlers Vacola gear. All you need to know is in the instruction book, or google it, for beautiful bottles of preserved fruit (no sugar, vinegar, or other preserving agents necessary) If you don’t have the Fowler’s gear (a big tub with a thermometer slot down the side, plastic or stainless steel with an electric element, or a tin tub which sits on a gas stove), you can heat up your jars in a big pot on the stove, but rest them on a cake rack so they don’t crack, and wrap tea towels round them so they don’t rattle (Leah).  Check out the quokka for second hand jars, should be about $1 each. Look out for stainless steel lids (brassy ones go a bit rusty)

What to preserve?Tomatoes are great (but not veggies, cause they’re not acidic enough, may breed botulism!) Plums, peaches, apricots because you can get them cheap in season or off your tree.  Also orange, lemon and other juices!(And you can use the water you heat up for a bath!)

And jams are as easy as could be…One part fruit: one part sugar+ lemon juice, pith and seeds in a muslin bag (for pectin) or green apples, or jamsetta (just in case) Wash jars and dry them in the oven on low heat. Boil up the fruit and sugar til gloopy (for a test set put a tsp-full on a plate that’s been in the freezer. The jam should set on the plate). A jam funnel makes it easier to get into the jars.Forage the streets for free food – lilly pillys, quandongs, figs, mulberries, mmm…

Cordial is easy too 1kg sugar: 600ml fruit juice (lemon, grapefruit, lime, grape – heat fruit, mash and strain through muslin) + a bit of citric acid

Some good books on preserving Amy recommended were  A Year in a Bottle: Sally Wise and Pick, Preserve, Serve

And then Shani stepped forward for the lowdown on freezing. Frozen food stores indefinitely, no nutrients are lost. Spread fruit and veggies – berries, cherries, pears, tomatoes, corn, spring onion – flat on trays to freeze speedily, and then store in freezer bags. Blanch veggies such as beans and pumpkin first (put in boiling water 2 min, iced water 2 min) to slow enzyme ripening (they’ll go mushy otherwise). Defrost in fridge.


 Drying Some ideas included – solar wheel barrow (glass sheet on top), a mesh screen resting on the dash board of your car (windows just slightly ajar for air circulation). Great for peaches, figs, tomatoes…

And very best of all, we wind it all up by sampling some of the passionate preserves produced by Amy and Shani – pears with vanilla bean and lemon zest served with baked custard, lemon cordial, sundried tomatoes, fig jam… truly delicious!  

Thankyou! We are thoroughly inspired!

If you are interested in coming along to our nights – email Shani on We meet on the first Wednesday of each month at 7:00 in the library at Beaconsfield Primary School. Please bring along something to share for a snack and mug for a cuppa

 Topics for the next few months include:

March 3rd –  Sustainable Clothing with Lesley Thomas and invited guests Bring along some clothing to swap and those evening clothes to donate

April 7th Make your own Alcohol (April 1st is Easter!) Greg will share tips on beer making, Peter will share ideas on making liquers and we are still hoping to find someone to talk on making your own wine (can anyone help? – call Shani)

May 5th  – Looch will talk about Vegan and Vegetarian eating and cooking (and she promises to share some recipes including her amazing corn patties!)

June 2nd– (to be confirmed) GM Consumers’ Network

Please contact Shani Graham at  or on 0417 941 991 if you want to be on our email list or you have ideas for future Living Smarties Topics