Battening Down the Hatches

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It’s now dark before I leave work, which means it’s late in the year, which means it’s time to hibernate.

I’m pretty good at autumn and even better at winter. Thick jumpers, clompy boots, hiding behind scarves, pumpkins, cinnamon, cloves, everything in a pot, everything piping hot. GOOD GOD, I’m in heaven right now.

I started to embrace winter when I realised that dark evenings were making me gloomy. I knew I had to start making the evenings productive. I needed to see staying indoors as a good opportunity to get stuff in order and do something creative, as opposed to feeling constrained and claustrophobic (which I used to).

A few winters ago I used the time to bake. A lot. Every night I’d be whipping up puddings, breads and cakes, to the point where I ran out of people to feed. Last year I bought a slow cooker, so I spent every evening chopping things into tiny pieces to put in the cooker the next morning. This year, I’m learning how to make chutneys, jams and homemade booze. I have no experience at all in this department, but I’m not letting that put me off. I’ve asked for a jam pan for Christmas and I’ve bought some sterilising tablets for my jars and bottles, so it’s getting serious.

Sloe news day

I’ve recently liberated a cluttered cupboard, which I plan to fill with things I’ve made for the future. At the moment I have some sloe gin and rosehip vodka in there, which have been steeping for about 6 weeks following an awesome forage I went on in the North York Moors with my mum. We spent the morning poking about in prickly hedgerows, clambering up banks and meditatively plucking berries from their stems. We were lucky enough to come across the holy grail of foraging – a laden sloe bush. Bloody awesome.

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Fruits of our labour

I think the forage was the beginning of my seasonal fascination with squirrelling away food for the future. I love the idea of picking fresh things to preserve and store away for brighter times. I just hope I do them justice.

Next week I’m going to have a go at making elderberry wine. The berries are currently in my freezer, something which has already divided opinion. One person has told it was the worst thing I could have done, another person has said its the best. I’ve never been one to worry about strict rules and the way I see it, it may work, it may not. I’m just excited to try it.

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