This blog post forms the basis of a live recording that was aired on January 16th 2022 – you can follow the links to that here:

Have you heard that saying about ‘Our Grandparents survived the great depression because their supply chain was local and they knew how to do stuff’?………Well, it’s true.

And right now, when things are all going a bit crazy again in supermarket land, is the perfect time to reconnect to your local produce and dust off the traditional food skills!  The farms around you haven’t stopped growing food, so skip all the complicated transport steps in the middle and go direct to your local growers.  Farmers Markets are the perfect place to do this, and with most of them offering outdoor shopping, it’s a much safer place to stock up on your groceries.  Here in the Barossa strawberries, stone fruit, watermelon, rock melon, sweetcorn, capsicum, chili, fresh herbs, tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini  are all in season right now so it’s the perfect time to restock the pantry for the year to come.

We’ve compiled a list of our favourite preserving options below to help you identify which traditional skills might work best for you.  Remember to think about the sort of things you are most likely to eat – there is no point making jam if you don’t eat it!  And there is no minimum pass-mark on your worthiness as a keeper.  If you only want to do a small batch of something, or if you want to go all out and doomsday prep….whatever works for you is the right answer, every time.


You’ve got a Fridge, right?  let’s use it……

There are lots of options to use your fridge to create and store beautiful seasonal products.

Shrubs:  A sweet ‘cordial’ made using vinegar, sugar and chopped summer fruits, shrubs are beautiful in summer mocktails, alcoholic beverages, or just mixed with soda water and ice.  They will keep in a fridge for several weeks, allowing you to use a little at a time.  Ideal for second grade berries or overripe stone fruit.  Jump back to our previous blog about summer berries for our favourite shrub recipe.

Fridge Pickle:  crisp summer vegetables are delicious when pickled and make excellent accompaniments to salads.  Carrots, beets, snow peas, capsicum, zucchini, cucumbers…the list goes on. A small jar of pickled vegetables will last weeks in the fridge, allowing for a little bit to be used at a time.    A really simple pickling solution is 1 cup vinegar, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup sugar, spices of your choice (peppercorns, bay leaf, cloves. chili, whatever you like).  Heat all ingredients together until boiling.  Allow to cool before pouring over vegetables, then refrigerate.

Fruit spreads:  Cook your summer fruits down to a thick puree and make a fruit spread!  Delicious as an alternative to jam, without the added sugar, its a great way to use up the last bits of summer stone fruit.  Once cooked it will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks, or you can freeze it in usable portions.



Fruit is an excellent candidate for freezing.  Lightly cook your stone fruit in a little water, with sugar or honey if preferred, then simply freeze your fruit compote in usable portions.  Delicious on winter porridge!

Tomato products can also be very successfully frozen.  Tomato Passata in usable portions is an excellent freezer standby, as are frozen summer vegetables.  Fresh herbs can also be frozen very successfully by chopping finely into small air tight containers, or covering with a little olive oil.  Basil makes an excellent frozen pesto by blitzing with olive oil and freezing in ice cube trays.  Experiment – it’s heaps of fun.


Shelf Stable Options

If you want to produce something that is shelf stable and ready for immediate use, then these are the options for you.  We particularly love shelf stable options because they don’t rely on an ongoing energy source to maintain their food safety.  Anyone who lives in a bushfire prone area, or relies on an electricity grid knows how frustrating it is to lose a freezer full of food!  Once processed these products are entirely safe at room temperature for extended periods, and ready for immediate use



Simple, and accessible, this is a great way to deal with excess fruit.  You can simply slice and lay in the sun until they are dry and crispy. Or, cook your fruit into a puree and spread as a thin layer on baking paper to make your own roll-ups.  Commercial fruit producers use sulphur to preserve the colour and extend its shelf life, so your home dried fruit will look a little different, but will taste delicious.  If sun drying isn’t an option for you then dehydrators are an excellent alternative.  They work very effectively and you can often pick them up second hand.  Alternatively, an oven on a low setting or even a really warm window sill will also achieve a great result.

Ensure you dry your fruit until it is completely dry and store in an airtight container.  Any moisture left in the fruit will cause it to rot and mould during storage.  Home dried fruit can also be stored very successfully in the freezer to extend its storage life.

Tip:  Vegetables can also be successfully dried.  Excess zucchini, onion, capsicum, chillies, and herbs all produce excellent results when dried.


Jams, Pickles and sauces:

Excess ripe fruit can be made into traditional jams and chutneys.  Sugar is the preservative in traditional jam recipes and will give your finished produce a safe shelf life.  Traditional jam recipes can be successfully hot-packed, by bottling the hot completed jam into hot sterilised jars and sealing immediately.  Sugar reduced jams can be a little more complex because of the reduced preservative, and until you know a little of the food science, can be an exercise in frustration with products that go off.  If you would like to make sugar reduced jams our online resource ‘Sticky Situations’ will step you through how it works and how to safely modify your recipes.  (see below for more details)

Like Jams, traditional sauces and chutneys use vinegar and sugar as preservatives, so can be very successfully hot packed for long term shelf storage.  Again, our ‘sticky situations’ recorded workshop can step you through how to do these successfully.

You can follow the links to ‘Sticky Situations’ here:



The traditional method our Grandmothers and mothers all used, ‘Fowlers Vacola’ bottling is a great way to take seasonal produce and create shelf stable products that last all year round.  Remember all the bottles of fruit lined up on the pantry shelves?  – that’s Fowlers preserving!  Preserving units are easy and cheap to source second hand, as are the jars and lids.  New processing instructions have been developed since Grandma’s day, and the processing is now incredibly streamlined and easy to do.  There are some very simple rules about food safety that need to be observed when bottling, so we recommend you do a little research first before jumping straight in.  Our online resource ‘Intro to Fowlers Preserving’ is a perfect beginners module that will step you through all that you need to know, and how to do it safely and easily.

Bottled produce is by far the most convenient way to store your seasonal produce because its easy to do, requires very little carbon output to create, is shelf stable, and is ready for immediate use.   

You can follow the links to our ‘Intro to Fowlers Vacola Preserving’ on-demand video here:


So that’s it – a quick little run down of some basic food skills that you can adapt to suit your kitchen.  We hope that some of these suggestions are useful and that they allow you to feel a little less stressed about the empty shelves at the supermarket.  And as always, we remind you that we are always available to answer questions.  We love chatting to fellow keepers so don’t be shy.


Marieka and Sheralee



The dictionary defines a ‘keeper’ as a person charged with responsibility for the preservation and conservation of something valuable, but being a keeper is also a doing word.

We are the keepers.  The keepers of the traditional food skills, the regional food stories, the new ways of doing old valuable things.  And every year, at this time and in this season, we lead the way.

You.  Me.  Us.

We are the keepers.