What do the granny skills of the past have to do with the way of the future? If there’s one thing all grannies are good at, it’s this – preserving, jamming and bottling excess produce to avoid food waste. It’s seen a resurgence in recent times, and given Australians throw out $5.2 billion worth of food each year, this is one vintage trend we’re hoping will stick (unlike frilly bobby socks with open-toed high heels).

We recently celebrated the great granny skills of the past at our wonderfully nostalgic jamming session at the Sustainable Living Festival with Dirty Girl Kitchen and Local Harvest. Rebecca Sullivan (above), founder of Dirty Girl Kitchen, and granny extraordinaire Angela showed the crowd how to use excess fruit and vegetables to make perfect jams, chutneys and pickles.

The philosophy behind the event was one of making the most out of the produce we buy or grow, choosing local and ethically-farmed food, and connecting with others in the community to share produce and skills – all in the name of reducing food wastage and minimising the impact our food choices have on the environment. Local Harvest, a new national initiative, is one way to get connected – simply enter your postcode to see the range of food markets, neighbourhood swaps and organic grocers in your local area.

More than just a kitchen, Dirty Girl Kitchen’s mission is to safeguard our ‘granny skills,’ by protecting food heritage, culture, skills, knowledge and tradition, passing down what grannies know best. Here are two of the recipes Rebecca shared on the day:

Strawberry & Rose Jam

Ingredients

1.1 kg of strawberries*
900 grams of white sugar (use half jam sugar and half normal white sugar to ensure a good set if you are a bit nervous). You can also use raw sugar or brown for a more distinct flavour, but make sure you dissolve it properly – it takes longer)
60 ml lemon juice
60 ml rosewater

How to do it

Put a small plate into the fridge to test the jam later. Wash, pat dry, hull and halve or quarter the strawberries, or mash if you don’t like chunks (I love chunks). Pat the strawberries dry as you don’t want any excess water in your jam. Pour in the sugar and leave for a few hours to macerate (soak) if you have time as this helps draws out the pectin (which will help the jam set). Put on a really low heat until sugar is completely dissolved. Once dissolved, bring to a rolling boil and add lemon and rosewater. Boil gently for about 20 minutes or until set. Test by placing a teaspoon onto the plate you put in the fridge earlier – after about a minute run your finger through the jam and if it wrinkles, it is set. The easiest way is to use a food thermometer and once it hits 105 degrees, your jam is set.

Leave the jam to sit for 15-20 minutes so the fruit settles and does not float to the top of your jars. Don’t fret, it’s really bloody hard, mine always floats but that’s a story for another time. Pour into sterilised jars**. Store in the fridge. Have your jam on toast, or mix through some natural yoghurt for a delicious snack.

*You can substitute the strawberries and rose water for any fruit you like or have excess of – bananas, figs, apricots, cherries, oranges, limes etc. Basic jam recipes call for approximately 1 kg of sugar for every kg of fruit.

**You can sterilise your jars using either the oven or the stovetop. In the oven – preheat oven to 120C. Place jars and lids in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove and fill immediately with jam or other preserves. On the stovetop – fill a large pot with water and bring to the boil. Separate the jars from the lids and place in the boiling water making sure the waters covers the jars. Boil for 10 minutes, then remove with tongs and allow them to drain and steam dry.

Pickled Zucchinis

This recipe is perfectly adaptable to your tastes – play around with the spices and herbs. If you have an excess of squash, you can also add them in for colour and flavour.

Ingredients

1 kg of zucchinis finely sliced.* I always scoop out the middle of the zucchini as it makes the pickles soft and messy.
¼ cup salt
2 cups white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon dry mustard
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
½ teaspoon chili flakes

How to do it

Place sliced zucchini in a bowl and cover with water and add salt. Let it stand for about an hour, then drain. Mix the remaining ingredients into a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Pour the hot mixture over the zucchini and let it stand for another hour**. Return to the saucepan and bring to the boil, and boil for about 3 minutes. Pack into hot sterilized jars, making sure there are no air bubbles, and seal.

These taste better if you leave them for a couple of weeks before eating (but that’s near impossible as they are too delicious.)

* You can pickle a whole raft of vegetables using this method. Try eggplant, cucumbers, radishes or cabbage.
**Both times you are leaving to stand, an hour is the minimum but you can leave for several hours to no harm.