One hundred years of Australian food preserving — spanning two World Wars, food rationing, the Depression and now a contemporary swing back to this delicious and healthy craft — have been captured by Fowlers Vacola and top Australian chefs in the beautiful commemorative cookbook ‘What’s Old is New Again’.
The 94-page book, launched in Melbourne today (Wednesday), will inspire every cook who wants the best of old and new: tried and true preserving techniques that are livened up with exciting new flavours, ingredients and produce.
Chefs and food experts responded enthusiastically to Fowlers Vacola’s invitation to celebrate their centenary, and the book features contributions from Stephanie Alexander, Maggie Beer, Jean Paul Bruneteau, Simon Bryant, Raymond Capaldi, Rita Erlich, Andrew McConnell, Matt Wilkinson, Alla Wolf Tasker and many others.
It also reveals the best kept secrets of Fowlers Vacola founder, Englishman Joseph Fowler, who went to great lengths to protect his recipes and methods from people who had not bought one of his patented preserving kits. Other favourites have come from the ladies of the Country Women’s Association, and from the gifted women who take home the trophies for their works of edible art at leading agricultural shows.
“The book commemorates a fascinating aspect of Australia’s history,” says Nicole Roy, co-owner and director of Fowlers Vacola with her brother John. “We’ve found decades-old advertisements, recipes and brochures which give a real insight into Australian domestic life in the 1940s and 1950s. Because a woman was measured by how well she managed the household budget, preserving seasonal fruit and vegetables was an important kitchen activity.
“We’ve also reflected the increasing interest in preserving, with some chefs providing old family recipes and others creating a contemporary take on this craft. The book is very timely too, because of the growing desire to get back to healthy foods, to avoid chemicals and preservatives, and to be confident about the contents of our food.”
John Roy said the book’s title was supported by a 25 per cent growth in sales over recent years.
“That growth is coming primarily from Gen X and Y living in the cities and suburbs,“ he said.
Fowlers Vacola was launched by Joseph Fowler in Melbourne in 1915. It manufactures high quality preserving kits, food dehydrators and jam-making products, and still proudly supplies parts for 70-year old preserving kits that have been handed down through the generations or discovered in the kitchen cupboards of elderly relatives.
‘What’s Old is New Again’ features recipes for preserving, pickling, bottling, dehydrating, jams, jellies and cordials. They include Stephanie Alexander’s passata, Maggie Beer’s mustard apricots, Jean Paul Bruneteau’s glace riberries, Rita Erlich’s marmalade, Andrew McConnell’s baby iceberg lettuce salad with pickled ginger, Richard Mees’ bush tomato chutney with seared loin of kangaroo, Matt Wilkinson’s old family recipe for Yorkshire pickled onions and Alla Wolf Tasker’s dill cucumbers.
The book is now available through independent bookshops. Recommended retail price is $39.95. Twenty-five per cent of book sale profits will be donated to the not-for-profit Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation to support food education in Australian schools.
‘What’s old is new again’ is a delightful book, says Stephanie Alexander. “Brilliant in its simplicity, the Fowlers’ method has not changed in 100 years although the preserving kits designed to be heated on wood stoves, have long since been supplanted by sleek fully automatic models with inbuilt thermostats. Preserving fruits and vegetables has always involved a respect for the seasons, a creative response to abundance, and pride in accomplishment. For modern cooks it is also has ‘back to basics’ appeal. And the recipes are great.”