View Full Version : Fowlers Vacola
28-05-2003, 11:46 AM
Just to continue our conversation here on the Fowlers Vacola system that I thought other's might be interested in.
The book question:
The latest vacola book is available at Hume and Iser (Bendigo) or thru Fowlers Vacola for about $15 - you don't really need one though as the temperatures are now standardised. I can get a photo copy of my old book (colour A5 circa 1947) done if you're really keen. If you need any specific recipes/techniques just let me know and I'll do my best...
Funny fowlers no longer recommends doing soups or meats in the jars anymore, as there are more hygienic methods of preservation available like freezing and drying - dried soup isnít that appetizing but the meat is. Freezing is something we used to get into but these days we just bottle - the flavor is better, things last longer, and the energy use is reduced considerably. I haven't done meats yet but my mum, grandma and nana all used to. Grandad also used to do his jellied meats in the smaller jars - he was a man who would often boast of being able to make 4 courses out of a neck (not to mention the lye and then soap from the bones themselves).
More recently we have bottled butternut pumpkin soup and green thai curry - both of which have worked really well in the past. The piece de resistance however is the budget plum pudding - now that is something else. So easy and keeps as does most things in this remarkable system. Not a day goes by when we don't use a bottle or two - just this morning for brekkie we had cling peaches and blood plums on our porridge.
My next effort will be to try making a preserve from magenta lilly pillies from the tree out back. Perhaps some sort of a syrup/coulis would be the best approach - any ideas??
Last week I went to do a tree crop layout & forestry pruning job near Geelong for a few days - took our camper, some flour, water and a few vacola jars - didn't have to buy a thing and ate like a king - fresh sour dough pitas, fruit, tomatoes etc - harvested some nettles for greens - fantastic - the boys I used to work with (as with most) stay in a motel and eat constant takeaway crap and charge the client for the pleasure - all means less trees in the ground and that's the bottom line. Whenever we go camping we also do the same - and everyone else wants what we're eating!!
For the benefit of others the new recommended operating proceedure's are as follows:
Jars #10 - 31 @ 45-60mins to 92 degreesC then 45mins @ 92C
Jars #36 - @ 45-60mins to 92C then 75 mins @ 92C
Jars #65 - @ 45-60mins to 92C then 90 mins @ 92C
28-05-2003, 12:55 PM
thanks darren. just the info i needed. i hadn't got beyond bottling the harvest...your extensive bottling of such a wide range of meals and other delights has really got me going now.
looks like more clearing sales for more $2 boxes of jars!!!
the procedures look quite easy - but looks like i'll have to get a thermometer.
are you aware of anyone who bottled like this using a wood stove? can the temperature be managed successfully this way?
think i'll hit the second hand book stores and see how i go for fowlers literature - tania and i are a bit bookish and love to absorb words that spur us into action.
no doubt in time i'll hit you for some direct recipies.
fowlers sounds like a great way to preserve meat - and ceratinly more time effective than the stories my grandfather tells of salting the killed pig in his youth - pieces kept in a large wooden box, lined with tin and a mixture of slat and herbs that after milking each night for a month and a half they'd go to and rub the salt mix in to each piece!
the website expalins the process well. the idea of actually having an intensive bottling period appeals. i'm sure it fits well into your 'permaculture living calander'.
i'd be interested in anyone elses fowlers vacola stories - or any valuable recipes?
03-06-2003, 04:03 PM
well. it has got to this. posting to my own post. but my enthusiasim for fowlers vacola is just increasing.
got an old book from a wonderful lady in Bendigo...who responded to a call out on another web forum.
anyway - it really gives me the visuals - and i got a thermometer today - so we are set. That late glut of eggplant might just make it.
the book talks about adding salt to the water that you boil the jars in because it argues the salt helps to conduct heat?
any opinons on this darren?
also i am guessing you don't bother with the second sterilisation? (boiling again after 48 hours)
looking forward to bottling our own organic baked beans!!!!!
05-06-2003, 01:00 PM
What vintage is the book you got??
The current technique for vegetable bottling involves 1:1 Vinegar:Water as opposed to the old technique of secondary sterilisation - the latter of which reduces the nutritional value of the produce. We use the old technique of using the 2nd sterilisation for soups etc. The old techniques called for a fairly dilute brine solution for vegies as well. That has gone by the wayside too.
By the sound of things you'll be joining us at the "500 club" before too long.
10-06-2003, 10:13 AM
This method sounds good to me.
I'd like to learn more about it.
I'll see what I can scrounge up at the local library first then hit you with some questions afterwards.
Four preliminary questions:
Are there any Fowler websites I can visit?
What is the cost of obtaining bottles?
What method do you absolutely recommend?
Approx how long do the `goodies' keep for?
11-06-2003, 02:26 PM
1. that is the problem - this is the best info you'll get online...there is no website that talks much about it at all. trust me i've searched. darren has some good info on http://www.permaculture.biz (but his responses here are morte comprehensive...so - no website
2. don't buy bottles new - try clearing sales, second hand yards and shops, the trading post - many people are throwing vacola kits away for nothing. before we even started we had accrued over 100 different sized bottles and lids for less than 20 bucks. you may have to buy new 'rings' - which are available online - or you may find a local distributor.
3. well. i've only tried one. i bottled my first lot on the weekend. an eggplant pickle. which i made and then bottlewd using the method descibed by darren - just once. i think when i do fruit and veg i'll go with my books suggestion of sterlising twice 30 min apart - because then i won't have to add lemon juice or vineger to assist sterlisation.
4. my understanding is the goodies can keep well over a year and in some cases - like canned goods for several years. i am yet to find that out.
the thing i like about darren's website, with his 'bottling table' is it shows he has harvested fruit and vege in his wanderings - some from his parents, or a tree in a local park or down the street - fruit that otherwise would have gobe to waste and he has got 100s of meals for basically no $$$ cost.
12-06-2003, 11:03 AM
Following are answers to your questions...
Are there any Fowler websites I can visit?
Not that I am aware of - hence my putting some info on my website. I have yet to put photo's on though - they will come when I get a spare moment or two. Perhaps I should do a photo gallery of the process step by step as you'll never forget the method then. After the first couple of goes its a piece of the perverbial - easier than riding a bike!
What is the cost of obtaining bottles?
The rule of thumb is around $1 each or less. I read once of a lady who vowed never to spend more than a dollar a bottle as that was an unspoken rule of the street. I now have all of the bottle sizes except a couple of the larger tapered versions. I went thru a stage of being obsessed with getting all of the bottles - now I have them - about 600 in total - I suppose they all cost me about $200 in total - including buying a few extra lids and rings. Shop around for the lids and rings as they can vary enormously in price - or buy direct from Fowlers if you can't get what you're after. The most common bottles are the 3" #20 and #27 - we use them most. The 4" #31 we use for plum pudding (the best !! - the recipe request will no doubt follow!). The tall 4" #36 we use for meals and larger fruits (pears - halved cling peaches). The giant 4" #65 we use for bulk storage of tomatoes and pears, pulp etc. and as flour, grain, biscuit and cake barrels (just as dry jars). We also have the very cute 2" #3 and #10 that are used for passionfruit pulp. I want to also use this size for white bait (sardine/anchovy replacement) as I love salted fish - especially on pizzadeliere. The 3" #14 is also perfect for hamper items - perfect for picnics and day trips.
What method do you absolutely recommend?
The temperature regime mentioned earlier applies universally. The method of stuffing foods into the bottles is quite easy. You can either layer the cut pieces or just throw them in. I find that you can fit more in when the pieces are layered - it looks more decorative too - adds to the pantry envy (another attraction of the method). To this I add rainwater (mixed 1:1 with vinegar if vegetables) to within a cm of the top, then add a desertspoon of organic sugar - it is also recommended that you add citric acid to low acid fruits to enhance keeping quality as well. Put the ring on then lid and clip - then into the steriliser as per previous instructions.
Approx how long do the `goodies' keep for?
Apparently indefinately - whilst scrounging for bottles I came across some peaches and pears that had been bottled 30 odd years ago - whilst they were not edible their form was still intact and they tasted old and smelt ok - no mould at all. However Fowlers recommend that you consume the produce within the year. This is not a big problem as the more you make the more you use the produce.
Hope this helps....
14-06-2003, 05:41 PM
SO FAR NO GOOD.
Nothing at the local library.
Nothing at Lifeline.
Nothing at `Uncle' Vincent's.
That pretty well exhausts Lithgow.
Next step: recruit friends and family to the Fowl cause.
Go on a reconnaissance bus trip to Bathurst.
Plan a fact-finding train trip to Sydney.
I'm not quitting.
14-06-2003, 10:26 PM
Pity you're not closer as there are thousands of bottles at the local tip recovery centre (mostly $0.50 each!!). Lids and all that can be purchased from Fowlers Direct or call them to tell you where the closest retailer/distributor is. As for getting 2nd hand bottles and sterilising units try the trading post, and local newspapers, garage sales and get the word out that your fowler frenzy is eating away at you and you need to get your fix....
14-06-2003, 10:28 PM
By the way what are you going to bottle when you get lucky?
15-06-2003, 05:39 PM
Local tip here I come!
Also I have a great uncle on my mother's side who MAY still have the whole kit. Fingers crossed.
There are hundreds of plum trees (planted by council) decorating the streets of Lithgow. And one right outside my house So plums are item one on my list. Hence your plum pudding recipe will certainly be needed.
Next, the yellow peach tree in my backyard (My mouth `waters' at the thought).
Vegetables in season as per my garden.
Alas, my broad beans are looking lousy as the dreaded black aphid has made a mess of them.
I guess the possibilities are unlimited.
First step though: acquire the bottling kit.
15-06-2003, 07:47 PM
Good luck with the relo's kit rumour....
The plum pudding recipe I'll have to dig up - its in one of my small notepads !?! - its pretty simple though - and very rich - we had a few jars at the Port Fairy Folk Festival with custard, good friends and the Topp Twins (they did the entertaining - we did the eating!!) - we even smuggled in some wine to finish things off real well....
Bottled faba beans - don't think I'd be doing that too quickly for my own personal taste - I'm sure you can - I don't mind them very occaisonally but prefer them green manured.
16-06-2003, 02:56 PM
If you give me your Plum Pudding recipe.
I'll give you my Dandelion Wine recipe.
I'm off to Bathurst by Countrylink bus tomorrow.
35min walk to town at 6.45 am in in semi darkness,
which goes to show, I'm rrreallly keen to find a fowler.
Local buses don't begin running until 8.00 am.
And NEVER on Sundays!
16-06-2003, 07:35 PM
Jeez you're keen - hope you have a big win.
Fair trade - I better dig the recipe up. Dandelion roots or leaves - I've got plenty - been cultivating and encouraging it for years - one of my favorite plants.
16-06-2003, 10:09 PM
I would luv 2 check out http://www.permaculture.biz but I couldn't get it 2 work! Is this the whole address or was it just not working this day?
Anyhoo, aboot the fowlers, I picked up a kit the other day for $10 from an op shop.
It included 12 each of #27 bottles, rings, clips & lids & 1 x thermometor- still in perfect little boxes! Also a funky little product sheet from the 70's! There's also a round tray that fits in the bottom of the kit, with little holes all thru it, still in it's plastic bag. Any idea's on what that is???
I can,t wait 2 start using it :laugh:
17-06-2003, 09:31 AM
the insert is for when you are using smaller bottles, means you can raise then sufficiently so water doesn't need to cover the lids.
not sure why you are having problems with Darren's website - i've checked it and it seems to be up now and working well.
to find a kit fropm the 70s still in the plastic - quite a grand find...
still keep your eyes out for bottles - it becomes easy to fill them rather quickly.
just got bags full of quinces - so it will be bottled quice, and quince jam this weekend.
23-06-2003, 06:26 PM
Thank u for the info, the website is working fine now!
06-09-2005, 12:44 AM
I dragged this one outta the archives as I think it's got heaps of great info.
I'd like to request the Plum Pudding recipe from DD, please, please, please. I'm afraid, unlike TriciaM, I don't have much of value to offer in return but do appeal to your generosity and kind heart. :yawinkle:
Anyway, thought a few of you might get a bit of a laugh from this: I went to visit a lady recently who very kindly offered me all of her old fowlers jars. Due to her fragile disposition, I accepted the task of retrieving the jars from her cupboards.
What I found was about 40 jars still packed with preserves from '1964' :!: including the dreaded beans :shock: . They still look ok although I reckon if I shook them, they'd probably disintegrate. Will make a valuable contribution to the compost. What an amazing find though.
11-10-2005, 09:59 PM
haven't been at this forum for a while - my how it has grown. Anyway the plum pudding recipe is simply any old plum pudding recipe or fruit cake etc. Mix it all up in a bowl, slop it into a jar and cook the jar for what ever time that jar requires.
I could be more specific I know: by recanting verbatim the recipes out of my various Fowlers books: but I am in Viet Nam working (long term Mars Inc. permaculture project) so I don't have anything at hand. When I'm home and I remember I should put this recipe on my web site.
Ciao Darren Doherty
11-10-2005, 10:31 PM
I'd be interested to see the recipe YOU use. Does it really cook it? Can you provide the specific details. Sorry for being so thick, but the instructions for my unit says not to allow it to boil and total processing time is only an hour (Simple Natural Preserving Unit)so I can't see how it could 'cook' the pudding.
11-10-2005, 11:00 PM
I can't remember the time that was required: though it is likely to be the same as for everything else. To be sure I will be home next week to help teach a PDC home in good old Bendigo, so please email me (to remind the king of absent-minded thickness) and I'll dig the recipe up for you and all to replicate madly.
22-10-2005, 10:47 PM
Bump for Jet.
30-10-2005, 12:25 PM
You might find these sites helpful. The americans do a lot of canning, so doing a google search for "home canning" "canning recipes". There are hundreds.
I use those Italian bottling jars that you can sometimes find in woolies. They have the rubber ring inside the lid. For safety, make sure you always use new rings or lids when you do your preserving.
30-10-2005, 10:29 PM
Will enjoy perusing those sites.
G'day all. this is great, Just came up from the shed tank after washing 100 or so bottles in the wheel barrow, have bottled years ago then got the bug again this season, I threw out my electric urn some time ago as it gave me a shock, however have a large boiler and my slow combustion stove , so I'm happy.. Found some grape, peaches and pears I did back in 1992, they were still good, I ate some of the peaches, and they tasted good, gave the rest to the chooks!!!!How do you feel about useing the old tin lids that are not too badly marked?, I always had before along with new rings, didn't seem to matter too much, just wondering, can't wait to do some more white grapes in Brandy /water mix, now they are good..
Will keep in touch,, Lang :)
06-11-2005, 01:28 PM
lang, I wouldn't use damaged lids if you want to keep your produce unrefrigerated for a long period. However, if you can keep it in the fridge, I'd use the damaged lids but I'd use the jams or preserves quickly.
Yep Thanks Forrest. I think I will get s/s , I do have some, and discard the old, I really enjoy the bottleing, have a large garden and will make use of it and give less produce away, usually water is my probem but this season is looking good.. lang
28-01-2006, 08:43 PM
Thought this might be of interest as there's been a few discussions on bottling lately.
I have an old vacola stove top but have been trying to decide if I should get the new electric one,any opinions on which works best :?:
22-05-2007, 05:03 PM
I bought an electric kit a few months ago. It works very well...just fill it up, turn it on & leave for an hour. No worrying about boiling over or anything. Plus it comes with the cookbook & a few bottles.
Mind you, I haven't used the Vacola stove top kit...the only experience I have of stove top bottling is with my parents...they used to use a ginormous saucepan on the stove top but no thermometer or anything. It seemed to take a lot longer but I might have just been more impatient back then :)
I made some pumpkin butter a month or so ago...soooo yummy & great on muffins or pikelets. But, after reading this thread, I might have to give plum puddings a go. Nothing beats a scrummy homemade plum pudding with fresh custard for dessert.
Thank You Epiphany :D ,I have just bought a Fowlers dehydrater and am looking foreward to trying it out :)
15-06-2007, 11:08 AM
Hi epephany, Pumpkin butter, sounds lovely, could you post the receipt?
Yes try the fowlers plum pudding receipet, its lovely
15-06-2007, 03:24 PM
This is the recipe I used (it can be found at http://allrecipes.com/recipe/pumpkin-butter/detail.aspx):
* 1 (29 ounce) can pumpkin puree
* 3/4 cup apple juice
* 2 teaspoons ground ginger
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
* 1 1/2 cups white sugar
* 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
* 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1. Combine pumpkin, apple juice, spices, and sugar in a large saucepan; stir well. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes or until thickened. Stir frequently.
2. Spoon hot pumpkin mixture into hot jars, filling to within 1/4 inch from top. Remove air bubbles; wipe jar rims. Cover at once with metal lids, and screw on bands.
3. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Notes: I used around half an uncooked pumpkin...chopped it up & cooked it until tender, then followed the instructions above.
There is also a bit of a debate regarding whether it's safe to bottle pumpkin butter due to the potential variation in acid & sugar levels. So if in doubt, you might be best to refrigerate it (although ours seems to be fine - haven't got ill from it yet but that's not to say it could happen).
The comments at the above URL are interesting because many people comment that it's too sweet &, indeed, I reduced the amount of sugar slightly. This also raises potential problems when bottling as there may not be enough to inhibit pathogen growth (as in jam). I suspect replacing part of the sugar with brown sugar would enhance the flavour, reduce sweetness & assist in retarding pathogen growth. Something to experiment with, perhaps.
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