Preserving my sanity

It’s blowing a gale this morning. I live atop a north facing hill surrounded by bush land. I listened to the sound of the wind screaming through the treetops and rattling everything not tied down in the night until I could take it no more and closed the windows against the noise. It’s unseasonal for autumn in Melbourne which is usually characterized by morning fog clearing to fine, sunny days. A good day to stay indoors and deal with that pile of quinces in the fruit bowl.

I provided a commentary on poaching quinces in my Easter post. This time I’m going to move onto preserving. I currently have 22 fruit and nut trees in the garden as well as a sizeable vegetable patch. My mother in-law dusted off and donated her Vacola kit to me when it became evident that my frenetic gardening was going to produce more produce than we could possibly eat.

The Fowler’s Vacola system uses glass jars, rubber sealing rings and metal lids secured by tension clips to vacuum seal the contents. The Australian system was developed in 1915 – and looks like it. Whenever I get it out I feel like I should be wearing a hobble skirt or harem pants a’la Paul Poiret (who made a great contribution to freeing women from corsets). The fashion of the time was heavily influenced by World War I and the women’s suffrage movement and was a pivotal moment in the emergence of modern fashion.

George Fowler was a soldier who served in the British Royal Army Medical Corp as well as the Regular Army.  George clearly didn’t think much of the battle field quzine offerings and invented field cooking stoves and registered new patents for a food bottling and preserving system. His nephew Joseph Fowler came to Australia in 1912 to set up his own bottling business that grew to become the iconic Fowler’s Vacola Pty Ltd.  Fowlers  advertised ‘bring progress to your home by installing a Vacola bottling outfit‘. I can attest that despite feeling like I’ve gone back in time when I wheel out my Vacola, it has actually driven progress. I can now have home grown fruit and vegetables all year round and have almost no waste.

While the wind was blowing I preserved quinces. I used Fowlers preserving jars for this, but you don’t need to have a Vacola itself, just the jars.


  • 3 large quinces (multiply the recipe if you have more)
  • 300 ml white sugar
  • 300m warm water to dissolve the sugar


  • Place the whole quinces in an oven dish and bake at 160 C for 2.5-3 hours until the skins blister. Remove from the oven to cool.
  • Wash and sterilize preserving jars and lids
    To make the syrup dissolve the sugar in the water in a large saucepan and boil it until it thickens
  • Cut open the quinces and discard the peel, core and seeds and cut into large slices
  • Add the quince slices to the syrup and simmer for 10-20 minutes
  • Fill the warm sterilized jars with fruit and syrup, seal and keep somewhere cool for a delicious winter dish with porridge or yogurt.

Image: Preserved quinces and quince jam

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