Well preserved: making time for an age old pastime

ARTISAN BOTTLER: Betty Wilcox, of Coutts Crossing, with some of her preserved produce.
ARTISAN BOTTLER: Betty Wilcox, of Coutts Crossing, with some of her preserved produce. Jojo Newby

WHEN Betty Wilcox married and moved to a farm at Levenstrath in 1955, she found the time, the produce and the joy in making preserved vegetables.

Her late husband, Con, would often have surplus fruit and vegies, so Betty invested in a preserving outfit.

"We used to have a lovely summer garden down near the waterhole," she said.

"When I first moved out there, at the end of that dirt road, I didn't care for it a real lot … it was always so quiet.

"But I grew to love it."

"You have to take your can't just throw them in."

Betty still lives in that same home, and still delicately prepares her preserves; a task which takes at least six hours per jar.

"You have to take your time … you can't just throw them in," she said.

"They are all uniform in size and fit perfectly … you could turn the jar upside down and none of the vegetables would go out of place."

Mrs Wilcox sources her produce from Farmer Lou's in Grafton; a task which takes time in itself.

Farmer Lou's Paul Felice said Mrs Wilcox's visits were like clockwork.

"She's been coming in here, every Friday, for years and years. When she's picking out produce for preserving, she's in the shop for hours at a time," he said.

Mrs Wilcox has been attending shows along the North Coast for well over 50 years and has been sending preserves to the Sydney and Brisbane shows since 1966.

But Mrs Wilcox is known for much more than just her preserves.

She has been breeding Indian game poultry since 1977 and was instrumental in the revival of the Grafton District Poultry Club in that same year.

She was the secretary of the club for 14 years and is now a patron and life member. She's written a book on poultry and is a member of the Indian Game Club of Australia.

Mrs Wilcox is a member of the Grafton Antique Bottle Club and a collector with Australian Antique Match Boxes.

"I've got a lot of interests to keep me busy," she said.

Topics:  horticulture