Monday, February 20, 2012

Preserve yourself

Home preserving is thought by many to be out dated craft. Almost something we don’t admit to, lest people think we have nothing better to do with time than brew strange concoctions from weeds and leaves, or we are secret crazy housecoat wearing nana types, who pinch babies cheeks in supermarket queues and iron everything including undies.

Yummy mummies may buy their chutney’s and preserves from trendy farmers markets but this mummy makes own, Yes, I am preserver! And, no, I don’t wear housecoat or curlers.

Preserving isn’t occupation for filling time while husband hunts for missing crochet hook. Home preserving is simply great cheap way to store seasons’ surplus.
A pantry full of pickles for household that never eats cold meat is waste of effort, but shelf of homemade chutney for folk who enjoy curry, picnics, toasted sandwiches, cheese boards and antipasto is treasure.
Kids love preserved fruit, in yogurt, for baby food, on cereal and porridge and in desserts.

1 ½ kilos of fruit or vegetables is sufficient for 3-4 jars of chutney or jam  and 1 kg stone fruit yields approximately one big jar of bottled fruit for sumptuous crumble, tart or breakfast topping in depths of winter.
Much time involved in preserving is cooking time, not hands on time. So chutney cooks while you read, or listen to the spelling words, or catch up on Coro St.

A big saucepan or stock pot is fine for bottling fruits. A preserving pan is useful but not essential

Preserved or Bottled Peaches - Use the same method to preserve apricots, plums, pears or pineapple.

I prefer a light syrup for preserving fruit, so the fruit flavours are not overpowered by the sugar. I use a ratio of 1 cup of sugar to 3 cups of water.
To fill a standard large preserving jar you will need around 1 kg of fruit. Ideally use ripe un blemished fruit. Fruit that is slightly under-ripe will develop good colour and flavour once cooked, so don’t discount the fruit of an old tree that won’t fully ripen, or a bag of fruit picked for sale too soon.

Sterilize the jars you intend to use by placing them in an oven heated to 120° for at least 15 minutes. Meanwhile combine the sugar and water in a large pan and bring to a gentle simmer.

Prepare the seals by pouring boiling water over them and letting them become flexible.
Wash the peaches, peel them and either leave whole or cut into halves, quarters or slices– if you leave them whole the stones can be easily picked out when the fruit is served.
Cook the peaches in the syrup until soft when pricked with the point of a knife. They should be just tender,
Using tongs lift a hot clean jar out of the oven and place it in a heatproof dish. Pack the fruit into the hot jar. Real preserving experts make an art of filling the jar in neat layers stacking sliced fruit in a herringbone pattern up the sides of the jar, the rest of us just pile it in.
When the jar is full to the rim, ladle in some very hot syrup then slip a long flexible knife (a filleting knife is ideal) down the insides of the jar to release air bubbles then quickly top up the syrup again and place on a seal so that when you press the seal down, excess syrup flows down the sides of the jar. Keeping pressure on top of the seal so no air gets in, screw the screw band into place.
Set the jar aside to cool. When completely cool, wash all the sticky syrup off the sides of the jar, add a label with the date and store until required.
As the contents cools a vacuum is formed. The seal will contract and become slightly concave and will give a reassuring pop, confirming the contents are fresh when you come to open the jar.

If using:
Apricots - Wash, cut into halves and remove the stone.
Pineapple - Peel and slice removing tough core or cut into chunks.
Plums: Wash and cut into halves, remove the stone or leave whole.
Pears: Peel, cut into halves or quarters and remove core.
Then cook in the syrup as described above.

Trouble shooting
Make sure every utensil is sterilised and that the jar, seal, fruit and syrup are scalding hot. If your seal does not form a vacuum when cool the filling was not hot enough. Remove seal and reheat in boiling water, place the full jar in the microwave and heat till filling is boiling hot. Pour boiling water into the top of the jar until it overflows (yes over the top of the existing fruit and syrup, you are just topping up and ensuring a good seal).
Replace the seal in the manner described above.


  1. I think preserving is wonderful. Everything tastes so much fresher.

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