A TIME TO Preserve

Words by Jemma Slevin

It’s all too easy to pick up goodies in the supermarket, but honestly this method is so easy and the results are so wonderful, you’ll have gasps of ‘oos’ and ‘ahhhs’ over the festive table.

 

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Autumn is synonymous with harvest time, and if you have more than a couple of fruit trees, currant bushes or a decent-sized vegetable patch, you’ll be vastly exceeding your five portions a day throughout September and October. When you grow your own fruit and veg you want to make the most of harvest time, but you may well have enough produce to last into the following year. 

 

Stories of people having chutney recipes handed down from their greatgrandmother can be offputting, because it suggests there are secret skills involved in making jams, jellies, chutneys and pickles. Not at all. It’s surprisingly quick and easy. Shops such as Lakeland are an easy source for the kit you’ll need, from jars to old-fashioned gingham lid covers. Preserving your own produce is also ideal for more delicate vegetables and soft fruit, berries and currants that can’t be left in the shed or dried in an airing cupboard.

 

 

The tips below will also be useful if you’re a preserves novice: 

 

  • Don’t make too much. There’s nothing more dispiriting than finding you still have 5 unopened jars of last year’s plum chutney when the next plum season has already arrived. 
  • Only use good fruit and vegetables. For all the talk about windfall chutney, you’re better to use unblemished produce if you want preserves to stay edible and safe. 
  • Follow instructions about sterilising jars, lids etc.
  • A jam thermometer is invaluable for telling if your jam is cooked – much easier than old-fashioned solutions involving multiple chilled saucers and water.

 

And if you don’t have your own garden fruit to preserve pop to your local farmers’ market to see what’s in season. Here is a little selection of our favourites, all of which have recipes on the internet… 

These rum soaked figs are so incredibly delicious. The small amount of alcohol along with refrigeration preserves them for weeks and weeks without the need of canning or freezing. You can enjoy these straight from the jar or use them as a topping (along with their delicious syrup) on top of creamy whole milk ricotta cheese, whole milk yogurt, or mascarpone cheese. 

Spiced Peaches in brandy make an ideal gift at Christmas. Delicately scented with cloves, mace and cinnamon, and swimming in a good dose of brandy, they combine traditional Christmas flavours and make a delicious dessert.

PRESERVED MULLED Pears

 

Makes about 1.3 Kg of mulled pears to pot. You will need large, tall preserving pots, or jars, with wide necks, which can seal well. The whole of the pears need to be covered completely by the mulled wine. 

Ingredients

  • 1.8kg small firm pears
  • 1 orange (zest only)
  • 1 lemon (zest only)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks (halved)
  • 12 whole cloves
  • 5cm fresh root ginger (peeled and finelysliced)
  • 300g granulated sugar
  • 750ml light red wine (bottle of Merlot)

 

Method 

Peel the pears, leaving the stalks in the top intact. Peel very thin, curly strips of rind from the orange and lemon, use a citrus zester.

Pack the pears and citrus rind into the large sterilized preserving jars, dividing the spices evenly between the jars. 

Preheat the oven to 120°C 

Put the sugar and wine in a large pan and heat gently, stirring, until the sugar has completely dissolved.

Bring the mixture to the boil, then cook for 5 minutes. 

Pour the wine syrup over the pears, making sure that there are no air pockets and that the fruits are completely covered with the syrup.

Cover the jars with their lids, but do not seal. Place them in the oven and cook for 3 hours. 

Carefully remove the jars from the oven, place on a dry dishtowel and seal. Leave the jars to cool completely, then label and store in a cool, dark place. 

To check that jars are properly sealed, leave them to cool for 24 hours, then loosen the clasp.

Very carefully, try lifting the jar by the lid alone: if the jar is sealed properly, the lid should be fixed firmly enough to take the weight of the pot. 

Replace the clasp and store until ready to use. Consume within a few months. 

 

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