P. HOW TO STORE & PRESERVE FOOD

1.    Storing
2.    Preserving
3.    Fermenting
4.    Bottling

I always find it very satisfying storing and preserving summer food to enjoy through the winter. There are many ways to store and preserve food, but I will concentrate on those that we have tried and are still using – in other words the ways we know about, as well as a few that we have not tried yet, but would like to soon. I haven’t included freezing, because I wanted to concentrate on more traditional methods that are low-tech, even though we do freeze food as well. I have also not included too much preservation that involves lots of sugar; there are other ways of preserving that are must healthier.

Food in Our Store – Squash, Dried Pears & Apples, Bottled & Pickled Fruit, Onions & Corn

Food in Our Store – Squash, Dried Pears & Apples, Bottled & Pickled Fruit, Onions & Corn

 

1. STORING 

FRUIT & VEGETABLES

Apples:

Careful picking is all-important, because damaged or bruised fruit will rot in store. If they have obvious signs of brown holes made by codling moth larvae, or if they have fallen to the ground and there is a good chance they have been bruised, these can be used for juicing or cooking straight away, just cut out any rotten bits and eat or juice the rest. Apples must always be picked with their stalks.

The test for ripeness is to lift the fruit in your hand and twist it very gently. If it is ripe and ready, it will part from the branch easily; if it does not part easily, leave it for a few days more and try again.

Apples in basket

When picking, support the fruit with the palm of the hand. Do not squeeze the fruit, and, above all, never tip a basket of apples into another container with the inevitable tumbling and bumping. Ideally pick each apple and place into a box or basket lined with an old blanket, and then set the apples out into storage boxes, using layers of the indented paper-mashie sheets between them, that you will probably find at the back of your local store or super market. You can often pick them up at the back of the store where they throw out cardboard boxes etc.

Apples in paper-mashieThe trays keep the apples from touching each other, so if one becomes rotten it does not pass it on to the others. These trays can be used for sprouting your seed potatoes in the spring as well.

 

 

 

Another way to store them is to rap each apple in newspaper and pack them in a box, however this way it is more difficult to keep an eye on them. Another way is to place them on several layers of newspaper on a shelf, placing crumpled newspaper between each apple.

Apples with newspaper dividers

Apples with newspaper dividers

This way the air can flow round them and you can easily see if any are rotting. Store them in a cool spare room or frost free shed or store room. Check them regularly through the winter.

We store them in cardboard boxes we get from our local shop, deep enough for two layers with paper-mashie sheets at the bottom and in between the layers. The boxes are stacked three high on shelves in our storage room.

Carrots:

If you live in semi-subtropical, subtropical or Mediterranean type climates with gentle winters, then you can leave carrots in the ground overwinter. If you live in colder parts, or have heavy wet soil, or suffer from slugs and/or carrot root fly, or you just want to clear the ground for a green manure crop or winter salad crops, then digging them up and storing is the best advice.

To store: cut the foliage off 2½cm (1in) from the roots and leave the carrots on the soil to dry in the sun for the soil to flake off without washing. Store the undamaged ones in boxes or tubs. Add 3cm (1in) moist peat, peat substitute or leaf mould to the bottom of your box and place a layer of carrots on the peat not touching each other. This is to ensure that if one rots it will not rot its neighbour. Then add another 3cm (1in) of peat and continue the layers finishing with a final layer of peat. Store in a frost proof, but cool building or room. Inspect them regularly and throw out any that are rotting. We have kept carrots like this through hard winters by this method when we lived in the UK.

Moist peat or leaf mould is better than sand because it keeps the moisture content of the carrots reasonably constant. If you store them in dry sand, dry peat or untreated sawdust this will draw out the moisture from the carrots and they will shrivel up.

Celeriac:

If you have harsh winters you can lift them in April (southern hemisphere) or October (northern hemisphere), trim the tops off, rub off any excess soil and store them in peat or moist sand in a box in layers as for carrots. You can leave them in the ground and earth up the roots with soil, or cover them with straw or leaf mould if you think it won’t be too cold for them during the winter. We have found that they sometimes rot when left in, so we tend to store them when the weather starts to get cold in the autumn.

Parsnips:

Parsnips are hardier than carrots and unless you live where the winters are very harsh, I would leave them in most of the winter. Here in Nelson New Zealand we leave them in until we need them. It has always been said that they are not worth eating until they have experienced some frost, which makes them sweeter. Gardeners in the old days in England used to dig them up and leave them out to get a little frosted, before storing them away in the same way as carrots.

The only problem with leaving them in the ground is that they may get canker rot of the crown, which will continue to spread downwards as the winter continues and you could lose the lot.  Keep an eye out for this and dig up any that are affected, cut off the infected parts and eat the rest – or – you may have to sow later in late spring or even early summer for smaller but healthier ones that are easier to store in peat as for carrots.

Potatoes:

In the warmer parts of the world you can leave the potatoes in the ground, but for most of us we need to harvest and store them for the winter. Even if you don’t get frosts the slugs might get them. Also I like to get them up so I can sow some broad beans or a green manure mixture of Mustard and Oats to grow to over winter.

Using a garden fork, dig the fork in between the rows and press the handle down away from the potatoes to leaver them out of the soil. Aim not to dig the fork in too close to the potato clump so as to avoid puncturing any potatoes, which will mean those ones will rot in store. Do not try to store any that are damaged in anyway, or have signs or rot – eat them as soon as possible, cutting out the rotten or damaged bits.

Lay the potatoes out in the sun to dry for an hour or two. Then gently rub the excess soil off them, making sure there are no signs of damage, or disease. Keep the damaged ones aside to eat first and place the good ones in hessian sacks, or woven plastic sacks and store in the dark in a frost-free building or room. Keep potatoes in the dark, otherwise they will turn green and be inedible, because the green part is mildly poisonous and bitter.

Check regularly through the winter, discarding any that are rotting and rub off any sprouts that might start to grow towards spring.

Pumpkins & Squash:

Leave them on the plant as long as possible in late summer until they have hardened skins. Never break off the stalk when harvesting pumpkins and squash, for this makes a wound, which is certain to let in decay. Always cut where the stalk begins to fatten, about 5cm (2in) up the stem from the fruit. Then ideally place them on a flat tin roof of a shed in the sun to dry off and finish ripening. This will allow skins to harden and the stalks and the bottom where the flower was attached to, to dry off. This will help them to store through the winter without rotting; rotting usually starts at one or other of these points.

Any damaged ones will have to be eaten soon.

You can hang them up in nylon net bags in a cool frost-proof building, attic, dry cellar or spare room, but I have always stored ours on wooden slatted shelving in our dry cool storage area.

Whichever way you store them, check regularly through the winter for signs of rot, especially at the stalk and ex-flower ends. If you find any starting to rot, eat straight away, cutting out the rotten bit.

Salsify:

Salsify originally came from Russia and can stand quite hard winters, but if the ground freezes in winter where you live it might be better to dig up some of the crop to store like carrots in peat. Otherwise leave them in and dig them when needed through the winter.

Turnips & Swedes:

These are usually hardy enough to survive everything except the hardest winter, especially swedes.

 

BEANS

Once you are sure your beans or grains are thoroughly dry, spread them out on a sheet and throw out any that show signs of rotting, are cracked or broken, or just look withered and generally unhealthy – these will not store well, are not the best to eat, and are certainly not the ones to save to sow next year.

Having sorted them, store in sealed vermin-proof containers, or in paper bags on high shelves in a cupboard where mice cannot reach.

 

NUTS & GRAINS

We store our nuts in the cool storeroom, taking into the kitchen as much as we need at that time – they prefer to be kept cool.

Grains, like maize and quinoa, we store in plastic bins with vermin proof lids, with our hand grain mill set up nearby.

 

2. PRESERVING

DRYING:

Drying is probably the easiest way of preserving food – especially fruit. We have both a homemade ‘solar box dryer’ and a commercial electric ‘food dehydrator’.

Solar dryer plan

Solar dryer plan

Electric dehydrator

Electric dehydrator

 

 

 

The solar dryer works in the summer and the electric food dehydrator works the rest of the year.

 

 

 

Our garden solar dryer

Our garden solar dryer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However I also like the idea of the homemade flat solar dryer explained and illustrated in the GeoPathfinder website: http://www.geopathfinder.com/Solar-Food-Drying.html it looks much more efficient than my box dryer, however it does take up more room.

Geopathfinder Flat Solar Dryer

Geopathfinder Flat Solar Dryer

Geopathfinder Flat Solar Food Dryer

The top covers are not clear plastic, but black aluminium sheets, so the food dries by radiant heat, not direct sunlight. Underneath the stainless steel mesh racks, are corrugated sheets that allow an airflow creating an air exchange – the hot air and moisture passes out of the top, drawing in fresh air at the bottom.

Oven Drying: The other effective way to dry fruit is in the oven set at a very low temperature on fan – 600C (1400F), turning the slices at least once until they are dry, but not crisp, except when drying leaves like kale; in which case they should be crisp. Kale crisps are very tasty, and might be a good way to get children to eat some greens, especially if you rub the leaves with a little soy sauce before drying!

Whichever method you use to dry food it’s done by a combination of heat and air flow. In a largely dry state the food will store for a long time as long as you keep it in a sealed container, preferably with the addition of a moisture absorber like Dri-Pax, or some other make, that are easily obtainable.

Dried fruit can be rehydrated by soaking in water when needed. This is nice if you want to make a fruit salad in the winter mixed with some stored apple cut up into bits.

Apples:

Dried Apples

Dried Apples

Ezipeeler

Ezipeeler

You will need to peal, core and slice the apples into roughly 5mm (in) sliced disks.

I seriously suggest you buy a hand peeler-coring machine called the Ezipeeler if you are going to do this regularly (see below left).

Whichever way you peal, core and slice the apples you will end up with the classic apple ring. If you want to keep them from discolouring, soak them in ½ litre (1 pint) of water + the juice of a lemon, then pat dry on a paper towel. As you will see from the photo, we just dry them without soaking in lemon juice – they taste just as good! Place the disks on the trays in a single layer in your solar dryer or food hydrator or oven, and dry them, it’s that simple. How long they will dry will vary.

The waste peal and cores can be placed in an open jar or larger container with just enough filtered water (or cooled boiled water) to cover and they will start to ferment and eventually turn into cider vinegar!

Apricots:

Cut in half lengthwise, extract the stone and dry the two halves as they are.

Berries:

Blueberries, gooseberries, raspberries, strawberries, boysenberries, cranberries, kiwi berries, etc., can all be dried, but personally I prefer mine fresh.

Feijoa:

We have found feijoas can end up a bit too dry, but they can easily be rehydrated over night in a bowl of filtered water.  

Figs:

I find it very difficult to dry figs so that they are nice to eat dry; they get very chewy and the skins get too dry, unlike the ones you can buy. However, all dried fruit can be soaked in water to rehydrate them as you need them, and figs may best be used rehydrated.

Pick them when very ripe, cut them in half, length-wise and place the halves, cut side up on the drying trays. Drying them on slow produces better results. Do not over dry them so they are like cardboard.

Grapes:

You can buy raisin grapevines bred for drying; however a couple of years ago I dried some of our grapes in our solar drier and to my surprise they looked like and tasted like raisins – I have no idea why I was surprised, I should have realised they would, because that is what raisins are – dried grapes! Ideally you should dry seedless grapes, and there are grapes specifically bred to produce currants, raisins, sultanas etc. – see: ‘HOW TO GROW FRUIT’ – GRAPES.

Kiwi Fruit:

These need to be peeled and sliced into 5mm (in) thick rings.

New Zealand Cranberries:

NZ cranberries are fairly dry anyway, so drying them is easy.

Pears:

Dried Pears

Dried Pears

Dried apples are fresh tasting, but pears are sticky and sweet – yum! Pears need to be still firm for drying; peal and core as for apples, and then cut into 5mm (in) slices. They will take longer to dry, because they are wetter and higher in sugar than apples.

 

 

 

Persimmon:

Dried Persimmons

Dried Persimmons

Dried slices of persimmon are spectacularly yummy and highly recommended. Peel and cut into 5mm (in) slices, although you might want to cut the slices into smaller pieces.

 

 

 

Plums:

All types of plums, including greengages and damsons can be dried successfully. Cut them in half lengthwise, take out the stone and dry both halves whole.

Tomatoes:

The best tomatoes for drying are the beef-stake varieties, Italian or Russian types. We grow ‘Back from Tula’ which is a large dark purple-skinned variety from the Russian Caucasus – ugly, but delicious with lots of firm flesh and few seeds.

Cut in half and squeeze out the seeds, or use your fingers to scoop out the seeds, and then lay them cut side up in your dryer. Dry slowly, keeping an eye on them so they don’t get too dry, and then place in jars and top up with organic virgin olive oil. Bang the jar gently on a wooden board to shake the bubbles of air to the surface of the oil, then seal with a lid.

 

SALTING

Green Beans:

The alternative to salting green beans is fermenting them, see: FERMENTING.

Things you need:

  • A ceramic crock with a good fitting lid.
  • Preserving salt, preferably fine sea salt.
  • Freshly picked runner, or dwarf beans.

Use 4 times the weight of beans to 1 times salt – so, 1kg (2 pounds) salt for every 4kg (8 pounds) green beans. This salt quantity is a lot higher than one would use for sauerkraut, but one is not trying to ferment the beans, just preserve them. The nice thing about this method is that you can add more beans every day, all through harvest time instead of having to save them and prepare them all at once.

Method:

  1. Make sure your crock is clean by thoroughly washing and drying it.
  2. Wash your beans in cold water, then string them, cutting the ends off and any bad spots you find.
  3. Then slice them lengthwise. If your beans are very thick and tough, you might want the slice them even more than once. Slice directly down the middle, lengthwise, cutting them in half. If they are too long cut them into 5cm (2in) lengths.
  4. Start your layering in the crock by laying a 1cm (in) layer of salt on the bottom of the crock, then lay your first layer 500g (18oz) of beans, then 125g (4½oz) of salt, then beans then salt etc.
  5. Lightly tamp each layer down with the end of a rolling pin.
  6. Keep adding to the crock until you’re harvest is over, or until your crock is full, but make sure to leave a 2.5cm (1in) space at the top of the crock for expansion.
  7. Store in a cool place for at least a week before taking some out, as you need them. They will store all winter if you don’t eat them first.
  8. To cook them you have to put them in a saucepan and rinse them several times with cold water and then leave them to soak in cold water for about 30 minutes, otherwise they will be too salty to eat.
  9. Then drain, then rinse again and add enough water for cooking, then cook slowly until tender, checking them frequently as they cook.

Lemons & Limes:

Limes pickled

Limes pickled

I have used this method for preserving limes, as limes have a definite season and half the year there are no fresh ones, unlike lemons which are available fresh 365 days a year. Both limes and lemons lose their bitterness and strength, whilst still retaining their flavour. They are great as an added treat with roasted winter roots, or added to a salad mix.

Ingredients:

  • 10 lemons
  • ½ cup sea salt
  • Chillis, & cardamom pods  (optional)
  • Boiled, filtered water
  • An earthenware pot or airtight glass jar

Method:

  1. Wash and soak the lemons (or limes) in cold filtered water for 2 to 3 days changing the water several times.
  2. Drain the lemons; then partially quarter them lengthwise, leaving the ends attached.
  3. Slide one teaspoon of sea salt into each lemon, and store them all in an earthenware pot or airtight glass jar.
  4. Cover the lemons with filtered water that has been boiled, then cooled.
  5. Seal the pot or jar, waiting one month before consuming.

Olives:

There are several ways to preserve olives:

  • Dry salting
  • Wet salting (saline solution)
  • Water Curing, then saline preservation
  • Lye Curing – soaking in wood ash (lye), then water soaking and finally saline preservation

Fresh olives off the tree have high levels of oleuropein, a component in olives that gives them a sharp, bitter taste, making them inedible. All 4 ways of treating them neutralises the oleuropein, bringing out the natural olive flavour, but I have found the first two methods lead to an over salty end product, so I recommend the last two methods – Water Curing and Lye Curing. Water Curing is the best way to cure ripe black olives, and Lye Curing is best for firm green olives. (See chapter 10 for details: ‘HOW TO GROW FRUIT’ – FRUIT TREES A-Z – OLIVES Water Curing and Lye Curing).

 

3. FERMENTING

Fermenting is a form of preserving fresh vegetables that also increases vitamin C and other vitamins and minerals, and is a pro-biotic for the digestive system.

Enzymes are essential for the digestion and proper absorption of nutrients from our food. Our bodies manufacture enzymes, but if we rely too heavily on the ones we make, rather than supplying a good proportion as part of our diet, this puts a huge strain on our bodies. Cooking and pasteurization destroys enzymes, but by ensuring that we include fresh raw and fermented foods as part of our diet, we will have a whole range of enzymes to help us digest and get the greatest benefit from the food we eat.

LACTIC ACID FERMENTATION

How to make Sauerkraut & other Fermented Vegetables:

Sauerkraut

Makes 1 litre

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium cabbage, cored and shredded
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons whey (if not available use an additional 1 tablespoon sea salt)

The easiest way the make whey is to buy a tub of thick organic yogurt and place in cheese cloth, tied up and hang above a bowl overnight. The whey will drip into the bowl, and the yogurt will be thick, which can be made into soft cheese with the addition of crushed garlic, ground black pepper and salt.

Method:

  1. In a bowl, mix cabbage with caraway seeds, sea salt and whey
  2. Pound with a wooden pounder, meat hammer or the end of a wooden rolling pin, for about 10 minutes to release juices
  3. Place in a litre sized glazed pottery jar and press down with the pounder, until the juices come to the top of the cabbage

Ceramic Pot

4. The top of the cabbage should be at least 3cm (1in) below the top of the jar
5. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for at least 3-7 days before transferring to cold storage. The lactic acid should have been created over several days and should taste like half way between lemon juice and vinegar.
6. The sauerkraut can be eaten immediately, but it improves with age

 

 

Fermented Celeriac & Carrot

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups grated celeriac, tightly packed
  • 1 cup grated carrots, tightly packed
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 4 tablespoon whey (if not available use a additional 1 tablespoon salt)

Method:

  1. In a bowl mix all the ingredients and pound with a wooden pounder or meat hammer to release juices.
  2. Place in a 1 litre wide mouth mason jar and press down the contents firmly with the pounder or meat hammer until juices cover the grated celeriac and carrots
  3. The top of the mixture should be at least 3cm (1in) below the rim of the jar
  4. Cover tightly and leave at room temperature about 3 days before transferring to cold storage or the fridge
  5. Use from a week onwards as a condiment

 

Pickled Daikon Radish

Makes 1 litre

This is my favourite way of using Daikon, however grated fresh in salad is also good.

Ingredients:

  • 1 – 1½ kg daikon radish, peeled and grated
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons whey (if not available, use an additional tablespoon of salt) – whey can be extracted from thick full cream yogurt by hanging it in a muslin cloth, tied and hung over a bowl to collect the whey. The waste product – the thickened yogurt – can then be used as ‘cheese’, or for making smoothies.

Method:

  1. Place all ingredients in a bowl, mix well and pound with wooden pounder or meat hammer to release juices
  1. Place radish mixture in a litre-sized masonry jar and press down lightly with a wooden pounder or meat hammer until juices come to the top of the radish mixture. The top of the radish mixture should be at least 3cm (1in) below the top of the jar
  2. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about 3 days before transferring to cold storage
  3. You can use at 3 days old, but it the flavour increases the longer you keep it. Traditional sauerkraut was kept 6 months before eating

 

Ginger Carrots

This recipe is a great introduction to fermented food and is a favourite with most people.

Makes 1 litre

Ingredients:

 

  • 4 cups grated carrots, tightly packed
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 4 tablespoon whey (if not available use an additional 1 tablespoon sea salt)

Method:

  1. Place all ingredients in a bowl, mix well and pound with wooden pounder or meat hammer to release juices
  1. Place radish mixture in a litre-sized masonry jar and press down lightly with a wooden pounder or meat hammer until juices come to the top of the carrot mixture.
  2. The top of the carrot mixture should be at least 3cm (1in) below the top of the jar
  3. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for at least 3 days before transferring to cold storage
  4. You can use at 3 days old, but it the flavour increases the longer you keep it. Traditional sauerkraut was kept 6 months before eating

 

Kimchi

Makes 2 litres

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of Chinese cabbage, cored and shredded
  • 1 bunch of green onions, chopped
  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • ½ cup of grated daikon radish (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger root
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
  • ½ teaspoon dried chilli flakes
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons whey (if not available use an additional tablespoon of sea salt)

Method:

  1. Place all the ingredients in a bowl
  2. Pound with a wooden pounder, meat hammer or the end of a wooden rolling pin, for about 10 minutes to release juices
  3. Place in a litre sized masonry jar and press down with the pounder, until the juices come to the top of the cabbage
  4. The top of the ingredients should be at least 3cm (1in) below the top of the jar
  5. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for at least 3 days before transferring to cold storage
  6. Kimchi can be eaten immediately, but it improves with age

 

Gherkins

Ingredients:

  • 10-20 gherkins (depending on size)

1 tablespoon mustard seeds

  • 2 tablespoon fresh dill, snipped
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons whey (if not available use an additional 1 tablespoon sea salt)
  • 1 cup filtered water

Method:

  1. Wash the gherkins well and place in a glazed ceramic pot with a sealed lid as in the photo, or large glass jar with a good lid.

Glass Jar2. Combine the remaining ingredients and pour over the gherkins.

3. The top of the lid should be at least 3cm (1in) below the top of the lid.

4. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for 3-7 days before storing in a cool store, or in a fridge.

 

 

 

Green Beans

Makes 2 litres

  • 3 litres (6 pints) filtered water
  • 120g (4oz) salt
  • 710g (1½ pounds) small green beans
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 flowering dill heads, or 3 to 4 dill fronds plus 1½ tablespoons dill seeds (optional)

Method:

  1. Heat the water just until the salt dissolves, then cool to room temperature.
  2. Trim the stem ends from the beans. Then layer them and the other ingredients in either a 4 litre (8½ pints) crock or a couple of 2 litre (4 pint) jars.
  3. Cover with the brine. Weigh the beans down and place the crock or jars in a relatively dark place at room temperature.
  4. The crock or jars should be covered, but not tightly sealed, so that gases produced during fermentation can escape.
  5. If using a crock without a lid, cover it with a plate or board and drape with a clean dish towel. If using jars, screw lids on loosely or remove the rubber seal if they have them.
  6. Bubbles will appear in 4 or 5 days.
  7. Skim any floating scum off the surface daily, don’t worry it’s natural. Taste occasionally.
  8. The beans should be fully pickled in about 2 weeks. Once they are ready, just refrigerate the beans in the brine. They will continue to ferment in the fridge, but at a much slower rate.
  9. Eat within a couple of months.

 

4. BOTTLING

You can bottle fruit, tomatoes, peppers, etc. Bottling fruit usually involves adding quite a bit of sugar, which helps to retain the natural colour of the fruit, as well as helping to preserve the fruit along with the fruits acidity. It is possible to bottle fruit without added sugar, but the colour is lost in the process (see sugar free bottling recipes below).

A look in most cooking books, will explain the general principles about bottling fruit and how to bottle specific fruit, so I will briefly describe the processes which you can adapt for different fruit.

Preserving Bottles

There are several types of bottles for bottling fruit. It is essential that you use only jars that have a vacuum seal. Either metal disks with a plastic seal coat on the underside for screw top jars. There are several makes of this version that you can buy. The disks should be renewed after each use. The other type is a jar with a spring-clip, a glass lid and rubber seal. The seals need changing after 2 or 3 uses because they will eventually stretch. Both the disks and rubber seals can be bought at the shops that sell the bottles.

Screw-top vacuum seal jars

Screw-top vacuum seal jars

Spring–clip Jars with rubber seal

Spring–clip Jars with rubber seal

                     

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maintaining sterile conditions is the most important thing. The bottles, the jars, and the rubber seals and lids all need to be sterilised. The fruit and the liquid they are covered with need to be sterilised. If you achieve that, and it is not difficult, your food will be healthy to eat when you open the bottle.

There are several ways to achieve this. You can place the bottles of fruit in a large pan of water brought to the boil, but this method is unnecessarily complicated, having a big enough pan to cover the bottles – so I have described the oven method, which to my mind is easier and safer.

Oven Method

  1. Pack the jars with the fruit, pushing the fruit down gently with the handle of a wooden spoon, but do not add any liquid at this stage
  2. Cover the jars with their lids, but do not seal them at this stage
  3. Place the jars on a sheet of cardboard in the centre of your oven
  4. Set the oven at 1200C (2480F)
  5. Leave in the oven for between 45 to 90 minutes (see below for details)
  6. In the meantime place the lids, or rubber seals in a pan of water and boil for 3 minutes. Leave in the water
  7. Bring the covering water or liquid to the boil for 3-5 minutes
  8. Take the bottles out of the oven when finished, with oven gloves, and place on a board or several layers of paper on the work top
  9. Immediately pour the liquid over the fruit, filling to the brim
  10. Attach the seals or disks to the bottles and seal

Oven Times

  • Up to 4 x ½kg (1 pound) jars – 55 to 70 minutes
  • 5-10 ½kg (1 pound) jars – 75 to 90 minutes

Sugarless Method

You don’t need to bottle fruit with added sugar; however, sugar helps the fruit keep its bright colour and firm texture, but it is not needed to prevent fruit going off.

However, there are other things you can do to maintain its colour and firmness.

  1. When bottling without sugar, use high quality fruit, if anything, use just ripe fruit. Overripe fruit will soften excessively.
  2. To prevent the darkening of light-coloured fruit, several treatments may be used to prevent or retard darkening.

a)   One is to coat the fruit as it is cut with a solution of 1 teaspoon, crystalline ascorbic acid in one cup of water.

b)   Another is to drop the cut pieces in a solution of water and ascorbic acid and lemon juice. Use 1 teaspoon, ascorbic acid and ¾ cup lemon juice to 3½ litres (7 pints) of water.

c)    You can also add ascorbic acid to the bottling juices or liquids. This will help keep the fruit from darkening during storage. Use ¼ to ½ teaspoon crystalline ascorbic acid per litre (2 pints) of fruit.

Natural Substitutes

Another alternative is to bottle the fruit in fruit juice. This is not sugar free, but I prefer this to using refined white sugar.

a)   Apple juice works well with peaches, pears, apricots, plums, sweet cherries and obviously apples. It can be diluted with extra water to reduce the apple flavour.

b)   Pineapple juice works well with pears or peaches. Pineapple juice gives a fresher flavour than canned pineapple juice.

c)    White grape juice works well with pears, peaches, or apricots; and red grape juice compliments plums and red cherries.

d)   When canning peaches or pears in fruit juice, a stick of cinnamon can be added to each jar for added flavour.

 

Apple & Pear Molasses

Here is a final sugar-free ‘Jam’, similar to my mum’s quince ‘cheese’. This is an old German recipe.

Things Needed

  • ½kg (1 pound) Apples or Pears
  • Juice extractor
  • Bottling jars & lids, or rubber washers

Method

  1. You can use damaged fruit, but cut out the damaged bits
  2. With a juice extractor remove the juice, and bring the juice to a boil over low heat
  3. Simmer for several hours, stirring regularly until the water evaporates; the resulting syrup may become very thick
  4. Pour it into jars while hot and screw the lids on
  5. It will keep well without sterilising

 

Bottled Tomatoes

Bottled Tomatoes

Bottled Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a fruit and can be bottled with little or no sugar; the tomatoes acidity and sweetness, along with some salt and a little sugar, ensures their preservation. Peppers, on the other hand, lack acidity, so they are usually bottled with added vinegar and lemon juice (see recipe below).

Ingredients:

  • 1¼ times the amount of tomatoes you need to fill your bottling jars
  • Enough water to fill the jars 

Method:

  1. Set the oven at 1200C (2480F).
  2. Pour the water into a pan and bring to the boil.
  3. Place the rubber rings or lids in a pan of water and boil for 5 minutes to sterilise.
  4. Slice a nick on the bottom of each tomato with a sharp knife.
  5. Place some of the tomatoes at a time in the boiling water for 10 seconds then take them out with a slotted spoon and place into cold water in a sink or bowl.
  6. When they are all done, peal the skins off the tomatoes and place them in the jars, pushing them down, and place any left over in a bowl.
  7. Bring back to the boil the water used to scorch the tomatoes for 5 minutes after adding some salt to taste; this tomato flavoured water will be used to fill the jars.
  8. Place the jars and bowl of extra tomatoes in the oven for 1½ hours with the glass lids down, or a patty tin on top to stop the tomatoes from scorching.
  9. The tomatoes will cook and settle down, so after cooking take out the bottles and place on a wooden board or several layers of newspaper and top up the bottles with the extra tomatoes from the bowl.
  10. Immediately pour the liquid used to scorch the skins of the tomatoes into the jars, filling close to the top.
  11. Drain the rings or lids and place in position.
  12. Seal the bottles.

 

Marinated Roasted Red Bell Peppers

Bottled Peppers

Bottled Peppers

In this recipe lemon juice and vinegar are added, because peppers lack the acidity of tomatoes that helps to preserve them.

Ingredients:

  • 2kg (4 pounds) firm, fresh, clean red bell peppers
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, quartered
  • 3 x ½ litre (1 pint) bottling jars

Method:

  1. Remove the rubber seals from the bottling jars and place in a pan and cover them with water. Put onto boil for a minimum of 3 minutes to sterilise them. Leave in the water until needed.
  2. Place the bottling jars, without their rubber seals, in an over set at 1200C (2480F) for 20 minutes.
  3. Wipe the peppers clean and cut off the stalk end and discard, and scoop out the seeds and white membranes with a teaspoon
  4. Place the peppers on thick baking tray and char the skins all over with a chef’s, or DIY gas torch. Alternately, char the peppers over a gas ring, turning regularly until black. It is important to char the peppers fast and furious, so as not to ‘cook’ the flesh, but still keeping it firm.
  5. When the peppers are all well blistered and blackened, place in a non-reactive bowl and cover. (The steam from the hot peppers will help dislodge the skins.) Once the peppers have cooled enough to handle, rub off the skins, whilst running them under a tap.
  6. Put the lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil and salt in a pan (not aluminium) and bring to the boil – boiling for 10 minutes stirring occasionally to dissolve the salt.
  7. Take the bottles out of the oven with oven gloves and place of a board.
  8. Cut the peppers into quarters and place in the sterilised bottles with the pieces of garlic placed in the layers. Press down as you add them.
  9. Immediately pour the boiling preserving juice over the peppers, covering them and leaving only a little space at the top of the bottle.
  10. Drain the water off the sterilised rings or disks and fix them in place, then seal the jars.

 

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