Preserving for the future

G Magazine

As summer closes, make use of abundant fruit and vegies with the old art of preserving.


Credit: iStockphoto

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It’s the end of the season and it’s time to harvest. Tomatoes are ready to pull off the vines and pears, apples and quinces are ripe for the picking.

There is some extraordinary fruit and veg around that is in so much abundance that there is only one thing to do and that is to bottle it. Across the nation determined food lovers are taking their home grown bounty or the best from the market and preparing it for an extended afterlife in glass to last over winter.

The economics of growing your own and preserving your own plays out in so many ways. The migrants to Australia from Greece and Italy in the 1950s would plant their suburban gardens with fruit and veg. They would eat what was in season and preserve the excess. They were peasants. Peasant in English has poor connotations. But the same word in Italian, Greek, French or Spanish simply means a person from the land; a person connected to the earth they live on. They were the original European sustainable humans. They made their own pasta, salami, tomato sauce, even wine and spirits!

Preserving seasonal bounty is simple. Collect large jars with good lids, 500 ml is a good size. Wash them well and keep them in a box – chips around the rim can effect the quality of the seal. There is an Australian company called Fowlers Vacola (try www.bakeandbrew.com.au) that sells very thick jars and lids and rubber washers. They are initially expensive at around $6 each but with care will last a lifetime.

Select good fruit, wash well and cut out any discoloured pieces. Quarter and core fruit and cut into wedges. Peel vegetables such as carrots. Sterilise jars by placing in a large pot and bringing to the boil – it’s also important to remember to make sure you don’t shock the glass by putting anything too hot into it the jars or putting them into water that is too hot – always raise the temperature gradually. Layer the produce attractively. Cover fruit in a sugar syrup that is made by boiling 500 g of sugar in a litre of water then allow it to cool. Cover vegetables in water in which 20 g of salt in dissolved per litre of water and add a squeeze of lemon juice.

Put the lids on tightly then place the jars in a large pot and covered with water. Turn the heat to high and bring to the boil, when boiling reduce to a simmer. What you are doing is pasteurising – killing the bugs that make the food go off – and at the same time the air is expanding and escaping between the lid and the glass, when it cools this forms a seal. Cook pears for 50 minutes, quinces and peeled chestnuts for one hour, asparagus, lightly roasted, de-seeded and peeled red capsicum and tomatoes for 90 minutes. Remove from the water with tongs and, using a dishcloth to protect you from the heat, re-tighten the seal. Your preserved goods will last for up to 12 months and when lined up in the pantry make quite a stunning display.