Often we are so quick to pigeon hole. We tell ourselves that there are those who preserve and those who don’t and promptly push ourselves into the latter hole. Aren’t preservers a particular pedigree who can cajole fruit into perfectly set jellies and jams all showy with blue ribbons? Yes, there certainly is that high end calibre of cook but with reducing food waste as motivation, lofty ideals of that “just so” Seville marmalade can be quietly put to bed. Nature’s bounty is there for the taking for all and those with an eco mind, and a bit of gumption can harness it too. Here are a few ideas to capture a little bit of Summer sunshine and ripeness to store away for cooler months.
- There are as many ways to preserve food as there are Summer fruits. Don’t limit yourself to jam making. Consider pickling, salting, drying, fermenting, bottling, even freezing. See, anyone can be a preserver!
- Stick to a recipe. I adore a make it up as I go along approach to cooking but this is one area where it’s best (and safest) to follow the rules. Explore the library shelves for some inspiration and direction turning to gurus like Sally Wise and Pam the Jam for fail safe recipes and tips.
- Drying food need not mean the investment of a flashy dehydrator nor even turning on the oven. A large table in the sun, some secondhand biscuit trays and some protective netting such as an up cycled net curtain. It’s best to use ripe and clean fruit to ensure flavour is optimised (an underripe peach will still taste like an underripe peach when it’s dried) and arrange your slices to maximise air flow. Allow 2-4 days to fully dry, turning once a day and bringing trays inside overnight.
- Re-examine up your ideas about freezing and move away from outdated notions of flavourless and nutrition less fare. Frozen pesto, tomato passata, slices of fruit and gently blanched broccoli suspend flavour in time and allow you to quickly preserve a garden or farmers’ market glut.
- Pickled vegetables lift a simple cheese and sourdough sandwich to new heights. From the marriage of vinegar, salt, sugar and spices all manner of vegetables can be bottled and kept humming away in the fridge until a piquant kick is needed to make a meal stand up to attention.
- Sterilising sounds scary but it’s not. It simply means heating the glass (and lids) to a temperature that kills off any bacteria that may cause the food to spoil. Simply wash your jars in very hot soapy water then dry them in a low oven for about ten minutes. Lids can be boiled in a small saucepan of water.
- Along with adopting a weekly scrappy stock ritual, pick through your fruit bowl and fridge crisper and get into the habit of stewing those lacklustre apples and pears. Simply core, peel and chop, add a little water and cook on a medium heat until they relax into mush. Enjoy over yoghurt or porridge with a side helping of pride and capability.
- Preserve things you actually like to eat. Although the sight of ruby jars of beetroot lined up in your pantry is certainly alluring, if you can’t stand their earthy taste then you’ll be wasting your time along with all that beautiful produce. You can’t possibly save all the food so do your best and harness the glut of fruit and veg that lights you up.