Food preservation: Sugar and spice…

Having started with some fermentation and pickling, we thought we’d step it up a notch and try some sweet treats. We’d love to hear of any other methods you know about.

Syrup

Similar to brining but using sugar instead of salt. Simply add hot syrup and blanched fruit to sterilised jars and seal immediately. Water process if desired. As it cools a vacuum will form, allowing you to store for 1 year to quite a few depending on the temperature. More details here. We tried some nectarines:

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Jam and Jelly

Straightforward enough, just requires lengthy cooking. Add fruit, sugar, lemon, (and pectin if you’re that way inclined); cook till desired thickness is reached. Jar and water process if required. For jelly strain fruit to remove any seeds and skins. For our recipe, see here. We made blackberry jam:

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Chutney

Cook sugar and vinegar gently until the sugar is dissolved, stirring frequently. Add vegetables and simmer the mixture until the vegetables have softened and the consistency is thick and syrupy, with no runny liquid. Place the hot chutney into hot sterilised jars and seal. We haven’t tried this one yet but will add a picture when we do.

Pectin

Pectin is needed to thicken jams and jellies. Fruit naturally contain some pectin – in varying amounts – adding extra makes the thickening process easier. Making your own pectin is not as hard as it sounds. Just boil chopped, cooking apples in water with a little lemon juice, strain the apples out, and simmer the liquid down again. That’s it. We gave it a go:

Testing for consistency

Testing your preserves to make sure they will be the right consistency is very simple; just put a couple of saucers in the freezer while you’re cooking your jam/chutney. When you suspect your product may be ready drop a small amount on a cold saucer. Allow to cool for a minute, then tip the saucer to see if it runs, and pull your finger through the middle to see if the path remains clear or if the contents refill the gap. If your product is not setting well yet, return the saucer to the freezer, continue cooking, and repeat at intervals till the desired consistency is reached.

Water bath processing (canning)

This is done at the end of many preserving processes in order to ‘can’ the product. Essentially, you fill hot sterilised jars with a hot product, seal, and boil the filled jars for the required time (according to the recipe you’re following). The hot product is pasteurised during cooking to avoid botulism and as the jars cool a vacuum seal is created which avoids oxidation. This results in a product that can be stored at room temperature rather than in the fridge, and it will last much longer. Water bath processing is not necessary if you’re putting your product straight in the fridge for immediate use.

 

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