preserves

Enjoying then preserving our apple crop

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With our first good crop of apples this year, there have been plenty of apple-based recipes. This includes a delightful apple and marmalade cake from River Cottage: Fruit every day!, plenty of apple crumbles, apple pies, and the like.

Still, two people (even with friends) can’t easily get through four buckets of apples. So onto preserving!

I started by creating some jars of apple and mint jelly, using a recipe from Preserves: River Cottage Handbook No.2.

Apple and mint -- yum!
Apples and mint — yum!
Straining the liquid overnight, to form the basis for the jelly
Straining the liquid overnight, to form the basis for the jelly

The apples are cooked down whole, pips and all, until soft. The pulp is then strained through a muslin cloth (or equivalent) over night. The resulting liquid (thick with pectin) is then cooked with sugar until it sets (this took a bit of convincing!). The result is a light jelly with an enjoyable hint of mint — perfect for roast lamb!

Another pile of apples, ready to be processed
Another pile of apples, ready to be processed

I then moved onto apple sauce. I hunted through my collection of cookbooks, and Canning for a new generation had the simplest and easiest recipe (most of the other ones involved whole days of cooking down the fruit!).

The apples cooked down to a soft pulp, skin, core, pips and all
The apples cooked down to a soft pulp, skin, core, pips and all
Passing the apple pulp through my passata machine, to create a smooth sauce
Passing the apple pulp through my passata machine, to create a smooth sauce

Again, the fruit is cooked whole until soft. It was then passed through my passata machine, which separated out all the pips and skin. The pulp is heated until boiling, and then put into mason jars. These are processed in hot water until properly sterilised.

The final preserve was a straightforward fruit wedges in syrup, using instructions out of Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. This was the quickest process of all: peel and core the fruit, and cook briefly in a light syrup. Then jar and process in a hot water bath for 20mins.

Filling the pantry with apple-related produce.
Filling the pantry with apple-related produce.

I’m pleased with my collection of apple preserves, and I’m looking forward to using them throughout the cold winter days to come 🙂

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My first fermented pickle

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Two jars of pickles - ready to eat!
Two jars of pickles – ready to eat!

A few weeks ago I attended a workshop on fermenting vegetables, presented by Sandor Katz (organised by the always-wonderful Milkwood Permaculture).

This covered a range of different approaches to using lactic acid fermentation to preserve vegetables.

The first and simplest technique is the one that most took my fancy (it was also the one Sandor recommended the most).

It goes like this:

The food processor made light work of even hard vegetables.
The food processor made light work of even hard vegetables.

Start with a mix of hard vegetables, in our case:

  • beetroots (red and yellow)
  • daikon (white radish)

Slice them into small pieces, by hand or by food processor. With the slicer attachment of our food processor, this took mere minutes.

The vegetables, crushed by hand with salt.
The vegetables, crushed by hand with salt.

Put everything in a large bowl, and add salt to taste. (I tried 3% salt as a first test, but next time I’ll use a little less.)

Crush and squeeze it by hand, until as Sandor put it, “you can wring water out of a handful like you would out of a sponge”. This only took about 5mins of easy work.

Ready to ferment!
Ready to ferment!

Squeeze the vegetables into jars, and pack down until the water level rises above the vegetables.

Put the lids on, and then watch and wait! Because I was doing a very quick pickle, I didn’t worry too much about keeping air out (there are a heap of techniques for doing this).

Each day I checked the pickles, as well as getting Priscilla to taste test. After just 3 days, the vegetables were soft enough (and not too sour) for Priscilla’s taste. Into the fridge they go!

This is a super-simple preserving technique, and I’ll definitely be doing more of this.

Some footnotes for future reference:

  • 1kg of vegetables, which made approx 1L of pickles (as Sandor had predicted)
  • 3% of salt (use less next time, a bit too salty for our salt-reduced diet)
  • 3 days pickling

Summer crop of pickles and chutneys

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Our summer harvest, converted into jars of pickles and chutneys.
Our summer harvest, converted into jars of pickles and chutneys.

It’s been a hot summer in Sydney, with some much-needed rain after an extended dry period. So as usual, the summer glut of produce overwhelmed our immediate needs.

One of my favourite activities is converting what we grow into jars of pickles, chutneys and the like. This is what we produced this summer:

  • Australia Day chutney
  • cucumber relish (two ways)
  • pickled beetroot
  • pickled bur gherkins
  • pickled cherries (two ways)
  • tomato chilli pickle
  • tomato & onion relish
  • tomato passata
  • tomato & tamarind chutney

By my count, that’s 42 jars, not including the half-dozen we’ve already given away or used. That’s not bad considering that half of our main raised beds were attacked by roots, and therefore struggling to produce anything…