Preserving the abundant fruits of autumn
Preserving is something my mum, my mother-in-law and both their mums did year in year out. It may seem time-consuming, especially in our busy “modern” lives but ask any preserver and they will swear it’s the most rewarding time spent in the kitchen. The trick is to team up with a good gossiping buddy and the rest is history.
My very first jam memory was of my grandmother. She made a dark, rich, glossy jam that was sweet and sharp. It tasted just amazing on hot buttered toast when we would visit her on the way home from school. I later learned that she used damsons — small, dark and purple they are considered the king of plums for jam making.
Any plums can be used for this recipe but the darker fleshed varieties look nicer. It’s the kernels and the lemon juice that will help to set the jam. Keep a small pile of saucers in the freezer to make the testing easier. Warming the sugar speeds up the jam-making process. The faster it is made, the fresher and more delicious the taste. If you add cold sugar it will take longer to return to the boil. Get the recipe
When preserving peaches the trick is to get them when they are just ripe. If you find them firm that’s okay — after a day or three they will ripen up. Gently press them and when they give slightly you’ll know they’re ready. At this stage, when blanched, the skins should peel off easily and their flavour will be at their best.
To pack more peaches into your jars simply slice peaches and discard the stones. Cardamom seeds add a superb sweet aromatic spicy note to the peaches. Get the recipe
Both yellow and white-fleshed nectarines will work perfectly for this sweet tangy chutney. Originating from India the “chatni” translates to strongly spiced and was traditionally a rich concoction of fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices, all cooked slowly with vinegar and sugar to create a sweet-sour condiment.
This chutney can be eaten straight away but is even better after a few months of storage, it keeps very well. Serve with almost anything, but it’s particularly tasty served with cheese, cold meats, barbecued meats, vegetables and in sandwiches. Get the recipe
How to sterilise jars
Give your jars a good wash in hot soapy water, then rinse off well. Before you start, make sure you have the correct lids and or seals that fit all your jars, and you have enough. There are a few techniques that work well — put them through the dishwasher then place them in the oven (lying on their side) at 120C for 15 minutes, fan or normal bake, or carefully put them into a large pot of boiling water for 10 minutes, then allow to drain upside down on a clean tea towel. Metal seals, lids and bands can be sterilised by placing in a metal bowl and, just before using, pour boiling water over and leave for a few minutes.