3 September 2007

Preserving your harvest

Bread and butter cucumbers with red onion and mustard seeds.

I have only one jar of peach jam left! It's my favorite. I'm hoping to keep this jar going until the peaches are ready to be picked this year. My sister is visiting soon, when she arrives I doubt there will be much hope for the peach jam.

Tomato relish and ginger beer.
I make chutney, relish, sauces, jams, marmalade, butters and cordials during the year. My aim is to make and preserve as many of these things as I can so I'm not buying inferior products at the market. My preserving season will start soon. I'll fire up the old Fowlers water bath and start stacking my shelves with home grown and home preserved goodies.

Home made tomato sauce, made with Amish paste tomatoes.

The first step in this process is to collect a many jars as possible. I have quite a few Fowlers Vacola jars - my favourites are a set of 80 year old jars that are a greenish colour, but I also recycle the French jam jars with the gingham lids and Aldi have recently been selling some jam in nice jars. The thing you look for is a wide mouth on the jar for easy filling. The lids need to be in perfect condition with the rubbery seal inside the lid undamaged. You can buy new lids for these jars. Here is part of my collection of jars. As you can see I reuse a lot of varying sizes. If it's not good enough for preserving, it's generally good enough for storing dry goods in the cupboard.

Some of the jars I use for the various sauces and jams.

Preserving anything generally happens in two stages. Stage one is when you cook the jam, relish or sauce, stage two is transferring the product to a jar or bottle and boiling it long enough to kill bacteria. If you do that correctly, you can store your goods for a year in the cupboard. Sometimes, when I make a small amount of something that I know will be eaten within a couple of months, I don't boil the jars, and just store them in the fridge. Some things can be safely stored that way for a short amount of time.

Pickled onions and beetroot. The beetroot was home grown, the onions bought at the market.

It's coming up to preserving season here, or canning season for our North American friends. I always make peach jam, but this year I'll also make orange marmalade, lemon cordial, ginger beer, tomato sauce, tomato relish, chilli jam, bread and butter cucumbers, pickled onions, beetroot, lemon butter, strawberry jam and rosella jam. This year I'll be making rosella cordial too. There has been research at the Queensland University that indicates eating rosellas in jams and cordials helps reduce blood pressure. H suffers for high blood pressure so I'm hoping to make enough rosella cordial for the year and keep it in the cupboard. I'm sowing rosella seeds next week and when they're a good size, we'll plants about 20 bushes out in the front garden.

Lemon cordial, made from home grown lemons. It is really satisfying to be able to offer friends and family home made refreshing drinks on a hot day. This lemon cordial with crushed ice, cold water and some mint leaves is a wonderful drink during summer.

I'll write more about preserving when I'm actually doing it and if there is anyone here who'd like to learn, I'm happy to post a tutorial and share photos and ideas.

We love eating peaches fresh, but if we have an abundance, I always preserve some for eating later in the year when peaches are a pleasant memory.

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