Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Preserving... Extending the Bounty

Well, one of the things that has always concerned me about self sufficency is what to do with all this glorious produce (see how optimistic I am!) that you grow over winter? How do you look after it? How do you make it last? What should you expect to be able to serve on Christmas day? So with that in mind I went on another fact finding mission.. and so was born the second in the 'Let's Talk...' series.
There appear to be two basic sides to preserving: The whole thing as it is or making something preservable out of it. And the methods of doing this seem to be immense. I intially thought, naively that it was pickling or bust! But there is so much more.

Preserving as a Whole
By this I mean keeping the fruit or vegetable as it is, or close to it.

Freezing is probably the most obvious option as this allows you easy access when needed and most people have a freezer available. I know a Deep Freeze is on my list of goodies when we move. Freeze soft fruit by spreading on a tray in the freezer first before transferring to bags for storing. Many vegetables, such as peas are a case of shelling, bagging and freezing, nice and straight forward. Some vegetables, such as runner beans will require to be prepared first, topped and tailed, and then par-boiled before freezing. This partial cooking will stop the beans from becoming hard and tough in the freezer.
Herbs can be chopped and placed in an ice cube tray, top up with water then freeze. To use just pop a herb cube straight into your dish.

This is obviously most useful for such garden produce as herbs. Blanching the herbs first will make the drying process better. Drying can be down the 'traditional' way, upside down, outside in the sun, but it is also possible to dry your herbs in the oven or even in the microwave.
Remember that produce such as garlic or onions also benefit from drying and can also make a great display if you plait the stems for hanging. Check out here for instructions on how to make your own garlic plait.
Making fruit 'leather' is a fun way to store soft fruit by drying, this doesn't quite fit in the 'keeping it whole' section but it is about drying! Check out here for the old how to's!

Outside Storage
Some produce such as parsnips and carrots can be stored in the veggie patch in the ground, just dig them up as you need them. Although some people may prefer to dig them up. If you do choose to dig up any root vegetable allow it to dry in the sun first (dig on a sunny day). If preparing potatoes don't leave for too long as they will turn green and eventually become poisonous. Then ensure that any veg that has signs of disease or bug attack are removed. The remaining veg can be stored in a double thickness paper bag or in hessain sacks. As with everything, keep them cool and dry.
Fruit such as apples should be kept individually wrapped in a dark cool place and they will last several months. The fruits must not touch each other, hence the wrapping, if you want the longest life from them.

Pickling and Bottling

Obviously the most common way is pickle or bottle (in syrup, sugar or brine) any vegetables you may have left. As a quick recipe for preserving in sugar.
Sterilize bottles or jars. Add the fruit of your choice and sugar (4oz of sugar per 2 pint bottle). Stand the bottles in a pan of cold water and ensure that they cannot knock into each other. Ensure that the water is up to the necks of the bottles. Heat to the boil and then simmer until fruit has reduced by 1/3. Allow to cool. Seal with airtight lids and store.

Preserving as a Product
This section shows ways you can turn your produce into something that will store better that the fruit or veg would store alone.
Jams, Jellies, Curds and Chutneys
This is probably the most obvious ways of preserving your fruit and some veg. In the coming posts I will reveal some of my own recipes for the above items, to keep you until then here is a great recipe of mine for strawberry jam.

Or a tangy Pear and Lemon Jam

For those unaware, jellies are essentially jam without the bits. You would need to seive the jam mixture to remove the lumps and then allow to set. The left over pulp could be used for fruit 'leather', see above. Jellies are good for seedy fruits, rasps and grapes of pips aren't your thing.
Fruit Butter
Now this was a new one to me, someone left a comment on the blog about making apple butter so I had to find out what that was all about. It appears it is like curd but without the extra ingredients. Essentially the fruit is slow cooked and reduced and reduced over several hours. Some recipes appear to add spices to the mix. Once the mixture is fully reduced the producted is bottled, cooled and sealed and then 'Ta Daa' - fruit butter! I have never tried it but it is now firmly on my list of 'To Do's'!

Cordials and Other Drinks
Finally on my short investigation into Preserving there is the cordial. This sounds like my kind of thing. There are loads of recipes out there so I won't post any here, but I may post my own in the future. Cordials are made from water, sugar and your fruit, and in most cases very little else. They keep for a good while and can be great for a variety of uses.
Never forget the advantage of fruit juices (and remember the pulp for your other receipes) and Apple juice can be taken one step further and turned to cider at very little effort, as too can pears.
With so many options out there for preserving my bounty I don't think I should worry about my fruit and veg not making it through the winter.


  1. Great info! Thanks for all that work.


  2. Very timely post. It is always tricky knowing what to do with that excess produce at this time of year.


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