There was a good mix of attendees at this training session – novices as well as experienced growers/food preservers from Bluebell and Marlpit. Apart from making jam and chutney, there was a lively exchange of ideas and recipes so everyone went away with something new to try out.
As a novice food preserver and having a vague idea that preserving fruit and veg would be very complicated and time consuming, I was surprised at how straightforward some of the methods can be.
Using traditional stove top methods :
o Teresa demonstrated how to make Rhubarb and Beetroot chutney as per the attached recipe and we all had a jar to take home.
o Mahesh made jam from nectarines. The fruit was added to a pan with a little water and heated to soften. Then sugar added and the mixture allowed to simmer for up to an hour.
The main points with jam making are to
• use the same amount of (or a little less) sugar to fruit. No other ingredients needed.
• Have sterilised jars to spoon in the end product. Jars/lids can be sterilised with boiling water, or put the jars in a microwave for 10 minutes.
• As long as the fruit has enough pectin it should set, else add some lemon which has a high pectin content. To test if jam sets, put a teaspoon full on a saucer (kept in the in fridge for an hour) for a couple of minutes; If touching it with your finger, the surface wrinkles then it’s ready, else cook a little longer or add some lemon for the pectin.
Alternatives methods for jam making (this works for raspberry but not sure about other fruit which takes longer to cook!)
There are some really quick and easy alternatives for jam making, especially useful for making small batches.
1) Jane shared her microwave raspberry jam method.
Put e.g. 500g of raspberries and 400g of sugar in a tall microwave container.
Cook on high setting for 3 minutes. Stir.
Cook on high setting for 2-4 minutes and test it will set.
That’s it! Ready to spoon into sterilised jars. It will keep for at least a year.
2) Amy explained the same could be done a conventional oven. Put the fruit and sugar in a dish and bake for 20 minutes. Job done!
3) Mahesh remembered an option suggested by a grower at Bluebell. Leave the fruit and sugar to soak overnight. Then heat on the stove top for 10 minutes. Again that’s all.
Preserving uncooked fruit/veg
Fruit can be frozen completely untreated e.g. spread berries on a single layer on a tray and leave in freezer overnight. Then transfer to plastic bags in whatever portion size you want. This way fruit is all separate and doesn’t stick together
Vegetables need to be blanched before freezing or enzymes can cause them to perish. Blanching can be as simple as cutting veg ready to use. Put in boiling water for 30 secs and then plunge into ice cold water. Dry off and transfer to plastic storage bags.
Jane explained how to preserve vegetables e.g. runner beans in salt. Cut slice and dry the beans. Layer salt and the beans in a sterilised jar. Seal and leave in a dark cool location.
This skill-sharing session was held in the kitchen at the Marlpit Community Centre where we have our new SLI office. The kitchen/hall can be booked (contact Mahesh) outside of the main training programme for small groups of members to share their skills. The training was such a friendly, positive event (plenty of tea and coffee and sampling at lunchtime) that it inspired Amy to arrange a follow up session to make some onion marmalade.Alison F.