Jane Griffiths, a chef and the founder of Jane’s Delicious Garden, shares with us the secret of the bottled goodness of home preserves, and how and why you need to start making your own.
Griffiths says that a home-made preserve was a method of storing a fresh harvest in bottles so that it lasted much longer.
She says preserves could be sweet (made using seasonal fruit and sugar) or savoury (with vegetables preserved in oil or pickled in vinegar).
“Making your own preserves means you know exactly what has gone into them – there are no artificial flavours or additives. You can also experiment to create delicious and unique preserves, such as quince and jalapeño jelly,” she says.
Making both savoury and sweet preserves means you extend your harvests for many months.
Here are her tips on how to make your own home-made preserves:
- Use fruit or vegetables that are ripe and in season. If you grow your own you often have more than you can use, and preserves make the most of the abundance. If you are buying, then seasonal is cheaper.
- Often with home-grown fruit, birds will damage some of the harvests. Do not throw these away. Give them a good wash and cut or rub off any damaged sections.
- Be careful when working with boiling sugar – it can burn you badly. Always use a much bigger pot than you think you will need as sugar expands when it boils. Place layers of newspaper on the counter to prevent everything from becoming sticky. And do not get distracted – focus on the preserves as they can go from perfectly cooked to horribly burnt in the blink of an eye.
- Always sterilise your bottles well. It is a huge waste of time and money to go to the trouble of making preserves only to have them go off because of a slightly dirty bottle. To sterilise, wash bottles and lids in hot, soapy water. Rinse and place on a tray in a 140°C oven. Leave for 30 to 45 minutes. Fill and seal bottles while they are still hot. Use oven gloves when working with hot bottles.
- Pectin is the substance that makes fruit gel. Some fruits such as lemons, apples and quinces are high in pectin. Others, such as strawberries and cherries, have very little. If the fruit you are working with is low in pectin (check online to see) either add lemon juice or gather about a tablespoon of lemon pips into a tea strainer and suspend it in the preserve while cooking.