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How to preserve food – making jam, pickling, dehydrating

We show you how to make your own preserves.

Do you make your own jams or pickled goods? If so, what fruits or vegetables do you use and how are the results?

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Preserving lemons with Rachel Clemons?

A late aunty and a late cousin both used to make green tomato pickles and give us a jar.

It was absolutely delicious and I would end up eating it all with a spoon.

I wanted to make some but I could not buy any green tomatoes from either the supermarkets or the markets and recent attempts to grow tomatoes at home failed due to wilt.

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Home grown cherries, apricots and plums - made into jam or cooked and preserved in sealed jars. I’ve eaten some of these up to 8 years after preserving, and they have been fine.
In 2013/14 I had 160kg of tomatoes from the aquaponics system and made lots of salsa/sauce (with home grown garlic, spring onions, chives etc), and also dried a lot. The salsa was all gone in about a year, and I recently discovered a bag of the dried tomatoes in the bottom of the freezer, and they still taste good! I found it was necessary to freeze the dried tomatoes, as some went a bit mouldy in the summer heat when stored at room temperature (which can get to near 40C)
Mulberries, I just put in a bag and freeze, they are good for at least 12 months, used in deserts, smoothies, jam etc.
Some apricots I run through the blender and freeze, for later use in smoothies or for making my home brew apricot ale.
From our citrus trees, mandarins, oranges and grapefruits and buddha’s hands (for zest) I use to make marmalade, which is also good to eat after several years.
Figs we generally eat fresh or make toppings to have with trout, although I’ll probably make some jam with next year’s crop too.

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If only I could buy some.

I could occassionally buy some at Rusty’s Markets many years ago, and made mulberry pie with them.

Absolutely delicious with fresh cream and ice cream.

I also made a pie using blackberries from Coles but it was nothing like the real thing.

I normally do not eat desserts but I am happy to make an exception for mulberry pie anytime.

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Apple, blackberry and raspberry jams. We don’t add sugar and use the natural sweetness only. Used as a spread, added to natural yoghurt or porridge as natural flavouring or a topping for icecream (when we rarely have it).

One of our neighbours makes quince jelly which is a jam…and is now one of my favourites along with rosella jam.

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I mostly make marmalades and different types of chutney. Home made preserves always taste so much better and they make great gifts too.

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If I could add some hints that may may life easier and give a better product.

The amount of sugar mentioned in recipes for jams and bottled fruit is often more than you require.

For example the traditional method of jam making is to sweat the fruit first and then measure it and add an equal volume of sugar. You can reduce this quite a bit if your fruit has good pectin. I often use two thirds that amount.

The reasons you add sugar to jam are taste, longevity and texture. Taste is subjective but I urge you to at least try lower sugar jam. The other two you can adjust with care. Keeping qualities relate to the sealed jar and once the jar is opened. If you sterilise your jars and hot fill them the amount of sugar does not make any difference to keeping in a sealed jar, if it is sterile it keeps. Once you open the jar the amount of sugar does matter, however if you put it in the fridge and consume it within a few weeks it will be fine with less sugar. Sugar also absorbs water which means it makes the jam gel better. If your fruit has plenty of pectin and you use minimal water you can still get it to set with less sugar.

On the point of less water some recipes are absurd saying cover the fruit with water. It is much better to use only a little (as long as it doesn’t catch) because it will set with much less boiling. Less boiling means a fresher fruit taste instead of a jammy sweet taste that has little fruit character and more the colour of the fruit instead of brown. It also means less fuel and time spent stirring and testing.

On bottle fruits, old recipes talk about covering with light or heavy syrup. Heavy is usually 2:1 water to sugar and light 4:1 The sugar is for flavour here. If you want to you can bottle in just water and the bottles will still keep provided they are properly sterilised and sealed. I use 5:1 syrup which is cheaper, more healthy and quite sweet enough for me.

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I rarely eat pickles, apart from bought dill pickled cucumbers. But I have become really interested in fermenting foods lately. Easy to do, no cooking and loaded with probiotics. Fermented garlic is delicious - the only way I could ever eat it raw. Onion relish and tomato sauce are on the go, so I don’t know how they will turn out. It goes way beyond the traditional sauerkraut, you can ferment almost anything. You get the same satisfying ‘tang’ you get with pickles.

Home made Tamata Kasundi - a spicy tomato relish - is appreciated as a gift. Nice to serve with anything that needs a ‘lift’.

I made preserved lemons years ago, and they are still in the fridge. They add an interesting flavour to salsa and a few other things. I have been making jam and marmalade for years - apricot, plum, fig and five different types of citrus. But I have never bottled fruit.

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