I was asked by Adam at Seedhead Arts if I wanted to do a talk for this year’s Out To Lunch festival (part of Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival). He suggested ‘Preserving for the Apocalypse’ might be an amusing and timely title. With over-buying during the early (and some of the later) stages of lockdown and Brexit bumps (or almighty earthquakes) causing custom hold ups it definitely feels like an appropriate time to rediscover some of the forgotten skills of food preservation. I can’t promise you will be able to live off jam and chutney should the apocalypse actually come – but a really good jar of chutney might make those bugs we’ll be eating a bit more palatable!
You can watch the video I made for the talk, where I show you how to make all the recipes, on You Tube here.
I’ve really enjoyed preparing for this talk – it’s made me think lots about the ratios I use when making different preserves. I often don’t use a recipe (or certainly not an exact recipe) – partly because I always like to try something new and partly because I’m often using up a random amount of fruit or veg from the garden or leftover from a catering job. This drives my wife Jo (the other half of The Edible Flower) mad as she is extremely keen on thorough documentation, and in all honesty I must agree she is right, it is very annoying when a chutney turns out really well and I have no idea how I made it! However, I do have some basic ratios in my head which help me translate the produce into whichever preserve I’m hoping to make. I’ve shared these ratios with you – click on the ‘How to’ links below – as well as a few of my favourite recipes for jam, chutney, sauerkraut and ketchup.
First of all a few preserving basics:
What Equipment do you need for Successful Preserving?
A Preserving Pan (sometimes called a maslin pan) – or any large pan – a wide pan is better than a tall pan. A preserving pan is particularly good as it is wider at the top to help liquid evaporate more quickly and it has two handles and spout so you can pour preserves directly into the jars. and I usually use a 9 litre pan, you probably don’t want anything smaller.
Stainless Steel Jam Funnel – This isn’t essential but I didn’t have one for ages and when I got one it really made preserving a lot easier! Stainless steel is good as you will be pouring very hot liquid into it and you can also sterilise it by putting it into a pan of boiling water.
Ladle – Again a metal one is good as you can sterilise it and you will be using it to put very hot jam/chutney into jars. It’s not necessary if you have a preserving pan with a spout for pouring.
A Cooking or Jam Thermometer – Again not essential but really useful if you are making lots of jams & jellies. I have a Thermapen one – which I love because it gives a very quick reading and I use it for other cooking as well. But you can buy specific preserving ones that you leave in the pan.
Scales – Essential for getting your ratios right – you probably don’t want to wing it!
Jam Jars & Lids – I mostly reuse jars from other products unless I’m planning on selling the jam.
Kilner Jars – Really useful for making sauerkraut, but you can use regular jars if you want.
How to Sterilise your Jars
This is an essential step for successful preserving! You’ve done all the hard work to make your jam, chutney, kraut or ketchup. You don’t want to open the jar and find some random mould growing on top!
I mostly use recycled jars from other foods. This is absolutely fine – but you should check the lid has a plastic coating inside the jar lid, once this gets damaged it’s hard to sterilise or clean it properly and it can harbour bacteria which causes mould to grow on top of the preserve.
For Sauerkraut I usually use kilner jars as they are easy to burp it’s good to make lots in one big jar, rather than lots of little jars you need to tend to. Once fermentation has started and you want to store it in the fridge you can divide it up into smaller (sterilised) jars if you want to give them to friends or use the kilner jar for your next batch.
To sterilised your jars wash the jars in hot soapy water, rinse well but don’t dry them and and put in a low oven sitting upright – 120-140C for 20 minutes. You need them to be warm when you fill them to stop glass breaking, putting hot liquid into cold jar is a bad idea – the glass can shatter.
Put the lids into a small saucepan of water and bring to the boil, allow to boil for 5 minutes. I also put the jam funnel in here and towards the end I stick in my metal ladle for a couple of minutes.
You can sterlise kilner jars the same way as regular. I put the rubber bit of the kilner jar in a pan of boiling water or just pour some boiling water over it.
Now you are all set for preserving – follow the links below to find my master recipes and rations for making chutney, ketchup, sauerkraut & jam, as well as some of my favourite recipes.