Preserving Vegetables and Fruit
Preserving is a simple way of using fruit and vegetables, and it’s homely and satisfying to have jars of jams, chutneys, pickles and relishes in our cupboards. It is the perfect way of using surplus produce when there is a glut. And, by making them ourselves, we have control over their ingredients and can avoid the use of unnecessary colourings, flavourings and preservatives. They also make ideal gifts.
The nutritional value of all food deteriorates after it is picked. Preserving fruit and vegetables this is further reduced by washing, cooking, leaching and degradation. Many of these are unavoidable but can be limited by, preserving in oil rather than a sweet sauce, by pickling large chunks rather than grated vegetables, and by storing in cool dark spaces. And, although there is some loss of nutrients, preserved vegetables have historically helped to combat starvation and prevent scurvy throughout northern European winters. But the main reason for preserving fruit is to extend the shelf life of our produce, and, perhaps far more importantly, the taste!
Preserving doesn’t need any specialist equipment (although items such as preserving pans, jam funnels, and sugar thermometers are an advantage) and they require ingredients that are commonly available in any supermarket.
Tuscany Black Kale (Cavolo Nero) Salad
An unusual accompaniment to grilled meat, fish or chicken. Serves 4.
Remove the kale leaves from the rib, chop into 50mm (2”) lengths and blanch in salted water for 5 minutes. Drain thoroughly and allow to cool.
Makes 6-8 jars
Roast the pickling spice with the salt for 15 minutes, then crush in a mortar and pestle.
Chop the pumpkin, tomatoes and onions, and cook in a pan with the vinegar sugar, raisins/sultanas, chopped garlic and chopped chilli. Bring to the boil and add the ground spices and salt. Simmer until the mixture thickens and then pot in sterilised jars. Allow to ferment for at least two weeks before use.
The squash chunks should retain some of their firmness and provide a ‘nutty’ texture. - perfect with a strong cheddar or to accompany a curry.
Serves four – delicious with turkey, gammon and roast pork.
Boil, peel and trim the parsnips and boil until soft (10-15 minutes). Drain and reserve the water. Blend the cooked parsnips with the butter and cream. Add the reserved water until it has the consistency of a sauce.
Return to the pan and season to taste.
This American favourite is even better when it’s made with home-grown pumpkins or squashes – delicious (hot or cold) with whipped cream.
Boil the squash/pumpkin in salted water for 15-20 minutes. Drain thoroughly and allow to cool. Blend all the ingredients in a bowl and mix until smooth. Pour into the pastry base and cook for 40-45 minutes at 200°C - although the timing will depend on the moisture content of the pumpkin. Check at 30 minutes and then every five minute, and reduce the oven temperature to 150°C if the pastry or topping are showing any signs of excessive ‘darkening’