Are you whingeing again? 'There's no fruit' and 'There's no point making anything this time of year' Well - just stop it.
I had a very nice morning on Saturday with Lucy, who came to go over the principles of bottling/canning/water bathing before she really gets up to speed with it later in the year, A very sensible approach and, actually, there is plenty you can be making at this time of the year, using this technique.
As you may remember I bought 'The Beast' last year to enable me to sterilise and process multiple jars at one time. It certainly makes life easy if you want to bottle a lot of jars and although I call it names, the pressure canner is easy and effective to use. The high temperatures and pressures that are achieved make it possible to safely preserve meat and fish as well but I don't think I will be using it for this.
Anyway, Lucy and I were looking at things on a slightly smaller scale and to demonstrate the process to her I selected two recipes from Pam Corbin's excellent book 'Preserves'*. This book is practicality incarnate and has many ideas for adapting the recipes. Lucy and I only had the morning to both have a bit of a chat and a catch up, and to get the bottling done so I pre-prepared the two recipes I had chosen.
* I have a few copies of Pam's book available at The Old Smithy, email me for details.
The first one, Winter Fruit Compote, is just ideal to be making now and is absolutely delicious.
You will need:-
1 litre freshly made Green Tea ( I used one with jasmine )
400g/14oz dried figs
400g/14oz dried prunes ( choose the best quality you can get, Agen for preference )
200g/7oz dried apricots
200ml/6fl oz freshly squeezed orange juice
Combine the dried fruits in a large bowl and pour over the hot tea ( no milk! ) and the orange juice.
Mix well and make sure all of the fruit is submerged in the tea juice. Cover and leave for 24 hours to soak and take up the liquids.
Next day, prepare 4-5 500ml clip top or screw band preserving jars - take off the seal on the clip top jars, wash the jars and place in a warm oven to heat and dry. Put the rubber seals in a heat proof jug and pour over boiling water. If you are using the screw band type just wash the jars and put into the oven as above. Keep the seals and screw bands to one side.
Heat the fruit in the juice until hot without allowing the fruit to break up. Remove the jars from the oven and, using a slotted spoon, pack in the fruit, return the jars to the oven to keep warm. Add the honey to the juice in the pan and return to the heat for around 5 minutes to dissolve the honey. Pour the hot syrup over the fruit in the jars, right to the top and seal the jars immediately. (Fix the seals back in place on the clip top jars.)
Leave the jars undisturbed until quite cold and then test that the seals are secure. The delicious contents will be fine for up to twelve months. There is no need for further heat treatment because the jars and contents were hot and they were sealed immediately.
Roasted Tomato Passata
The second recipe we tried is not exactly seasonal for this time of year but demonstrates the technique for water bathing when the contents are cold, and don't have any of the traditional preservatives. salt, sugar or vinegar.
We used Pam's recipe for Roasted Tomato Passata. This is a fantastic recipe for the glut of tomatoes in the Summer. Passata is such a useful store cupboard item to use in all sorts of savoury dishes. It has no preservatives so has to be safeguarded by sterilising in the jar.
You will need:-
2 kgs/4lbs 8oz ripe tomatoes
3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
a few sprigs of herbs of your choice - basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary
1 teaspoon sea salt
half teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
50ml/2 fl oz olive oil
Cut the tomatoes in half and spread over the base of a roasting tin. Scatter the remaining ingredients over the tomatoes and bake for about an hour in a medium oven.
Prepare your jars as above.
I baked the tomatoes the day before, but this could be done when they are still hot. Pour into a goblet liquidiser and process until smooth, or rub through a sieve to obtain a smooth sauce.
Pour into the hot jars, leaving a small gap at the top. Wipe the tops of the jars and be careful picking up the seals to make sure that no sauce is transferred to them from your hands.Clip down the jars, if using that type, or with screw bands apply the seal and tighten the band, then turn back a quarter turn.
Place a folded 'J' cloth, tea towel or sheet of newspaper in the bottom of a large pan. Stand the jars on this and then fill the pan with water, over the top of the jars, allowing room for it to simmer. Bring the heat of the water up to boiling over around 25 mins and then maintain a simmer for a further 20 mins.
Turn off the heat and carefully lift the jars from the pan, standing them on a heatproof surface. If using the screw bands, tighten them again and then leave undisturbed until the next day. Test that the seals are secure before storing away all ready for those lovely bolognese sauces in the Winter. Any that haven't sealed successfully should be refrigerated and used within a few days. The seal may have been compromised by some sauce on the top of the jar, or transferred to the seal when picking it up.
I intend to use these techniques during the coming year to provide a variety of bottled goods for sale in The Old Smithy. As fruits come into season I will give you more recipes and ideas to make the most of them, whichever of the preserving techniques is most appropriate. Bottling, or canning, is seen by many as outdated and irrelevant - most of us have freezers after all. I disagree though, ( you won't be surprised to learn ) there are some things , like the Passata that are just ideal preserved in this way.
So, in these last few really cold days before Spring arrives I am going to get organised to grow lots of varieties of tomatoes so that I can pick and preserve as many as possible.
Thanks for the recipes Pam x