With the preserving kit now in our possession I could store fruit and some vegetables away for a rainy day (not that it rains much any more). I had a tree full of plums and need to use them before the birds had them for dinner. With that many plums and other vegetables like cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, and chillies, the simple solution was to preserve them. I certainly would be busy over a few weekends!
I started to preserve the first part of my crop, as I had lots of onions just sitting in the ground, and I couldn’t use them fast enough. So it was time for pickled onions and I found the most wicked recipe on Taste.com.au. It was fairly simple and basically you soak the peeled onions in brine overnight, sterilise some jars, put the rinsed onions in the jars and pour in cold spiced vinegar. Store for six weeks and there you go, tasty, very crisp pickles onions. Even the chillies in the jar were lovely, and not too hot. Great with a nice chunk of vintage cheddar cheese and great sliced in sandwiches.
Next I preserved some plums. It was quite simple to do. I left the skins on and stoned the plums leaving each fruit in half. Pack the plums in sterilised preserving jars and fill with a light sugar syrup (1 cup sugar into 3 cups hot water and dissolve) and seal in accordance with the instructions. To process and create a vacuum seal, boil the jars for 45-50 minutes at 92-95 degrees Celsius. Remove from the boiler and leave for 12-18 hours, remove the clips and test for a seal. The result are wonderful plums that you can eat with ice cream or utilise in other recipes. And you can make jam out of them! So yummy. The fruit will have a shelf life of about 6-8 months.
I also had a glut of tomatoes as the plants must have gone through a growth spurt. I decided to make a pasta sauce from them and preserve for winter. Just make sure that the recipe you have has a little vinegar in it so that it will keep, or if preserving whole tomatoes make sure you add two teaspoons of citric acid to each jar (can be bought from supermarkets) before adding the liquid. This is to raise the acidity slightly and assist with keeping out the bacteria. All of these tips are in the preserving book I got from the Fowlers-Vacola shop.
Since my first few attempts, I have had nothing but success. To date I have preserved 8 big jars of plums, 2 pasta sauces, 4 jars of pickled onions, 3 jars of Bread & Butter cucumbers, 4 jars of cucumber mustard pickles, 1 dozen pickled eggs (free range of course), 3 jars of golden peaches (found a huge bag at a garage sale for $2), 2 jars of apples, and of course all the jam. Kim is very artistic and makes all the labels for me!
Yesterday I picked the remainder (about 50) of the red spring onions, that looked like miniature Spanish onions. They are now soaking in brine solution as I write this. Tonight is pickled onion night and I am curious to know how red onions will react to the spiced vinegar. I also have about 50 chillies that are nearly ripe and I plan to pickle those soon. Kim has asked me to make a hot chilli sauce so I will give that a go on the weekend as well.
Preserving is so much fun and is so rewarding. It helps store food away for the off season when the fresh fruit and summer veg is a distant memory! It also gets you out of a pickle (pardon the pun) when you are a bit over zealous in the garden with your planting. I would rather preserve the excess than throw it in the dumpster like most supermarkets have a tendency to do with supposed past expiry date fruit and vegetables. Such a waste, and I believe that the amount of food that western society throws away, we could feed a lot of the third world. What a waste of resources. I think that the Freeganism movement might be onto something. Just a thought, and maybe not factual, but it still disappoints me still the same. I hate food waste!
I will leave you with this thought for the day:
It cannot be denied that an improved system of practical domestic cookery, and a better knowledge of its first principles, are still much needed in this country; where, from ignorance, or from mismanagement in their preparation, the daily waste of excellent provisions almost exceeds belief.”
Eliza Acton; Modern Cookery for Private Families (1845)