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Preserving food might seem like hassle but there is such a bumper harvest of fruit and veg this year it seems a pity to let it go to waste.
We had a family outing at the weekend to pick fruit in the tiny copse … (aka Gruffalo Wood) … behind my parents’ house and we just couldn’t believe how much there was.
We picked huge quantities of enormous damsons, crab apples and blackberries and, if we hadn’t run out of time and containers, we could have had sloes, elderberries and rose hips a plenty.
The only disappointment was that the squirrels had harvested all the hazel nuts that I’d had my heart set on!
Back home with our bounty we started preserving like crazy. (Stopping only to devour my mum’s amazing blackberry and apple crumble). We’ve made jars of crab apple jelly and have frozen the damsons but are going to use some of them to make damson pickle with a recipe from Nigel Slater’s brilliant book of fruit recipes, Ripe.
Between us we had the jelly made in no time, which has totally inspired me to preserve more, so I have been eagerly devouring all these brilliant preserving tips that have been linked up at the Mommy Archive … if you’ve got your own tips do share them at the bottom of this post.
Fruit Jams & Jellies
No shop bought brand can ever taste as good as the total yumminess of home made jam, whether it’s simple strawberry or raspberry, wine-rich blackberry picked from the hedgerows or something a bit different like spicy rhubarb.
As A Seasoned Homemaker shows in her recipe you don’t have to overwhelm yourself making lots and it really doesn’t have to be tricky.
And although it can help at times, you really don’t need loads of special equipment. We made our crab apple jelly at the weekend using a muslin bag hung from the cupboard doors with string, the chip pan and assorted old jars!
Preserving Whole Fruit
Although, you can get most fruit all year round, it never tastes half as good out of season and all those planet-unfriendly air miles it racks up cost us all a fortune.
Fruit preserved in season tastes better and as this step by step tutorial from Apron Strings & Other Things shows, it’s really not tricky. We found a massive crop of wild damsons near my parents house that we’re going to stash away for the winter.
And if you want something a bit different you can preserve fruit, like these figs, in jello!
If you’ve got a real bumper crop of fruit you can make fruit butters – like this crockpot apple butter from We Made That – in which the fruit is cooked very slowly, giving it a longer shelf life than other preserves.
Fruit in Vinegar
If you’re not so keen on really sweet jam you can give fruit an extra tang by adding some balsamic vinegar as For What It’s Worth Jeannie does in this super quick, super simple recipe for balsamic strawberries.
Savoury Jams & Jellies
You don’t have to save jams and jellies for fruit. They can also be great for preserving vegetables. Turnips 2 Tangerines has got a whole range of savoury jelly ideas in her recipe box including green pepper jelly and tequila cranberry pepper jelly – yum yum!
Freezing seasonal produce is not only quick but also gives you the flexibility to use your fruit and veg in all sorts of different recipes in the months ahead.
Weigh your produce before freezing and mark up the bags or containers so you know what weight you’ll have when defrosted. And if you’ve got the space in your freezer, freeze the fruit separately on baking sheets before bagging up so it doesn’t all stick together.
Some vegetables – like onions and cucumbers – are just made for pickling in lovely sharp vinegar. If you want to give it a try Pary Moppins has got some great quick recipes covering everything from onions and cucumbers to marrows and radishes.
Drying & Dehydrating
We’ve limited ourselves to drying herbs in a cupboard so far but as self-sufficiency and preservation queens like Self sufficient Home Acre, Summers Acres and Pary Moppins show you can dry and dehydrate all sorts of things from fruit and vegetables to meat, although if you’re doing anything complicated you do need a dehydrator.
Canning is not such a big thing here in the UK as it is in the USA. I guess partly because most of us have so much less space but now we’ve started planting vegetables and fruit trees in the garden I love the idea of storing our home produce in this way.
If you’ve really got into the canning spirit you can store away great home made stock from left over meat bones as Summer Acres shows in this recipe for chicken broth.
Passing It On to the Next Generation
Picking and preserving fruit are some of my most vivid memories of childhood. I love the way that by involving children where you can the recipes and the skills get passed down through the generations.
Obviously you have to be careful with very hot pans and with the need to be very exact when you’re canning but my 3 year old helped out with the crab apple jelly by washing the fruit and pulling stalks off and then by ladelling the sugar in. And as This Fine Day shows, older children if supervised can easily do much more.