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How to Preserve by Heat Processing

15 Mar
Heat processing is a form of preserving foods by putting hot, warm or cold foods into a container and heating until any bacteria that might be within the food or container is killed and a vacum is achieved. It is a very useful technique for the kitchen gardener, no glut of produce need ever go to waste and can be stored for times when there are less fruit and vegetables available fresh from the garden or market.
The simplest way to achieve this on a domestic scale is to use glass jars, with lids and heat the jars and their contents in boiling water, the ‘hot bath method’.
Preparing the food
Food can be processed from cold or hot. I only use the hot method, cooking the fruit of vegetables before bottling, as this is the most reliable way to ensure food does not spoil and can be stored safely.
You need to use jars that can be heat processed such as; ‘mason’ jars which come with a two piece lid, a domed cap that fits tightly on the neck of the jar and a screwband which fits over the cap and is screwed down onto the jar, kilner type jars which have a clamp down glass lid sealed with a rubber ring, or simple glass jars with special lids. I buy 250g jars from our local agricultural store that sell different types of lids including those for heat processing. The jars can be re-used as many times as they remain sound. Jars must be scrupulously clean and without any flaws, cracks or chips as any flaw could result in the galss shattering while being heated.
The lids are the important bit, when heat processing the lids need to allow for the expansion of air and liquids and then the function to tighten or lock to seal and make a vacum.  The basic lids are those with a circular dimple which become depressed during the process indicating that a vacuum has been achieved. There are also 2 part lids and clamp lids. It is essential to purchase new lids or seals for each use.
Filling Jars
Pour the hot food e.g. tomato sauce, passata, salsa, cherry compot whatever it is into the prepared jars, leaving a 1cm gap at the top, screw the lids on well but not too tight.

There are special heat processing pans available but I find using a pasta pan with a draining insert works just as well particularly if  I am only processing small batches. The pan I have was not expensive, I bought it in Ikea at least 10 years ago, and it will fit 5 x 250g jars comfortably.
Carefully place the jars in a single layer around the sieve part of the pan then lower into the outer pan. Fill with hot water to 2 inches bellow the lids, and bring to the boil. Once boiling cover with a well fitting lid and set a timer for 15-20 minutes. When the timer goes off raise the draining insert and set down with the jars inside. Use a towl to protect your hands from the heat, tighten all the jars. If used kilner type jars adjust to final lock down position. Set aside to cool. The airlocks in the lids should all depress as they cool which indicates a full seal. If any do not depress repeat the process.
Label and store the jars in a cool dark place. They will keep for several years
If dimples in the lids rise again this is a sign that air has entered the jar and the food may have spoiled. Do not consume as there could be a risk of botulism.
Note Make sure you follow the instructions that come with the type of jars you have purchased, as each jar type will have its own sealing mechanism.


Sour Grape Juice

3 Aug

Verjuice (English), Verjus (French), Agresto ( Italian), Gur (Persian), Hisrim (Arabic) is the juice made from unripe grapes (sometimes with the addition of other sour ingredients such as sour apples or acidic herbs) which was used throughout Europe, Persia and the Arabic world during the Middle Ages. It was used as a souring agent as you would use citrus juice or vinegar. 

To make verjuice simply take a bunch of unripe grapes and squeeze the juice out of them with your hands. Strain and its ready to use. The juice was traditionally preserved by adding salt, nowadays it is easy to preserve, by freezing in an ice cube tray to make usable portions of, this delicious condiment.

Use verjus to season fried courgettes Italian style see Fried Courgette Salad

Coconut Chutney Preserve

25 Jul

Tart, sweet, hot and full of delicious coconut flavours it is a wonderful accompaniment to curries, potato dishes and dals or Indian breads and snacks. This chutney is more of a preserve and quite different to the fresh Indian style coconut chatni or pachadi I make. I used to buy something like this in jars when I worked in London, from a South Indian grocer, and this is my best effort so far in replicating it.
Makes 3 small jars

  • 2 cups desiccated coconut
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup mild white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • handful dried curry leaves, crumbled
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seed
  • 4 dried chillis, crumbled
  • 1 tsp salt
  • chilli powder to taste

Pour the boiling water over the dry coconut and set aside until the water is absorbed. In a pan heat the oil then throw in the mustard seed, curry leaves, fenugreek and chillis as soon as they start to pop add the vinegar and sugar. Stir well to dissolve the sugar and boil for 5 minutes or until it thickens slightly then add the coconut, salt, and chilli to taste. Cook for 10 minutes or so then spoon into warm sterilised jars and seal.

Cooks Note if you can use a fresh coconut, miss out the first step and simply grate the flesh and use it along with the milk, the chutney will be much better. Also I think I need to use Indian sugar rather than granulated for a more authentic taste. The chutney I was trying to copy (it is at least 10 yeas since I have even seen a jar of it) so if memory serves I remember it as being more green in colour when may have been colouring but may have been achieved by using fresh curry leaves or fresh green chillis.

Preserved Lemons

12 Jan

This is one of those ingredients that can transform a dish. Indispensable in North African cooking salt pickled lemons are easy to make and last for ages.

Heres how I make them.

  • 6 lemons
  • Juice of 3-4 lemons
  • 1 tsp salt for each lemon+1 tbsp salt
  • boiled water

Choose small perfect lemons wash each lemon in hot water and leave to dry fully before using. Meanwhile sterilize a large jar that will hold 6 whole lemons, I find kilner jars are perfect for this pickle. Put a tbsp of salt in the bottom of the jar along with the lemon juice and give it a good shake. Now prepare the lemons; remove the tip of the branch end and with a sharp knife cut a slit vertically through the lemon, but not all the way through, then make a second slit vertically to make a cross keeping the bottom end intact. Put a spoon of salt into the centre of each cut lemon and place in the jar, push the lemons down as you go until the jar is full. Add more lemons if there is room. Cover with boiled water that has been left to cool, close the lid and give the jar a good shake then set aside to mature for 4 weeks. Give the jar a shake every day.

Salted Radish Preserves

15 Oct

Salted radishes are commonly found in East Asian cuisine and would normally be made with mooli, the long tapering white root also called chinese radish, but it can also be made with French breakfast radishes, white turnip, black winter radish or regular red radishes. Serve as a side pickle, as an appetiser or use as an ingredient in soups or noodle dishes such as Pad Thai


Quick Salted Pickle
Simply wash (peel if necessary) and remove the top leaves. Slice the roots thinly put into a bowl and sprinkle with salt, toss with your hands to coat and leave to mature for an hour or two for a quick salted radish or 1 – 4 days for more robust flavour. It will keep well for a couple of weeks in the fridge. I haven’t experimented yet with preserving for longer as we tend to eat the salted radishes too quickly but the process would be the same as for other lactic preserves.

Lactic Fermented
Prepare the radishes as above and on the 4th day, once the initial salting is over, pack into sterilised jars, cover with a brine solution (1 tbsp of salt per litre of spring water brought to the boil and left to cool) and seal. Store in a cool dark place and will be ready to eat in about 1 month.

Lactic Fermentation II 
Wash the radishes and slice lengthwise into chunks. Pack into a sterilised jar, weight down with a clean stone and cover with brine (2 tbsp of salt to 1 litre of spring water brought to the boil then cooled). Seal the jar and keep in a cool dark place for 1 month when it will be ready to start eating. Remove small amounts from the jar and top up with brine if necessary to keep the radishes covered.

Variations If serving as an appetiser with drinks, sprinkle with a little rice vinegar or other sour agent such as lemon or lime juice, verjus, or cider vinegar before serving on the end of a cocktail stick.

Tomato Chutney (Hot Mustard)

7 Oct

This Indian inspired, fresh tasting, tomato chutney is fantastic. It is HOT and not for the faint hearted. It is a savoury chutney with no sugar added, the preserving qualities are in the oil and once opened it is best kept in the fridge. Perfect for adding a dash of taste bud tingling zing to any meal but especially curries, rice, lentil and vegetable dishes.
Makes about 5 x 250g jars Prep 20 min Cook 1 hour

  • 1 kg Tomatoes (skinned, de-seeded and chopped)
  • 5 fat cloves garlic
  • 200-250g (about 20-30) fresh red chillis, seeds and stalks removed
  • 100ml mustard oil (or peanut oil)
  • 3 tsp brown mustard seeds
  • 10-15 curry leaves
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 tsp nigella seeds
  • 1/2 tsp aesafoetida
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground dried cayenne chilli (optional)
  • extra oil

Put the tomatoes, garlic and chillis in a food processor and whizz to a fine mush. Heat the oil in a large heavy pan. If using the mustard oil make sure it gets very hot, until it starts to smoke, which will cause the oil to mellow and be less acrid. Throw in the mustard seeds and curry leaves and pull the pan off the heat immediately. Add the tomato and chilli paste carefully to avoid getting splattered with hot oil. Add the turmeric, ginger, nigella, asafoetida and salt but leave out the cayenne powder until the end of cooking to check taste.
Cook uncovered over a low heat stirring every now and then. The chutney should reduce and become thick and the oil will float to the top. This takes about 1 hour. Check the heat level and add the cayenne powder if you wish, bearing in mind you want this chutney to be hot. Pour into sterilised jars leaving a 1/2 cm gap, top with oil and seal.

Cooks Note We often run out of this chutney way before next seasons tomato harvest so we improvise and make batches with tomato conserves. You can use frozen peeled tomatoes or canned tomatoes for this recipe and dried chillis if you are making it out of season and the results are good.

Originally posted Mas du Diable 21/03/08

Tomato Chutney (sweet chilli)

7 Oct

This sweet and spicy tomato chutney is great served with grilled sausages, kebabs or anything else you want to add a little zing to. It is a classic Anglo-Indian style chutney with the preserving qualities in the sugar and vinegar. It can easily be made milder by reducing the quantity of chillies used.
Makes 1 Kg Prep 30mins Cook 45 min – 1 hour Shelf-Life 1 year+

  • 5 tbsp peanut oil
  • 300g onion, grated
  • 1 bulb garlic, grated
  • 3 dried red bird chillies
  • 8cm piece of ginger, grated
  • 1 kg of tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 4-6 fresh red chillies
  • 250ml red wine vinegar
  • 125g natural brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cardamom seeds crushed (about 10 pods)
  • 1/2 fenugreek seeds (optional)

Peel the onions, garlic and ginger and grate or wiz to a rough paste in a food processor. Heat the oil in a large non-corrosive pan and the dried chillis and when they darken add the onion paste, fry until the mixture starts to brown. De-seed the chillis and mince 3/4 of them,  cut the remaining 1/4 into long thin strips. Add the tomatoes and minced chilli and cook until the tomatoes are mushy. Add the sugar and vinegar, stir well and cook until the chutney turns a darker colour then add the cardamom and strips of chilli. Cook until the chutney reaches the desired thickness. Pour into hot sterilised jars and seal immediately. Ready to eat in about 1 month.
Recipe Source The original recipe came from Oded Schwartz but I’ve mucked about with the recipe to make it hotter and more Indian in flavour, so this is where the recipe ended up and it is pretty good.

Basil Oil

5 Oct

Here is another preserving job to do in autumn to capture the flavours of summer before the first frost. Basil is a delicate herb, it does not freeze well and it does not keep its flavour when dried, it goes slimy if left too long in oil so the best way is to infuse oil with its aromatic flavours and then strain it. The infused oil is a great treat through the winter months on salads or drizzled over soups.

You don’t really want to wash the basil so its best to be careful when you pick it. Pick the basil a day or so after a good rain in the morning of a dry sunny day. Bring the basil into the kitchen and roughly shred it, or bruise it slightly in a large mortar and pestle to release the oil. Pack the basil into a large sterilised glass jar, fill the jar to over half way and pour oil over to fill to the top. Push down and make sure there are no are bubbles. Seal and leave the jar to infuse for 2-3 weeks before straining into clean jars.

TIPI find the best way to strain the oil is to use a coffee filter paper set in a funnel. It takes some time to drip through but just keep topping it up. Bottle immediately and store in a dark place.

Green Tomato Chutney

5 Oct

Green Tomato chutney is a great way to use up those green tomatoes that won’t ripen now. There are so many versions and variations of this classic relish and they all taste a little different. This one has developed in my kitchen with tweaks and changes each time I made a batch so I have no idea where the original recipe, or even if there was one, came from. In my notes it says Oded Schwartz but having looked up his recipe this bears little resemblance other than the standard ingredients, so who knows. Suffice to say this version is pretty tasty, a bit like Branston Pickle which is what I was after.

Makes 4kg (8 lb) Shelf-life 2 years+
*1kg green tomatoes, chopped
*1kg tart apples, peeled, cored and chopped
*250g onions finely chopped
*750g brown sugar
*550ml vinegar (red or white wine, cider or malt)
*3” piece ginger, grated
*10 dried apricots, chopped
*4 tsp coarse sea salt
*2 tsp black pepper corns, ground
*1tsp allspice berries, ground
*2 tsp cloves, ground
*1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
*2 cloves garlic

To make life easy I bung the onion, tomatoes, apples and apricots in a food processor and blitz to get a fine chop. Some people prefer chutney to have distinct chunks in which case it is best to chop by hand to the kind of shapes you want in the chutney. I grind the whole spices in a coffee grinder to a fine powder. Combine all the ingredients except the vinegar in a stainless steel pan. Add 6 tblsp of the vinegar and cook over a low heat adding the remaining vinegar gradually as the mixture boils. Stir as the mixture thickens for 45mins to 1.5hrs. When thick, transfer to sterilized jars and seal. Store in a cool dark place. It will be ready to eat in 1 month and will last for several years.

Originallyposted Mas du Diable25/11/07

Quince Cheese (Membrillo)

1 Oct

It is October, the quince trees are laden and it is time to make Membrillo, the famous Spanish sweet meat. A thick paste of sieved quince and sugar boiled down, poured into moulds and set in blocks. A favourite treat for winter pantry, delicious served with cheese such as Manchego and cured hams.

Makes about 1.5Kg (4lb)
*1Kg (2lb) ripe quinces
*juice of half a lemon
*a little water
*600-800g sugar (approx)

Wash and chop the quinces.  Place in a large pan with the lemon juice and just enough water to cover the fruit, simmer uncovered until the fruit is very soft. Push the quince through a metal sieve or vegetable mouli to get a smooth pulp. Weigh the pulp and put it back into a clean pan with the sugar. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and cook gently until the paste is thick. You will need to keep a constant eye on it and stir regularly to prevent catching on the bottom. The paste is ready to pour into moulds when it is thick. My test for being ready, for all cheeses, is when a spoon is drawn through the mixture and it takes a few seconds for the paste to fall back into the cleared line of the spoon – a parting of the seas moment you could say. Pour into lightly oiled moulds that are still warm from being sterilized, cover the top lightly with a piece of grease proof paper, and leave overnight to set. Once set wrap or cover tightly with a lid or cling film/tin foil. You are supposed to store membrillo for 3 months before using but I have never found this necessary. Turn the cheese out and serve in slices with sweet or savoury dishes. Membrillo will keep 2 years or more in the fridge in a covered container.

Note most membrillo recipes call for an equal weight of sugar to fruit pulp but I find that too sweet and prefer to add less sugar. At a ratio of 60% sugar non of the preserving qualities are lost.
Variation for a more pronounced citrus flavour simmer the quince with lemon or orange peel before sieving.
TIP Quince are very dense so I use a food processor to whizz them into small pieces because it saves on cooking time.

Originally posted onmas du diable  31/10/2007