With the copious quantities of beautiful fresh stone pip and berry fruits around at this time of the year I thought we could take a brief look at bottling fruit.
Firstly, why we need to preserve foods. The need to preserve food for enjoyment out of season comes through the natural destruction of the food either through the growth of micro-organisms - bacteria, moulds and fungi or through its own enzymes, which break it down.
To prevent these procedures one of four processes must take place. Removal of water from the food, usually by drying.
Maintenance of temperature at which none of the chemical processes can occur, for example, deep-freezing.
Maintenance of an environment around the food that is stronger than that in which living organisms can grow or multiply, with salt (salting), acid or alcohol (pickling) or sugar (as a syrup) in jams, jellies etc.
Prevention of the entry of micro-organisms, or killing all those present, by bottling or canning.
As with all areas of cooking, preservation has developed from a skill into an art form which today offers us a vast array of jams, jellies, pickles, chutneys, ketchups and sauces along with preserves, from which we can choose.
And although bottling has assumed a much lesser importance since the ease and availability of domestic deep-freezing, it is still pleasant and extremely convenient to have jars of bottled vegetables or fruit on hand all year round.
Although many cookbooks will tell you otherwise it is not always necessary to bottle in either a brine (for vegetables) or syrup (for fruit). Plain water will do the job equally well.
There are three basic methods of preserving fruit.
The water bath method Perhaps the most common method used since the introduction of electrically heated preserving pans. The method is very simple:
■ Always ensure the fruit or vegetables you are about to preserve are in-tip top condition; that they are not overripe, and any marks or blotches are removed. Also make sure the fruit or vegetables are clean.
■ Thoroughly wash and sterilise all jars and lids.
■ Fill the jars to approximately 2cm from the top with the fruit or vegetables ensuring they are reasonably tightly packed.
■ Fill the jars with the syrup for fruit, brine for vegetables or water if that is your preferred choice. Always check there are no air bubbles in the jars and if there are any, ensure you expel them.
■ Ensure the top of the jar is clean and place the sealable lid and screw on the screwable band, tighten by hand.
■ Place the jar into the pan and cover with water. Cover with a lid and bring to the boiling point.
■ Continue to boil until the fruit or vegetables are cooked. Keep an eye on the water level and ensure that the water remains a couple of centimetres above the top of the jars.
■ Once the cooking process has been completed, remove the jars and allow to cool slowly. When completely cold check that the lids have sealed, remove the screw band, and store jars in a cool dark place until required.
The overflow method This is really only suitable for fruit, which of course includes tomatoes.
■ Always ensure the fruit you are about to preserve is in tip-top condition. Ensure fruit is not overripe and that any marks or blotches are removed. Make sure the fruit is clean also.
■ Thoroughly wash and sterilise all jars and lids.
■ Prepare fruit as required - slices, pureed, halves etc - and place in a pan.
■ Add syrup or water to the pan and simmer until the fruit is just cooked.
■ Just before the fruit is cooked place the jars in a warm oven to heat.
■ Take one jar at a time and fill with the fruit mixture until it is approximately 1 cm from the top. Now top up with boiling syrup (or boiling water), place the lid on top and secure with a screw band. Again take care that there are no air bubbles. If you find any, expel using a long narrow knife).
■ Wipe the jars with a damp cloth and set them aside until they are cold, then check that the seal has sealed and remove the screw bands.
■ As with all preserves, store in a cool, dark, dry place.
Oven method Again, this method is better for fruits although vegetables are also able to be preserved this way. It is nteresting to note that I have never found this method mentioned in any overseas cookbooks. My guess is it is pretty much a Kiwi way. It is certainly one I well remember - especially having to clean the trays from the coalrange we had when we were first married, having had the fire going too hot and the fruits boiled over - not a nice sight!
■ Always ensure the fruit or vegetables you are about to preserve are in tip-top condition. They should not be over-ripe, and any marks or blotches should be removed. Make sure the fruit or vegetables are clean.
Thoroughly wash and sterilise all jars and lids. Pour in the syrup (which should be thin) or water to cover the fruit. Place the jars on a tray into an oven preheated to 180C and cook for about an hour.
When the fruit is almost ready immerse the lids in almost boiling water.
Then remove one jar from the oven at a time and top it up to overflowing with boiling water or thin syrup.
Place the sealing lid over the jar and secure with the screw band.
Repeat until all the jars have been removed, then let the jars cool.
Once cold, check the seal is sealed and remove the screw bands.
Once again store in a cool, dark place.
Today we will use the overflow method and produce some lightly spiced orange rings.
These are great for serving with sweet desserts or with savoury nibbles such as cheese, pickles etc as they have a lightly tart, sweet and sour flavour.
LIGHTLY SPICED ORANGE RINGS (for a 2kg jar)
6 thin-sliced sweet oranges
300ml white vinegar
2 sticks cinnamon
1 Tbsp whole cloves
Pinch of mace
Method: Wipe the oranges and cut into 6mm. Remove any pips.
Place the slices in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Once they have come to the boil, cover and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Drain.
Heat the sugar and vinegar gently until the sugar dissolves and add the spices. Bring to the boil and boil 3-4 minutes.
Add the orange slices to the pan with the vinegar and sugar and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat.
When the orange slices have almost finished in the simmering process, heat your jar. Put the orange slices into the jar and cover with the syrup, making sure there is sufficient syrup to completely cover the slices.
Allow to seal and leave for 2-3 weeks before serving.
Graham Hawkes operates Paddington Arms at the Queens Dr/Bainfield Rd roundabout.
- The Southland Times