There’s nothing like the taste of summer plums in the middle of winter with ice cream to bring back memories of hazy sunny days. Preserving your excess harvest is not only simple to do but it can also save you money. Below are some of our favourite methods of preserving as well as some tips and tricks we’ve gathered over the years! If you’re doing some preserving this year don’t forget to post online and let us know by tagging #palmersplants and @palmersnz.
The Overflow Method
The overflow method is exactly as it sounds. Once you have prepared your jam, relish, sauce or fruit in syrup you pour it into heated sterile jars until it flows over the top of the jar. You then place the lid onto the jar and leave it on the bench to cool. As the produce cools it will create suction on the lid sealing in your goodies and protecting them from air, which is what makes produce go off. With the overflow method you usually need to cook the sauce, relish or jam for longer than the canning method.
The Canning Method
Canning is a process where once the relish, sauce jam or fruit in syrup has been prepared it is placed into the heated sterile jar (leaving a 2cm gap at the top) with the lid on which is then placed in a large pot of simmering water for approximately 10mins (recipes will vary slightly depending on the produce). The heat process finishes off the cooking of the produce and creates a suction seal. Canning usually requires less cooking time than the overflow method and can be less messy as you don’t need to overfill the jars.
The Drying Method
Fruit and vegetables aren’t the only kind of produce that we may need to preserve from time to time. Any gardener or foodie who grows their own herbs can tell you they often have trouble using them fast enough while they’re fresh.
- Clip herb stems as long as you can. Wash if needed and dry well.
- Tie the stems together at the cut end and hang them in any place that is dry and has good air circulation. Sheds and attics often work well.
- Once the greens are crumbly, you can transfer your dried herbs to jars for storage.
The Freezing Method
The final method is to freeze your produce. This is ideal for items that you will later use in cooking for example beans, tomatoes, or plums. You can also very easily make no cook, instant jam using a sachet of “Ball” freezer pectin, sugar and fruit. You simply mash up the fruit, add the sugar and pectin then pour into clean glass jars and place in the fridge for 12-24 hours before transferring to the freezer. This will last in your freezer for up to 12 months and once opened it will last for 3 weeks in your fridge. As there is no cooking the taste of this jam is fresh and clean.
One of our favourite ways to preserve herbs is to freeze them (in oil or water), they can then be popped directly in to the next meal you cook and melt down!
Ideas for what to do with your excess produce
Courgettes – the best way to use up your courgettes/zucchini is to make a relish or add them to a pasta sauce that can be preserved in jar.
Tomatoes – tomato sauce or a tomato relish is always great but if you are absolutely overloaded with tomatoes then it’s best to cook up a few batches of pasta sauce. You’ll be able to use whole jars of pasta sauces at a time where you will only use a table spoon or two of relish or tomato sauce. This is also a great way of using up your basil and courgettes.
Beans – these can be preserved in salty brine in jars which can then be used in a bean salad or added to a medley of vegetables to roast up.
Grapes – grapes are ideal for making jelly eaten with scones and cakes or you can make a very easy pure grape juice that has no added sugar.
Plums – plums are great in jam or as a spicy sauce. Try them stewed whole in syrup which is great in winter, cooked in a baking dish with a simple cake batter over the top. As this cooks the juice of the plums soak up into the cake, it’s simply divine with ice cream or custard.
Pears, peaches and apricots are also great poached in syrup especially if you add some spices and honey to the mix.
Apples can be preserved in a thick, spicy mix ready to add to crumbles or pies.
For more preserving ideas and recipes click here