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Join someone for a jam session!

Top tips for home preserving

Tip 1: The ingredients

Make the most of what’s in season and the gluts that many gardeners have. Share your surplus, too! Store now for the ‘lean’ season after Christmas and look out for lower prices for seasonal produce on market stalls and shops. Buy local.

Tip 2: Stock up from September – early October

English plums in abundance!

Delicious plum jam

Mouth-watering plum chutney

Sumptuous plum sauce (goes well with pork and poultry)

Bottled plums (see below).

If you know someone with a damson tree, damsons also make wonderful jam.

Blackberries of course. Take the kids or go with a friend – food for free!

Also Elderberries if you have the time to pick and process. Turn them into jams or jellies, blackberries can be frozen of course and also bottled.

Tip 3: Bottled fruit or veg

A brilliant and easy dessert – just open the ‘bottle’ (Kilner jar) and serve with cream, ice cream or custard. Can be stored for ages in a cool cupboard. No defrosting. You can bottle all kinds of fruit but berries bottle well and plums too. My mum did lots of this – bottled black currants my favourite – mum used to do jars of mixed fruit – raspberries/blackcurrants/red currants. Most fruit and also vegetables can be bottled. You can search for specific recipes.

Tip 4: Windfall cooking apples

Loads of them in lots of gardens. And cooking apples generally. The high acid/pectin levels in cooking apples mean they are good to mix with other fruit in jam and are a staple ingredient in many chutneys. Most eating apples are picked late September – October and not so suitable for preserving in my opinion. Late season apples store best, in a cool, even temperature that is not too dry. Or you could try juicing them but this juice would need to be frozen.

Tip 5: Tomatoes

Home grown taste so good! Best eaten fresh but if you have an abundance or are buying lots cheaply (like a large bowl for £1 at the veg stall outside M&S) you can make great soup, pasta sauce, gazpacho (with cucumber and onions) and then freeze it. If, however, you have lots of unripe tomatoes pop several in a brown paper bag with an apple or banana and place the bag in a drawer for a few days you should find they ripen up. Failing that there is always green tomato chutney but I think better alternatives are to cook them in different ways anyway – fried green tomatoes, curried green tomatoes, salsa verde with green tomatoes, slice them and mix with garlic salt, seasonings/thyme and olive oil and then roast them.

Top tomato tip from Tilly: Roast cherry tomatoes in a fairly low oven seasoned as you choose and drizzled with olive oil (& possibly balsamic vinegar). They can then be put in small containers in the freezer and used over the coming months. They retain their sweet and intense flavour.

Tip 6: Courgettes and Squashes

Probably not so many of these this year due to the lack of rain but normally courgette growers get a glut. Courgettes go into ratatouille of course, are very good stuffed and make tasty little courgette and feta fritters which, once made, can also be frozen.

Tip 7: Herbs

Never throw fresh herbs away again! Instead of letting unused herbs fester in the fridge – freeze them! Parsley, Coriander, Dill, Mint, fennel all freeze well – use straight from the freezer – no need to chop just crumble them into the dish you are making. Also you can create your own herb vinegars very easily – tarragon is excellent but others too.

My sister-in-law’s Salamoia Bolognese recipe: (Stored in jars, it keeps for ages – and I use it in lots of contexts particularly when roasting potatoes or parsnips or sauteing veg; add to stews or rub over meat.

50g quality salt flakes

10g finely chopped rosemary

5g finely chopped sage

a clove of garlic finely chopped

Mix it all up and pack into a jar with an airtight lid. You can obviously multiply this up. This recipe uses half the salt than some other recipes but it works fine.

Tip 8: Equipment

You need very little equipment for making any of the above

  • Reuse your empty jam jars with lids.

  • You need some waxed paper circles for jam and some labels.

  • A large pan is necessary unless you are making small quantities.

  • Maybe get some muslin or a jelly bag for making jelly jams and straining out the pips.

  • A funnel is useful for filling jars but not essential

  • You do need Kilner jars (or equivalent) with rubber seals for bottling fruit

Tip 9: Books for inspiration

My ‘go to’ reference is an old publication called Home Preservation of Fruit and Vegetables. It was first published in 1929 (!) and last updated in 1989. It is still available but you may prefer something more contemporary such as How to store your Garden produce by Piers Warren

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