Preserving Guide For Beginners2013 Jan 23 | Written by: Samantha Jones | Tags: Preserving
Preserving Guide For Beginners,
Getting started with Preserving
Instead of relying on the same old store bought jams, marmalades, chutneys and sauces, why not try making your own?
If you grow your own fruit and veg and have an excess of product left over that you won’t be able to eat while ripe, or if you simply want to try making your own (now is a great time to do this with fruit and vegetables nice and cheap in supermarkets!) flavoursome preserves tailored to your own tastes, there are plenty of different types and styles of preserving that you can experiment with.
From chutney’s, to jams, to pasta sauces, pickles, jellies, fruit minces, marmalade, relishes and even beverages, when it comes to preservatives, you are truly only limited by your imagination!
What You’ll Need For Preserving
Before you start preserving, make sure you have the following preserving equipment in your arsenal. All of these items are essential for ensuring efficiency and safety.
Thermometer: One of the most handy preserving tools is a thermometer. Invest in a good quality one (both a candy thermometer and digital thermometer will do the trick!), preferably with a clip for attaching to the side of pot. It is a good idea to have a couple of these on hand in case one breaks while using.
Tongs: Make sure you have a set of tongs for lifting hot foods out of boiling or simmering water. Any type of tongs are fine to use, but a set of tongs with a locking mechanism is handy for keeping them out of your way when you’re not using them.
Canning Funnel: A canning funnel is used for canning foods. It has a wide mouth that keeps the rims of jars clean and is also useful for filling zip-lock bags neatly.
Canning Jars: Made from tempered glass, canning jars are designed to withstand the high heat and pressure of your canner. Both narrow and wide mouth jars are available.
Jar Lifter: A jar lifter is essentially a specialised set of tongs with rubberised ends that fit securely around any sized canning jar, allowing them to lift them in and out of your canner or pot safely.
A clean sterilised jar is imperative to the success and longevity of your homemade jams and preserves. Using jars that are dirty or have not been sterilised properly will contaminate the product forcing you to discard it quicker than you can consume it.
There are a number of techniques that can be used to sterilise, (i.e. you can use a dishwasher or even a microwave) but the most effective method is in the oven. This process will take a little longer than some other forms of sterilisation (an approximate time of thirty minutes), but the results are far superior and guarantee your lovingly made creations enjoy the longevity they deserve.
- Preheat oven to 110 degrees Celsius.
- Wash jars and lids in hot, soapy water and rinse well.
- Place jars and lids in a deep pan and cover with cold water.
- Bring water to boil over high heat and cover pan.
- Reduce heat to a medium temperature and boil gently for ten minutes
- Line a baking tray with a clean tea towel and, using metal tongs (which should be sterilised too, by dipping the ends in boiling water for a couple of minutes) remove jars and lids from the boiling water and place upside down on the tray.
- Put tray in oven for 15 minutes and then remove.
- Fill hot jars with hot preserves and cold jars with cold preserves.
A Spoon Full of Sugar
As any experienced preserver knows, sugar is an invaluable ingredient. From jam, to jelly, conserves, marmalade, liqueurs and even some sauces and syrups, sugar is the ingredient that preserves the contents when combined with an acid ingredient (like vinegar or lemon juice).
A good rule of thumb is to, unless otherwise specified, always use regular granulated white sugar, as the coarser sugar granules make a clearer, more sparkling preserve.
It is also recommended that you warm the sugar up before adding to the boiler, as this allows it to dissolve faster and produces a clearer textured preserve.
Clean! Clean! Clean!
It cannot be overestimated how important it is to vigilant and pedantic with cleanliness when preserving. You’ll need to make sure everything from the jars and equipment, to the surfaces and surrounds are scrupulously pristine.
Make sure your kitchen is freshly swept and dusted, meticulously inspect your food products ensuring all bruised and gnarled portions are removed and thoroughly sterilise jars and utensil. Also, never use old rubbers or lids that are bent. Remember to boil lids and dip the rubbers in boiling water just before using.
While these procedures may seem over the top, preserved food is very vulnerable to contamination and will go off very quickly without the proper consideration to across-the-board sterilisation, which would be an absolute injustice to all that delicious fruit you’ve just spent time preserving!