One of the best things about growing your own food is not only beautiful fresh produce that tastes great, but is the result of your own efforts, and you know exactly how they have been grown. But with a bit more effort, you can enjoy all of those great flavours at other times of the year – through preserving.
Before refrigerators became a staple of all modern kitchens, the only way that many households were able to preserve produce, was by preserving their locally grown produce. Interestingly, there has been a growing interest in not only reintroducing food gardens into home gardens (front and back), but also in preserving at home – just like Grandma used to do.
So if you want to try your hand at preserving, here are some good tips to remember:
- What you start with is what you end up with – quality is everything! No matter how strong the pickling or processing, your outcome goes hand in hand with the quality of the ingredients you use. This is one of the many great reasons for using your own home grown produce.
- When preserving, it is a good idea to remember that you need to leave space at the top of a jar. It is usually a half to one centimetre, but any good preserving recipe will tell you. As the contents of the jar are heated, they expand. So if they reach the rim of the jar they will prevent the jar from sealing properly. (You won’t have to throw the contents out, but you will have to eat them in the next few days).
- Preserving doesn’t have to be an expensive prospect. You can reuse the jars, rings and clips each year, so over time the cost is kept to a minimum. The preserving method you choose depends on the acidity of the produce you want to process. Higher acid foods like fruits, berries and some vegetables are best preserved using the water bath method. Lower acid foods are better done with a pressure method.
- With the water bath method, your jars should never touch the bottom of the pot that you are using as the water bath. There are baskets and trays you can use to insert into your pot, or you can use an old tea towel to sit under the jars instead.
- Preserving is like any science, and cutting corners can result in a tainted final product. Once you have poured your product into your jar, make sure you take a spatula or plastic knife and run it around the inside walls of your jar to release any air bubbles trapped inside. Also, be sure to wipe the rim of the jar with a clean wet cloth before putting the top on.
- After you have cleaned your jars, warm them in the oven before putting food into them. This further sanitises the jar and also prevents it from cracking with the heat from any preserving liquid used.
Following a few basic rules can make all the difference, and best of all, you have some wonderful preserved produce to enjoy all year round.