Preserving fruits and veges

For the store cupboard – preserving fruit and vegetables

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Harvested more fruit than you can possibly eat? Then try preserving your fruit so you can enjoy it at a later date – it works with vegetables, too.

Of course, fruit tastes best when it is fresh. But often bushes, trees and beds produce so much that you have some left over, and it would be a shame to throw it away. The solution is to preserve your fruit and vegetables. You can do this with or without sugar, in a pan or in the oven. This was common knowledge to your grandparents, but that doesn't mean that preservation is a thing of the past.

What can you preserve?

Virtually any kind of fresh fruit and vegetables can be preserved. Here's a selection: strawberries, cherries, kiwi, pears, apples and berries, as well as broccoli, peas, cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes and onions.

Preparing for preservation

If you want to preserve your fruit and vegetables, you must always make sure that the produce and jars are clean to avoid the risk of germs. Speaking of jars, which are the right kind to use?

  • The best jars to use for preserving are Kilner jars. They have a rubber sealing ring and clips to hold the lid in place. Jars with a flat lid that you tighten using the supplied screw ring are a good alternative. You can also use old jars with a twist-off lid (e.g. the kind that shop-bought jam comes in) if they are in good condition. The size of the jar is less important. The main thing is to make sure that the required temperature is reached in the jar.
  • To make sure that the preserved produce keeps for a long time, the jar used must be completely sterile. It is really easy to sterilise jars in the oven. Heat the oven to over 100°C, 140°C is a good temperature, and let the jar "bake" for a few minutes. Then take the jar out and leave it to cool on a clean piece of kitchen roll. You need to make sure that it does not get contaminated after it has been removed from the oven, so wash your hands and any equipment and accessories required for the next step. Alternatively, you can boil the jars in a large pan for 15 minutes. Do the same with the lids. Sterilise the rubber sealing rings in boiling water with a little vinegar.
  • Once you have finished preparing the jars, fill them with the fresh produce you want to preserve, i.e. fruit, vegetables and, according to your taste or any recipe you are using, with other ingredients. Cut larger items into pieces beforehand. Now fill the jar up to just below the rim with cold water. Then close and seal the jar so that it is airtight. If using a Kilner, place the rubber ring on the rim, fit the lid on top and then fix the clips in place. You are now ready to start preserving your fruit/vegetables.

Preserving in a water bath

Place the sealed jars side by side in a cooking pot on the hob. Depending on the height of the pot, you may also be able to layer the jars on top of each other. Lay a tea towel on the bottom so that there is no rattling when the water boils rapidly. Now fill the pot with water so that two-thirds of the (top) jars protrude and switch on the hob. Please note: the preserving time only starts when the water is boiling. Top up any water that has evaporated. The water you use to top up the pot should be as warm or hot as possible. Otherwise, the jars may crack or the temperature in the pot may drop too much. You can check this using a thermometer.

Preserving in the oven

Place a drip pan or a baking sheet with higher sides on the bottom rack in the oven. Lay a tea towel on the bottom. Then place the jars on the drip pan/baking sheet and fill the pan/sheet with water up to a height of 2 cm. Now heat the oven to 180°C. Once the liquid in the jars starts to form bubbles, the preserving time begins. If you are preserving fruit, switch the oven off at this point and leave the jars in there for another half hour. If you are preserving vegetables, lower the temperature to 150°C, switch the oven off after 90 minutes and then leave the jars in the oven for another half hour before removing them.

After preserving

Take care when handling the hot jars! It is best to only hold them wearing a thick glove and to place them on a table or the kitchen counter. Lay a tea towel down first so that the jars do not break. Now leave them to cool down. A vacuum is created during this process, so it is important not to open the jars. When the jars have cooled down, remove the clips from the preserving jars. If the lid remains tightly on the jar, the preservation process was successful. If using twist-off jars, you will know the process has worked if the lid has curved inwards. Done. If you intend to store the jars for a longer period of time, keep them in a cool, dark place (cellar).

Preserving fruits and veges

Making jam

To make jam, the process is slightly different to that described above. You need fresh (or frozen) fruit such as berries or stone fruit that is in perfect condition. Wash the fruit and cut it into small pieces. Then fill a pan up to halfway with this chopped fruit and cook it. You can choose whether or not to add sugar – this is a matter of taste but it is common to add jam sugar. Firstly, this makes the jam sweeter and secondly, it acts like a natural preservative and ensures that the jam keeps for longer.

This mixture now needs to be left to boil, stirring occasionally, until it thickens. You can crush larger pieces using a fork. The whole mixture then needs to be left in the pan, with a lid on, for an hour. Shortly before the hour is up, rinse out the prepared twist-off jars (see above) with hot water, fill them up to the rim with the jam, screw the lids on tight, turn the jars upside down and leave them to cool. That's it!