My goodness, how I love preserving! This morning I made pickled zucchini slices and zucchini pickle from the abundance of zucchini in our garden, and made redcurrant jelly that set to perfection, and blackcurrant cordial from the fruit my daughter Stephanie provided. It is so delectable and so deliciously simple to do. There is simply no comparison flavour wise to the commercial product, as anyone who has tasted home preserves will testify.
For me the question of “Why preserve” is, as they say nowadays, a no-brainer. It is a wonderful, easy, fun way to make the most of seasonal abundance of fruit and vegetables by bottling or in a jam or pickle. It also reduces food wastage – it is a way to hold produce in “suspended animation” to be enjoyed at a later date.
Even if you don’t have the circumstance to grow your own, in times of seasonal abundance prices are generally low, and produce can be accessed often at roadside stalls and farmers’ markets and so has the potential to reduce “food miles”. It means that food wastage is minimised, with considerable advantages for the household budget.
In this day and age, freezing comes into the equation as well. For many years I used to immediately make, for instance, literally buckets of blackcurrants into syrup, all in the space of a couple of days. Now all I do is freeze them until I have the time or inclination to turn them into syrup, making them up in relatively small batches. I do similar with tomatoes – some I bottle and some I freeze. Either way, I take them out and make them into tomato sauce or chutney whenever I run low.
We are increasingly concerned about what goes into our food in the way of artificial additives. By preserving in a variety of ways, you have control over this – the ingredients are preserved by the simple methods used to preserve them. An example is in my blog of a few days ago about bottling apricots.
Vegetables can be preserved in chutneys, pickles or in vinegar solutions or dehydrated. A variety of jams, marmalades and pickles are not only delicious for our own households to eat, but make lovely gifts.
It is a great activity for families and small groups to undertake together, right through from the picking, even the growing if you have the space and circumstance to do so. Then there is the preparation and processing of the fruit. The sense of satisfaction at seeing the glistening jars on the pantry shelves is inestimable – it seems to address some innate sense of wellbeing and hints at a comfortable time of plenty.
Children particularly love to help in the making of sparkling fruit drinks, such as Sparkling Rhubarb or Rose Petal or Elderflower. How this works is a wonder to me – seems like magic, though I’m sure it is quite simplistically scientific. Being an old fan of Peter, Paul and Mary, I remember the words of their song that said “It’s magic, and you don’t want to know, just how it’s done, it would ruin the show”. That applies to my attitude to the sparkling rhubarb drink, where other fruits, except apples, can be substituted for rhubarb. They are much lower in sugar than most commercial soft drinks and at least ten times more delicious, all with no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives.
In short, it is an art that is experiencing a huge resurgence of interest and for good reason. Old Fowlers jars that had collected dust for years are now being revitalised and reutilised with great appreciation for the potential to make the most of seasonality. Empty jars are highly sought after for use in making jams and pickles.
Best of all, it no longer is the domain of the older generation as a rapidly growing number of the younger generations (women and men) continue to embrace the enjoyable art with all the enthusiasm it deserves.
By the way, if anyone would like the recipe for the blackcurrant syrup or redcurrant jelly, let me know.