Good Food Blog
Top tips for preserving fruitPosted at 12:02PM, 03 August 2012 by Clare Hargreaves - Seasonal & Local Food Editor for BBC Good Food Magazine
With many fruits now ripe and flavoursome, it's time to get preserving to ensure a tasty supply for the winter. Bottled sunshine if you like. Preserves queen Pam Corbin (also known as Pam the Jam) used to run her own preserving company and has written a book on preserving. She now runs courses with fellow preserver Liz Neville at Tresillian House in Cornwall. Pam agreed to share her top tips for preserving jams, jellies and beyond...
There's nothing like a row of colourful summer jams to brighten cold winter days. Now is the time to think ahead and get jamming. To qualify as proper jam, the finished product should contain 60% sugar, including the sugars in the fruit.
- Use fresh, dry, slightly under-ripe fruit. Strawberries and raspberries are best layered with the sugar and left for a couple of hours before cooking. Plums, currants, gooseberries, cherries etc... need to be lightly poached before sugar is added.
- Pectin, naturally found in fruit is vital to make your jam set. With low pectin fruits like strawberries, help them along by either mixing with pectin rich fruits like gooseberries or by using jam sugar (with added pectin and citric acid).
- Setting point is 104.5°C. You can tell when your jam is reaching setting point as the fast, frothy rolling boil will reduce to a slower more relaxed boil. The tiny air bubbles will disappear, the surface will look glossy and the mixture will feel thicker. Undercook rather than overcook - runny jam can be cooked up again.
- To get rid of scum (which is just trapped air) at the end of cooking, stir in the same direction until reduced.
- When potting up, fill your jars to brimful when the jam is still over 85°C. If using twist-on metal lids there's no need to use waxed discs.
These are clear jams without 'bits' in them, made by boiling strained fruit juice with sugar. They're best made with fruits high in pectin, though if your fruit isn't, marry it with a fruit that is, like apples and gooseberries. To every 600ml of juice add 450g sugar.
- To speed up the flow of the straining juice, place a small saucer and heavyish weight (water filled jam jar) on top of the fruit pulp.
Pickles and chutneys
There's nothing better than a juicy pickle or chutney to spice up cold meat or cheese, or to throw into a stew. Plus, they're dead easy to make.
- Remove any air pockets by gently tapping the jars on your work surface. Pack to within 5mm of the top of the jar. Seal with vinegar-proof twist-on lids.
Rhubarb & date chutney
Richly spiced plum chutney
Green bean & mustard pickle
Crunchy courgette pickle
Homemade tomato chutney
Autumn piccalilli with pear
Green tomato chutney
Spicy plum & apple chutney
Liqueurs, syrups and cordials
Steeping fruits in alcohol or sugar syrup is a lovely way of preserving the essences of juicy summer fruits. Cordials and syrups can be diluted like a fruit squash.
- Make sure your fruit is perfectly ripe. Prick it with a needle to help the juices flow. Don't wash the fruit unless vital.
Fruit leathers and cheeses
Leathers are the ultimate children's lunchbox solution - a lightly sweetened fruit puree is slowly dried in a low oven producing a thin pliable sheet, a bit like leather. A fruit cheese is a solid, sliceable preserve - perfect with cheese.
- Leave your leathers in the oven until they're completely dry. You can then peel off the baking parchment easily.
Tell us your top tips for preserving and try your hand at more of our favourite pickles, jams and chutneys