Preserving the autumn harvest

Before the days of refrigeration and a supermarket on every corner, preserving fruit (and other food) was a matter of necessity. Knowing a number of different methods of storing those essential nutrients to see us through winter was second nature, particularly for country families.

Hugh and Katie cutting peaches for preserving
Hugh and Katie cutting fruit for preserving

In the modern era, when we expect to be able to buy any type of food at any time of year (which is very weird, when you think about it…) these life skills have largely disappeared.

It’s such a pity, and makes us much more vulnerable to factors outside our control for our food supply. Cities in particular can run short of food very quickly after disasters.

So it just makes good sense to preserve as much food as we can to keep our pantries full, but turning our harvest into preserves is also heaps of FUN, and brings out your inner pioneer spirit!

A bounty of apricots destined for the kitchen
A bounty of apricots destined for the kitchen

Our “go to” method is bottling (also called canning in some parts of the world), because once the fruit is preserved it doesn’t take any more energy to store it (unlike freezing, for example), and it lasts for years.

Here’s the technique we use:

  1. Prepare the fruit by washing if needed, remove any bad bits and chop into the right sized pieces to fit the jars you’re planning to use;
  2. Pre-cook the fruit if desired (it can also be bottled raw);
  3. Wash jars, rings, lids – and have your clips handy;
  4. Place rings around the neck of the jars;
  5. Fill the jars with fruit, and top up with either water or syrup (get as much air out of the jars as possible and fill right to the top with liquid);
  6. Put the lid and clip on;
  7. Cook in the Fowler’s pan or preserving pan for the right period of time (this differs slightly for different types of fruit, depending on whether the fruit is pre-cooked, and the temperature of the contents when you start the preserving process);
  8. Allow to cool before removing from the preserving pan;
  9. Label and store in a cool, dark place.
Make sure the ring is fitted properly around the neck of the jar
Make sure the ring is fitted properly around the neck of the jar

You can find more detail about this in our Fabulous Fruit Preserving short course, along with detailed instructions for other techniques including:

  • freezing
  • making jams, chutneys etc.
  • drying (including how to build your own dehydrator)
  • pickling
Preserving plums for winter
Preserving plums for winter

Any type of fruit can be preserved using this technique. In this time of year hopefully you’ll still have access to plenty of fresh pears and apples – and maybe even plums, if you’re lucky!

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