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!

Apricot bottling and berry tarts!

Have you done any fruit bottling this year? Never tried it before? It’s really easy, and a great way to preserve the summer bounty to enjoy through winter.

Our farm is a demonstration of how you can grow and preserve an entire year’s supply of fruit for your family, so each year we practise what we preach and bottle a heap of fruit to see us through winter.

We aim to preserve enough each year so we don’t need to buy fruit at all, so we’re busily filling the pantry at the moment.

It’s still early in the season, so there’s not much fruit around, but apricots and cherries are some of our favourites, so we’ve filled lots of jars with them already.

We’re also harvesting lots of berries at the moment as well. We don’t bottle these, as they tend to go mushy. But they freeze really well, and we also eat as many as we can while they’re fresh and in season.

 

This is one of our favourite ways to eat them – berry tarts! They are quick, delicious and really easy to make, the whole thing only takes about half an hour from start to finish.

Here’s the recipe to make about 24 tarts:

Gluten free pastry

  • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 cup rice flour
  • 1/4 cup cornflour
  • 1/4 cup besan flour
  • knob butter
  • milk

Make pastry your usual way. Roll out, and use a glass or pastry cutter to cut tart-sized rounds. Cook in greased tart tins (like shallow muffin trays) for about 8 mins or until done.

Berry filling

Put about 400g berries in a saucepan, add about 1/2 cup sugar (or enough to sweeten to taste). Cook, stirring all the while until the sugar is completely melted and a syrup is forming. It’s great if some of the berries retain their shape.

In a cup mix 2 heaped tsp cornflour with just enough water to make it liquid. Add to berry mixture, and stir until the cornflour is completely cooked and the mixture starts to thicken. The mixture will go cloudy when you add the cornflour, so keep cooking until it has gone clear again.

Fill pastry cases with berry mixture and set aside to cool and set.

If you’re interested in finding out more about fruit preserving for home use, try¬†Fabulous Fruit Preserving. It includes instructions for how to bottle fruit using equipment found in most home kitchens, as well as details about freezing, jam and dehydrating (and even includes instructions for making your own fruit dehydrator!)