Make hay (or jam!) while the sun shines

In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.  ~William Blake


We’re having a lovely mild autumn right now. It almost makes up for the nonexistent summer! My tomatoes are finally ripening in the sun and I’m eyeing up the pumpkins under their mantle of mildew-speckled leaves, trying to judge the ideal moment to pick them for maximum ripeness before the frosts get ’em. In the kitchen I’m bottling roasted tomato sauce, apple puree, jams and pickles. My laundry is hung with drying maize, beans, onions, herbs and seeds.

Preserving helps me to avoid wasting the late summer glut and allows me to spread it over the winter months to come. Like many people I have tried and tested family recipes (not to mention more than a few disasters) but I also like to test out new crops, recipes and preserving or storage methods.

Where do I turn to learn how to pickle my pumpkins or clamp my carrots? The library of course! Whether I’m looking for a book or an online resource, the library can help. There are plenty of preserving books to help you fill those Agee jars and some great how-to manuals on other food storage techniques. Have a look on The Source for the Culinary Arts Collection (you’ll need your library card and pin number handy), and try a search on food preservation for more intriguing information on old food storage methods.

By the way, the image above shows the Hayward Bros. pickle, sauce and vinegar factory, which used to be very close to the site of our new Central Library Peterborough – it opened just down the road in 1890, on the corner of Peterborough and Victoria Streets. You can look at more of our fabulous heritage image collection on our website.

What crops to you end up overrun with at this time of year? How do you deal with them? Go on, share your favourite preserving recipe!

Bubble bubble, toil and reward

I’ve got a hankering this year I’ve not had for a while. I want to make preserves, bottle some fruit and I especially want to try my hand at Onion Jam. Apparently, according to a greengrocer I was chatting with, the stonefruits are late this year, so I am awaiting bounteous apricots, peaches and plums anytime now, fragrant and gorgeous.

I’ll get out my preserving pan – I can’t believe I actually have one, and I’ll get slicing, weighing and stirring. The warm sweet smells will fill the house and imagine I will be briefly transported back in time.

I have wonderful childhood memories of helping both my grandmothers and my mother in the kitchen at this time of year. Nothing beats a slice of really soft bread with butter and still warm raspberry jam slathered on top! Seeing all the jars of various hues all lined up in the cupboard afterwards is also both satisfying and a joy to behold.

There’s a great selection of jam and preserve books  throughout the libraries, if you lurk about in the 641.852 area of the non-fiction section of any of our libraries, you will find recipes and advice for the classics, such as raspberry jam or orange marmalade, through to the more exotic, such as pink pickled ginger or peach and passionfruit preserve.

Do you have a favourite recipe for jam, preserves, a pickle or sauce, care to share. Maybe a book you find invaluable?

You’ve still got time to make some edible Christmas presents!

Cover of "4 ingredients"Christmas day is less than 10 days away, but you’ve still got time to make some delicious edible presents…

If you are running short of time and you want some simple recipes with a short list of ingredients, try 4 ingredients. This handy little book contains a wide range of recipes for treats like chocolate or rum balls, fudge (the lime and macadamia fudge sounds particularly enticing), and biscuits, along with many other mouth watering goodies, so it is definitely a must read!

Homemade jams make a great present, but if you think that jam-making sounds too time consuming and messy, why not try making it in your microwave? ‘Bird of Paradise Pineapple Jam’ from Quick & easy one pot of jam from your microwave sounds absolutely divine with ingredients like pineapple, persimmon, apple, and lime. It is described as being deep orangey-pink in colour with a delicious taste, and apparently makes for ‘a lively addition to a cheese board…’ I haven’t made this myself yet, but it is on my (growing by the day) ‘to do’ list.

Cover of "Preserved"For those of you that have an abundant veggie or fruit garden you may be thinking of ways to turn your homegrown goodness into presents. If you’ve got oodles of lemons, for example, there are lots of options like: lemon cordial, lemon honey (an old favourite of mine), preserved lemons, or lemon oil.

Recipe books like Preserved will help you to turn your lemons into edible presents, but beware, it is easy to become quite distracted when you start leafing through the glossy pages of close-up photos of fig jam and oranges in brandy!

Using herbs from your garden to make a jar of pesto is another option you could try. If you have a large supply of parsley at the moment (like I do), just use a standard basil pesto recipe and replace the basil with parsley. Delicious!

So in the lead up to Christmas, why not put a few minutes aside and crank up your creative side?

Preserving summer

coverIt’s impossible to deny that this summer has been better than last. There are actually tomatoes on the plants and they’re ripening. The courgettes are bountiful, the cucumbers abundant and the pumpkins have just about taken over the lawn. Life has become a cornucopia of riches and it’s time to harvest.

Last year I bought tomatoes (because the yield off our own plants was so pathetic) and got preserving. I’m not much of a jam maker but I did find some good easy recipes that lasted us through the winter months.

My Tomato Chilli Jam was a particular success thanks to Annabel Langbein. I noticed there’s a similar recipe in this month’s NZ Gardener magazine. I also made curried tomato sauce a la Alison Holst and this year I’m going to have a go at pizza sauce topping.

Has anyone got a good recipe?