Thursday, January 03, 2013


Family portrait, New Years Eve 2012

I started 2013 with 20 jars of new preserves made over the previous few days. In these uncertain times there is a sense of security having all that summery goodness put away for the cold months ahead. It's been about seven years since I've done any serious preserving and I'd been looking forward (somewhat nervously) to making the most of my first summer in a proper kitchen.  I bought a box of preserving jars at the Raglan Recycling Centre for a dollar and then spent many more dollars on seals and rings, and even a special jam funnel, which was a very good investment.  Oh, and then I was given an ice cream maker.

Picking my parent's plum tree. 

I kick started the harvest by introducing myself to my neighbour and asking if I could pick her plums which I have been watching ripen, attended only by birds.  They were small, yellow-fleshed and all but tasteless when raw. Five kilograms of fruit cooked up into delicious chutney, even more delicious jelly (flavoured with root ginger, orange zest and cinnamon stick) and roasted plum and vanilla sorbet.  I admired my first six jars with a glow of satisfaction.

A rolling boil on a hot day

That very evening my mother announced that their tree was ripe for picking Right Now!  I rushed around the next morning and picked a bucket and a half of purple-red plums that are delicious to eat and tart to cook.  I bottled seven large jars of the best plums (without bird pecks) whole, each with a different flavour (bay, cinnamon, cloves, vanilla, star anise etc.  With the damaged plums I made a frozen yoghurt and then roasted the rest with a jar of too sweet quince syrup mum made last autumn.  A night in the jelly bag gave me pulp to reduce and dry into fruit leather and a not-too-sweet cordial for sipping on hot days.

When will it set?
The same morning that I picked parental plums I impulsively bought boxes of damaged fruit at the farmer's market: strawberries, raspberries and apricots.  Three jars of apricot jam, one of jar heavenly strawberry-raspberry jam, a jar of raspberries in Cointreau, and a set of  strawberry-raspberry frozen yoghurt popsicles later, I was very tired and sticky- and satisfied.  I love to see the jewel tones that result and I look forward to eating and sharing them.

In the red cave- the jelly bag looks slightly obscene, like an udder of blood. The sheet is to keep the flies off, and I chose a red one as less likely to show any possible jelly stains.
The quantity of sugar required for this kind of preserving is a concern.  I cut back the quantities required in each recipe as much as I dared to try and save my teeth and used Fairtrade sugar to salve my conscience.  After this preserving marathon I won't make more jam or jelly but rather try to focus on savoury products using salt or vinegar as the preservative.

Bottled plums, with a clove
Hearing about my end of year preserving marathon someone commented "Sounds fun, but like a lot of work, I think I could only do so much before being sick of it." It was a lot of work but no more than many household routines before there were supermarkets and refrigerator.  I was a bit sick of it after two days, but also looking forward to the next bout- more plum chutney and plum sauce from another pick of plums next week.

Plum sorbet- a much needed cold treat after all that hot sticky stirring.
I tend to take on big projects that lots of people wouldn't tackle. It's like stitching My Antarctica but tastier.  With every big project- whether a thesis, an installation or a weekend of preserving- I grow more confident in my own capacity to finish what I start. I also research, plan and prepare extensively before I start so then once I get going its just a matter of perseverance.

Raspberries in Cointreau

1 comment:

Helen said...

Or 'preserve-rance'? lol!

Beautiful work and lovely photographs, too!

x Helen