Archive for the ‘preserves’ Category

It’s such a committment to grow your own gherkins and then pick every day to maximise the crop. Last year the wind at our new home on top of the hill wrecked the vines and hardly made it worth the effort. This year I decided to grow them in my little greenhouse, making a zig-zag trellis back and forth across with chicken wire and had bamboo stakes holding it up. I tied the vines up, planted tomatoes around the edges, then watered every day and watched them grow… and grow and grow. They loved the sheltered environment. It took the bees a while to find them so for a while I used a little paint brush and transferred pollen from male to female flowers to make the most of the early flowers. Eventually the bees and bumblebees found them and the main crop came on. They’ve nearly finished now, thank goodness, from one packet of twenty seeds I have about 60 jars of different sizes. That’s plenty, tomorrow I’m pulling the plants out so the tomatoes can ripen, they’ve been smothered in gherkins long enough! Recipe at the end.

Gherkins in greenhouse

Chicken wire and bamboo were strong enough to hold them up.

Gherkins pollinated

At the start it was disappointing when some didn’t pollinate but didn’t care by the end!

Gherkins vine

Were easy to miss so had to really hunt them down.

Gherkins picked

A couple of handfuls every day soon added up

Gherkins brine

Soaking in brine overnight

Gherkins pickled

Jar by jay they added up

Gherkins stored

Nearly finished doing this year’s crop.

Pickled Gherkins

This method only does a small amount at a time.

With a scratchy pad or rough cloth clean off the sharp little prickles and soak overnight in a plastic bucket in a brine of 3 tablespoons of plain salt to a litre of water. Make as much as you need to cover. Next morning tip them into the sink and wash brine off.

To pickle, have a mixture of 2 cups of white vinegar, 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar boiling on the stove. Drop enough gherkins for one jar into this for 2 minutes only. Have hot jar ready, put a few whole spices into the bottom of the jar (I use 2 coriander seeds, 2 whole cloves and a black peppercorn). Put gherkins into jar and cover to the top with the mixture they’ve just boiled in. Screw on hot lid.

Hint: if your gherkins have grown a bit too big, soak in brine then peel and slice before cooking for a minute.

Leave for a month before trying, get better with time!

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What if you could skip all the hard parts and just use the blender to chop your citrus fruit for marmalade? I tried it with oranges and although the taste is great, there is a creamy look rather than the clear jelly you get with boiling, straining and thin slicing the peel. Here’s the recipe I used.

Blender Orange Marmalade


  • 1.5 kg oranges
  • 1.5 litres water
  • 1 kg sugar


  1. Cut your oranges into quarters and remove any pips you can see and the hard stem ends.
  2. Put them in a big pot with the water and gently boil for an hour until the skins and fruit are soft.
  3. Blitz it all with your blender stick until minced as finely as you want it.
  4. Add the sugar and stir over heat until dissolved. Bring to the boil again for another 45 mins (stir occassionally so it doesn’t burn). Then remove from heat and stir for 5 mins.
  5. Sterilize your jars and lids, fill your jars with hot marmalade and screw lids down.
  6. Leave for two weeks to thicken and set. It doesn’t set like jelly marmalade but is the consistency of a thick jam. The flavour is slightly bitter but in orange marmalade that’s not a bad thing.

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Last year I preserved my tomatoes by baking them but this year it is way too hot to have the oven on. I wanted a method I didn’t have to stay in attendance with and that wouldn’t heat up the house! The solution was to rough chop the tomatoes, green chillies and garlic then put them in a slow cooker in the garage for two hours. Another hour without the lid got rid of the excess tomato liquid. I don’t have a mouli so it was into a colander then mash the tomato pulp through the holes with a bowl. It was very fast and worked rather well, some of the seeds got through but it kept back nearly all the skins. From here it will be into snaplock bags and into the freezer.

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I love to grow berry fruit and eat it but the task of processing needs to be quick and painless! Kudos to those that top and tail their blackcurrants, your commitment to the task is beyond my level of dedication. For me, it is just as good to leave the odd little green stalk on and totally ignore the little dried flower end. The end product when you use a blender stick on your simmered fruit is a smooth jam with a dense texture and a strong, rich flavour.

Blackcurrant Jam

  • Weigh then wash your blackcurrants and put in a deep saucepan
  • Add a cup of water per kilo of fruit
  • Gently simmer until the fruit is soft and cooked.
  • Blend in the pot with your whizz stick
  • Add the same blackcurrant weight of sugar and stir in until dissolved
  • Now bring to a rapid boil and continue to boil for 20 mins, stirring often to stop it burning on the bottom.
  • Take off the element and stir for another 20 mins
  • Have your jam jars heated and your lids boiling in a small pot, fill your jars and cover with the hot lids.

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Not well done but I’ve let the raspberry canes engulf the electric fence. In spite of a kill switch to disconnect the power, I keep getting cracks across the back or anywhere else when I daydream picking raspberries. Since they’ve upped the power unit supplying the farm this year it’s been a particularly shocking start to the season! At last Stan took pity and had a look at why the kill switch wasn’t working… took him two seconds to work out I had both ends connected to the power.

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A friend gave me some medlars to have a go at making jelly from this very old fashioned fruit. Picked when still hard and green, you leave them in a cool place until they have bletted. That means they ripen until they are soft, brown and a bit squishy. When you bite into a green medlar they are incredibly astringent and inedible, once bletted they lose that astringency but still don’t taste great, a cross between earthy leaf mold and rotten pear. On line there are heaps of recipes, I followed the basic jelly recipe of:

  • In a large pot put fruit, a roughly chopped lemon and apple (for extra pectin) and barely cover with water.
  • Bring slowly to the boil then simmer until the fruit is very mushy and water has lots of flavour (mine took about half an hour.)
  • Strain fruit through a cloth bag, don’t squeeze (but I always do) and save the juice.
  • Measure juice into a pot by the cup full. Bring to the boil then add the same number cups of sugar.
  • Boil until it’s ready to set, then pour into sterilised jars.

The resulting medlar jelly is a dark pink, a bit tart and has an amazing flavour. It set really well so I think medlars must have lots of pectin by themselves. It’s a bit like a strong quince jelly but more tasty.

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‘Fragrant’ Medlar Jelly

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A friend told me about these crab apples she’d had in the States that were good with ham and other meats. After making some up, I agree that they are not only tasty but look pretty with their stalks still on and their shape retained. Here is a tasty version made with what I had in the cupboard.

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  • 1.5 kg crab apples: pare out the bottom blossom area, push a skewer through the length of the core so the flavour can penetrate, then prick the skin so when it splits it doesn’t peel off.
  • 4.5 cups white sugar
  • 3 cups water
  • 4.5 cups white vinegar
  • In a twist of cotton fabric tie in 1 teaspoon each of: cinnamon, cloves, ginger and cardamom (optional).

Bring everything but the crab apples to the boil then add enough crab apples to fill two jars at a time. Simmer until crab apples are soft, about 7 mins. Have your clean jars sterilising (I put 2 cm of water in my 2 jars and microwave them for 5 mins) and have lids boiling in a pot.

When the crab apples are ready, I bottle using the overflow method. Use whatever method you feel most comfortable with. Overflow can be hit and miss if you plan on keeping them for years but I like this method for it’s simplicity and preserves don’t hang around our place long enough to spoil! They already taste good but I’m sure they will improve with a bit of time. Enjoy!

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