Tips to help you make jams and chutneys and bottle all that flavoursome late-summer and new autumn produce
- Most preserve recipes overdo it with the sugar and vinegar. Experiment with less, starting off with half the amount. You can always add more, it’s harder to take it away.
- Salting vegetables for 2-3 hours (or overnight) will remove excess moisture and keep your pickles crunchy. No one likes a runny relish.
- Older recipes tend towards the bland. We like ours a little spicier, so be brave and modernise your recipes with different flavour and taste combinations.
- Storing chutneys for up to three months will enhance the flavours, and most will keep well beyond six months, if preserved and sealed correctly.
Preserving using the overflow method
Step 1: Almost fill hot jars with boiling fruit. Fill to just below the rim with boiling syrup. Wipe the rim with a scalding cloth.
Step 2: Immediately cover with the sterilised metal seal and screw the band on tightly. Leave to cool.
Step 3: Remove the band when a seal is formed. The dome will be depressed. Wipe jars to remove any syrup, dry, then label and store in a cool, dry and dark place.
Kathy Paterson explains how to sterilise jars
Preserving in small batches is quite often more achievable. Use oven mitts, pot holders or thick cloths to handle hot jars. Keep your fingers away from the rims once jars are sterilised. Scald a clean cloth for wiping. I have a few old clean tea towels around to sit hot jars on. And on a very hot day, a bucket of cold water for me to stand in!
Step 1: Wash jars thoroughly in hot soapy water, rinse and drain.
Step 2: Place on oven racks, with space between them and heat at 120C for 10-15 minutes. Or you can put jars in a large pot of boiling water for 10 minutes then drain upside down on a clean tea towel and dry in the oven.
Step 3: Glass jars can also be put through a hot cycle in your dishwasher.
Step 4: Sterilise metal seals, lids and bands in boiling water for 5 minutes and then leave in water.
Tips for jam making
- Choose fruit that’s slightly underripe, which will have a higher pectin content. The jam will not set as well if you use overripe or damaged fruit.
- Experiment with jam sugar. The added pectin in it serves as a thickening agent, allowing you to use much less sugar, and speeding up the process to get to a “set” preserve.
- Warming the sugar speeds up the jam-making process. The faster the jam is made, the fresher and more delicious the taste. If you add cold sugar it will take longer to return to the boil.
- To test whether your jam has reached setting point, take the pan off the heat so the rest of the batch doesn’t overcook. Have a few saucers in the freezer. Put a teaspoonful of jam on one, cool for a minute then push a spoon or your finger through it. The surface of the jam should wrinkle, it should not pour back and fill the gap. If not ready, put the pan back on to the heat, simmer for a few more minutes and test again with another saucer. A sugar thermometer clipped to the side of the pan makes things easier — jam is ready when it reaches 105C.
More preserves and bottling recipe collections