Tag Archives: preserving

Guy’s Newsletter: time to start squirrelling

As temperatures and light levels drop, we are approaching the end of our polytunnel crops; super-tender basil was the first to go, cucumbers will soon follow and the tomatoes are now ripening so slowly that they will make way for crops of winter salads in early October. On our farm in France, with better light, the pepper and chillies may soldier on to the end of October if there are no early frosts, but ripening is now painfully slow.

Heating would keep crops going into November, but about ten years ago we took the decision not to sell any produce from heated glasshouses; an environmental study we carried out with Exeter University showed it was about ten times more efficient (in terms of CO₂ emissions) to import out-of-season produce from Spain by truck and ferry (not by air freight). As light levels drop off, the flavour of UK tomatoes from early October onwards is invariably disappointing anyway.

With winter approaching, we are hoping some of you will feel a squirrel-like urge to line your shelves with preserves ready for the dark, hungry months ahead, or perhaps to give to distant aunts for Christmas. It just so happens that, as is always the case in autumn, we have a few seasonal gluts that would go very well in those jars, so if you fancy a project, these are a few of my favourites:

Green tomato chutney: as we clear the tomatoes there is inevitable lots of green fruit, compounded this year by a grey August and cool September which slowed ripening. For the idle we will make a good supply of this chutney ourselves, or, for the industrious, you can order bags of green tomatoes, with full chutney-making instructions, from us in the next few weeks.

Chillies for drying: we have a good crop of Joe’s Long; a thin walled, moderately hot chilli which dries and stores well. Use a needle and thread to make your own colourful and decorative ‘ristra’ and hang in a dry, airy place until needed (again, full instructions are included). Once dry they will keep for a year or more. Look out for them in the next few weeks.

Chilli oil: use our slightly hotter, more fleshy chillies like serenade or jalapeno. There are plenty of recipes online.

Guy Watson

preserving blog: time for a citrus fest

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For Anna Colquhoun, Riverford’s Preserving Guru, January and February mean one thing in her kitchen.  Citrus.

Kilos arrive from Riverford, all lugged in crates by local driver Richard who always smiles and never grumbles.  The Seville oranges, blood oranges, lemons and clementines are fantastic  – bright, ripe, full of juice and flavour and of course unwaxed.  

ImageThey are some of my favourite things to preserve, as their colours stay true in the jar – a citrus rainbow of red, orange and yellow – and the boiling vats perfume the whole house. 

In my classes coming up in Feb we will make marmalade, spiced pickled oranges, blood orange and port jelly, clementine jam and Moroccan preserved lemons. 

If you’d like to join me at the courses in London, the dates are: 

Sat 8th Feb (waiting list only)
Sun 9th Feb (waiting list only)
Sat 15th Feb (places available)
Sun 16th Feb (places available)

If you’d rather have a go in the comfort of your home, here are a few tips…

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Preserved lemons:

These are easy to make and something special to add to your pantry of ingredients.  They are distinctive of Moroccan cuisine and go brilliantly with roast or braised chicken and fish, in chickpea and couscous dishes, and in salad dressings and salsas.  Chicken, olive and preserved lemon tagine is a classic, but why not also try spiced squash with preserved lemon or shoulder of lamb with preserved lemon.  You can find my recipe here.

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Preserved lemons are ‘lactofermented’, like some of the world’s other best foods – sourdough bread, yoghurt, chocolate and kimchi, to name a few.  Friendly bacteria enjoy the salty conditions, multiply, squeeze out any unwanted micro-organisms and produce lactic acid and carbon dioxide.  The former gives the lemons their distinctive texture, flavour and aroma, and the latter displaces the air in the jar.  The clever clip-top preserving jars let excess gas escape, so they don’t explode.  The bacteria like pure fine salt, that is to say not contaminated with those mysterious ‘anti-caking agents’.  Find it in wholefood and heathfood shops, or buy one of those expensive flaky sea salts and grind it in a mortar or processor. 

Fermentation takes around a month at warm room temperature.  Make sure the lemons stay submerged in the salty juice.  You might notice the jar fizz or sputter – good signs it’s working.  After fermentation keep the jar somewhere cool and dark and try to wait another month or more as they improve with age.  In Morocco I met a women who proudly showed me her syrupy seven-year old specimens.  (Not that I’m recommending that here.)  Fish out a lemon with a clean utensil, give it a rinse, cut away the flesh as it will be too salty and dice the translucent rind. 

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Marmalade

Pick up a Riverford Kit, some jars and granulated sugar and you’re away.  Bitter oranges are inedible raw, but deliciously bittersweet when transformed into marmalade.  They originated in China and later became popular in the Arabian empire, through which they spread around the Middle East and Mediterranean, as far as Spain, which remains a main production area.   

There are different methods for making marmalade, but all have several things in common.  First, the rind is boiled before it’s cooked with sugar, since the quantity of sugar involved will stop it softening.  So make sure the rind is tender enough to easily penetrate with the tines of a fork before proceeding.  Second, the all-important pectin is in mostly found in the pith and pips, so these are retained and used to impart their setting power, although strained out so as not to cloud the jelly.  Third, all the sugar must be gently dissolved before you boil, since stray grains on the side of the pan can cause a whole jar to crystalise.  Nothing wrong with crunchy jam, but perhaps not what you were after.  For a darker, richer ‘Oxford style’ marmalade, stir in a couple of tablespoons of black treacle.

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You need a big pan so the marmalade has space to boil furiously to reach setting point, which happens at around 104C.  Jam thermometers are not perfectly accurate, so better to use the cold saucer test – see my preserving guidelines for details.  Watch as the steam dies down and the bubbles seem slower and less watery – signs you should be testing.  It could take as little as 15 minutes or as much as 50.  When ready give it a few minutes so the rind disperses before pouring into jars, or they will be top-heavy with rind.  If there is scum, gently fold it in, skim it off with a spoon or dissolve it by stirring in a knob of butter.  For those so inclined, now is the time to add a dash of whisky.

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Of course, there’s no need to limit your marmalade to your breakfast toast.  It’s great in bread and butter pudding, on steamed puddings and cakes, as a glaze for meats (ham, chicken, duck), in ice cream, and even in cocktails (marmalade whisky sour, anyone?).

Look out for our next preserving kit for clementine jam, which is probably my new favourite citrus preserve as it’s so ridiculously easy to make and retains so much of the raw clementines’ bright colour and flavour.  I promise you’ll love it.  

Whether you’re an experienced or novice preserver, please let me know how it goes, ask me any questions and share your own tips by commenting on this blog below, writing on our Facebook page or sending a tweet to @Riverford with the hashtag #cooksquestion. 

 

 

top jam tips – now is the time for making jam!

The sky has turned an unusual colour (blue), the thermometer is soaring to new heights and at last summer fruits are appearing in abundance after the long cold spring – this is the time to make jam!

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ask Anna
Anna Colquhoun, our preserving expert, shares her jam-making tips below and talks about why now is the time to start bubbling up a batch of jam while summer fruit is in abundance around us. If you have any questions just comment on our blog, our Riverford Facebook page or tweet!

The one problem with summer holidays abroad is that you miss out on eating and cooking with local summer produce. (Every year I nurture a row of tomato plants for months only to be away for the bulk of the crop.) Our summer season is short, so to make the most of it I recommend turning your hand to jamming now.

We’ve just held my summer preserving workshops in London. It was so satisfying producing row after row of beautiful filled jars, including strawberry & rhubarb jam, stunning bottled cherries and glowing lemon curd. Many hands indeed make light work. So I suggest getting together a group of friends for a jamming session, or coming to my next Riverford Autumn Preserving workshops in October!

The flavour and beauty of summer treats like cherries, strawberries, raspberries, currants, rhubarb, apricots and gooseberries can all be preserved for months to come with nothing much more than sugar, jars and a large pan. Read on for my top jamming tips…

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fruit
It should go without saying that you should use beautiful, good quality fruit. Wash carefully, cut out any rotten patches and chop into even pieces. I’m not a huge fan of gimmicky jams. (You know the sort, like Tesco’s Cosmo and Daiquiri ‘Mocktail’ preserves.) However, judicious use of vanilla pods, fresh bay leaves or sprays of lemon verbena can work a treat in with the fruit.

pectin
You need pectin for jam to set. Some fruits are naturally high in pectin, such as gooseberries and currants. Others, including strawberries, rhubarb and sweet cherries, have very little so you need to add it. Apricots and raspberries are somewhere in between so might need a little if you want a firmer set. It’s easiest simply to substitute some or all of the sugar in your recipe with ‘jam sugar’, which has pectin in it.

sugar
To make a jam that will last on the shelf (unopened) rather than needing refrigeration, use approximately 1kg sugar for every 1kg of fruit. Regular, white granulated is best, or ‘jam sugar’ (see above). Don’t use caster; you might be tempted as you imagine it will dissolve faster, but it’s more likely to catch and burn at the bottom of the pan. The first step is to dissolve every last grain of sugar with minimal heat. You can even macerate the chopped fruit in the sugar in the fridge overnight to start the process. This works especially well for strawberries and helps preserve their shape in the finished jam.
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acid
For the pectin to work it needs acid. Most fruit is naturally acidic, but some need the juice of a couple of lemons to help the jam set properly, including strawberries, apricots, sweet cherries, raspberries and – rather surprisingly – rhubarb. Add it to your jam mixture in the pot.

heat
Once all the sugar is dissolved, crank up the heat, boil furiously but watch that it doesn’t boil over. This is why you need a big pan! I found my beautiful old copper preserving pan in my parents’ garage by chance (thanks Mum), which is fortunate since they now cost a fortune. It’s true that copper pans work a treat, but any large stainless steel pot will work fine.
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setting point
This is the magical moment when syrup becomes jam! Fruits seem to behave very differently, even from batch to batch or year to year, so don’t believe a recipe that tells you to boil for X minutes and then pot. You need to test. A thermometer will give you a good guide – you’re after around 104 degrees Centigrade – but they’re never totally accurate. So I prefer to watch how the syrup runs off a wooden spoon – first in a long watery stream, then in sticky globs that seem to want to hang on – and then perform the ‘saucer test.’

saucer test
Have some saucers chilling in the fridge or freezer. Pour on a teaspoon of syrup then let it sit undisturbed while it cools. This is your window into the future – a sneak preview of the consistency your jam will end up. Push your finger across the jam and watch for bunching up and wrinkling. If instead it still feels and looks like a syrup, turn on the heat again and boil for another few minutes before testing again.

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You have now made jam!

Let it sit for a few minutes so that the fruit settles. Fold in or skim off any unsightly scum and pour into hot, sterilised jars right up to the brim. Carefully screw on clean, new lids and turn the jars upside down for 10 minutes to sterilise the insides of the lids. Just remember to turn them over again before they set!

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You can find more guidance here, including instructions for sterilising jars in the oven.

Whether you’re an experienced or novice preserver, please let me know how it goes, ask me any questions and share your own tips by commenting on this blog below, writing on our Facebook page or sending a tweet to @Riverford with the hashtag #cooksquestion.

Kirsty’s cooking blog: making red onion & raisin chutney

Kirsty, Riverford Cook

Kirsty, Riverford Cook

Before I had my first vegbox, about 12 years ago now, I’d always made a few chutneys, because I love the mix of sweet and sour flavours, and their versatility. With my vegbox, I started making more chutneys and pickles to use up any gluts. Now they’ve become a staple in my kitchen cupboard.

Chutneys are one of the simplest of all the preserving kits we’re selling alongside the vegboxes. A bit of peeling and chopping, then let it all simmer gently away until you have a sticky, aromatic concoction. With our ready-weighed spice bags there’s no risk of over or under-spicing, so they’re great for beginners, or for those who don’t like to buy jars of spices and then find them a year later, languishing and stale in the back of the cupboard.

With its warm spices, you might think our new red onion and raisin chutney is more suited to wintry suppers, but if you make it now, it’ll mature in time to be a great addition to a summer spread. Take it on picnics; it’s good with pork pie or cheeses, or serve alongside barbecued meats. For veggies, try one of our giant portobello mushrooms, char-grilled and served on a griddled warm bun with a slick of mayo, preferably a garlic one, topped with a good dollop of chutney.

I’m making my jars now, while the days are still promising much, and squirreling them away for summer feasts on the river Dart and balmy seaside barbecues. Or, if the weather’s like last year, I’ll brave the beach in a mac, shovel in a quick cheese and chutney doorstop, head to the nearest pub to dry off and save most of the jars for bonfire night sausages.

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Riverford red onion & raisin chutney kit

Anna’s preserving blog – now is the time for chutney

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It’s remarkably satisfying to capture the season’s fruits and vegetables in jars. And it makes sense to use up what’s growing now while it’s plentiful and at its best. In winter I’d much rather cook with a jar of the tomato passata I made in summer than buy tasteless, pallid specimens grown in gas-guzzling hothouses. Who wants strawberries at Christmas? Not me. But some fruity jam on my morning toast – yes please.

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Now is the best time of year for making chutney, whether you’re using up the windfalls from the garden or trying out Riverford’s new green tomato chutney kit – a genius solution for the end of the crop that missed out on the summer sun. Squash also makes a delicious chutney, especially when combined with pears and dates, so I intend to snap up one of Riverford’s squash boxes before they go. Chutneys can be made with all manner of fruits and vegetables and usually also contain onions, cooking apples, dried fruit and spices. Follow a trusted recipe to get an idea for the quantities of sugar and vinegar in relation to fruit and veg, as these are essential for preserving the chutney.

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For the best flavour, use whole spices tied up in a muslin bag and submerged in the chutney as it cooks. You can yank it out when the mix tastes spicy enough. Peppercorns, cloves, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, cinnamon sticks, orange zest, fresh ginger and mace all work well. Chutneys benefit from long, slow cooking in a heavy-based pot. It’s ready when a wooden spoon dragged across the bottom momentarily reveals a streak of pan. Chutneys also taste better given time, so try to resist the urge to eat them immediately. After a few months the flavours will have magically combined and deepened.

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One of my earliest culinary memories is of raiding trees and hedges on my street for crab apples, rosehips, hawthorn berries, rowans, elderberries and blackberries and cooking them up together to see what I could make. I must have been about 7, and it must have been about this time of year. Recently I’ve been making lots more hedgerow jelly, which I now do in classes for those keen to master the craft. It’s deep purple, full of flavour and tastes fantastic with roast lamb, venison or duck, or cheese.

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It’s easy too: Roughly chop 1kg of Riverford’s cooking apples (skin, cores and all), place in a big pot with 1kg of berries and barely cover with water. Cover and boil for an hour until the fruits burst, then strain through a jelly bag. Heat the resulting juice in a large pan, add 1lb granulated sugar for every pint of juice, stir gently to dissolve and then boil to setting point.

See my preserving guidelines for reaching setting point and filling sterilised jars. And don’t pick any berries you can’t identify!

Whether you’re an experienced or novice preserver, please let me know how it goes, ask me any questions and share your own tips by commenting on this blog below, writing on our Facebook page or sending a tweet to @Riverford with the hashtag #cooksquestion.

Riverford pickles + preserve blog from Anna Colquhoun

My name is Anna and I am a preserver.  Yes, it is an addiction, a bug which I hope you catch too.  If you do, you’ll understand why my shelves are five-deep with jars of translucent orange, yellow and purple jellies, assorted jams and pickles, maturing chutneys, berry vinegars, cordials, bottled stone fruits and slabs of quince ‘cheese’.  Through this blog and our new preserving kits we hope to inspire you to get preserving too.

Our first kit is the famous Watson cucumber pickle – something of a family heirloom.  Get it here, complete with everything you need including step-by-step instructions.  If you’re from America you might know it as ‘bread and butter pickles’.  Whatever you call it, it’s important to salt the veg first to draw out excess water which would otherwise dilute the vinegar.  Look out for the green tomato chutney kit next month, and check out my preserving guidance notes for the do’s and don’ts of sterilising and sealing jars and more.

A bit about me – I trained as a chef in San Francisco and now teach cooking classes and run a supper club in London, under the name Culinary Anthropologist.  I love making things from scratch – be it bread, pasta, ham or jam – and investigating the origins of ingredients and dishes and their journeys across the globe.  I’ve been a Riverford customer for years and I’m also part of the network of Riverford Cooks.  You’ll find us dotted across the country, running cooking classes, demonstrations, supper clubs and more.

Over the coming months I’ll be sharing some of my preserving tips and recipes and answering your queries.  If you’ve ever pondered turning your hand to preserving, now is the time.  Plums can be relied upon to make a delicious jam which sets easily.  Almost anything can be thrown into a slow-cooked chutney as long as there is enough vinegar and sugar to preserve it.  And now is the perfect time for piccalilli, one of my favourites.

Whether you’re an experienced or novice preserver, please let me know how it goes, ask me any questions and share your own tips by commenting on this blog below, writing on our Facebook page or sending a tweet to @Riverford with the hashtag #cooksquestion.  I do hope you catch my bug….

Questions to the cook – 24th August 2010

We’re answering your questions about cooking, preparing, or storing fruit, veg.  This week we’ve answered your questions on damsons, elderberries, rosehips, cucumbers and our chocolate beetroot brownies.

 Post your questions here on the blog and we’ll pass them to our cooks to answer in the next questions to the cook blog.

help! i’ve been at the hedge veg again! just picked a load of damsons, most of the ones I picked are ok, but hubby picked quite a few greenies, what would you recomend to do with ones that are not quite ripe? risk making jam or make a chutney? and do you have any recipies? also what can i do with elderberries (but make shockingly good wine) and rosehips which i’ve been told are packed with vit c, but again can’t seem to find anything to do with this great “hedge veg” i have all within walking distance of my house. thanks caroline
Caroline Harrison

There’s not a lot you can do with unripe damsons. Leave them on the windowsill for a while so they ripen. You can then try making damson gin with around 450g of washed damsons, 160g of white granulated sugar and 75cl gin. Prick the fruit and pour into a sterilised 1 ltr bottle add the sugar and fill with gin to the rim. Shake every day until the sugar is dissolved and then store in a cool, dark place for 3 months to a year then strain and bottle it.

To use up your elderberries, try a jam. Put 1.3 – 1.8kg of elderberries into a large pan and crush. Heat up and simmer for 10 minutes. Seive the mashed berries and let it strain for several hours.

Measure out 3 cups of juice to make one batch of jam. Any amount more than that you can reserve for making syrup, or add to another batch for jelly. Put 3 cups of juice into a large, wide pot (8-quart). Add 1/4 cup of lemon juice a packet of pectin. Bring it to boil and add 4 ½ cups sugar and ¼ teaspoon of butter. Stir with a wooden spoon and bring to the boil (watching the pot). As it reaches boiling point, stir, and after 2 minutes, remove it from the heat and pour into sterilised jars 

Rosehips also make a good jelly and can be made into a syrup with 4 ½ pints water, 90g rosehips and 45g white granulated sugar. Top and tail the rosehips, boil 3 pints of the water and put the rosehips in a food processor. Transfer the fruit into the boiling water and bring to the boil again before removing from the heat and leaving for 15 mins. Strain the mixture then return the pulp to the pan and add the remaining water. Bring it to the boil, remove from the heat and leave for 15 minutes. Strain again, then add all the extracted liquid to a clean saucepan and boil until reduced to 1.5 pints. Add the sugar and boil for 5 mins then poit into sterilised bottles straight away.


Can I freeze the beetroot chocolate brownies from your Riverford cookbook? and how long can I keep them?
Jan Coppen

Yes, you can freeze them and you can keep them for no more than 3 months.

Try our  recipe for chocolate beetroot brownies here.


got any suggestions for using or preserving cucumbers?
hazelshomegrown (via Twitter)

You can store cucumbers at the bottom of the fridge for a week or so, but the flavour deteriorates – they’re much better if eaten fresh.

As for using them, you can’t really beat cucumber raw in a salad, but for something a little different, try our recipes for spiced cucumber and cucumber pickle.

Order cucumber from Riverford Organic.