Recently, I have been spending quite a lot of time preserving some of the early summer harvests from my garden. For example, I’ve been making plenty of gooseberry jam. (My recipe is simple – 1.5kg underripe green gooseberries, 1kg sugar (for a pretty sweet jam). Reduce the sugar to taste for a tarter option. ) I’ve also made some gooseberry relish – great on salads or with cheese.
Preserving food is just as important a skill to learn as growing it. Gardening is definitely an important skill to hone. But you should also learn how to:
- Store fruits, vegetables and other herbs. What should you refrigerate? What should you freeze? What belongs in your pantry or a root cellar/ root store?
- Make jams, jellies, marmalades and other sugar preserves.
- Preserve using vinegars – making pickles, piccalilli, chutneys etc..
- Ferment products to extend their shelf life – by making sauerkraut/ kimchi etc..
- Dry/ dehydrate produce to keep it for longer.
Canning (or bottling) produce is a safe and scientific way to keep food fresh. Here in the UK, when people make jams and jellies, it is common to use ‘open kettle’ techniques – simply making the jam and then placing it into sterilised jars. But scientific consensus tells us that it is safer to post-process acid-rich ingredients using hot water canning or hot water canning techniques. Low acid foods (vegetables etc.) should be processed using a pressure canner.
Safety is paramount. If you decide to take up the preservation methods mentioned above, make sure you do your research. Find advice and follow recipes from reliable authorities. Don’t take any risks. But don’t be afraid to give it a go.
Preserving food using age-old, low-energy techniques is a great idea. Not only is it a way to save money, and make the most of what you buy and grow. It can also help to reduce food waste. And you can learn important and hugely useful skills along the way.