It’s that time of year, when preserving fruit and vegetables plays a large part in our daily and weekly lives. Whether it’s from our own gardens, or from super/market purchases, preserving for tomorrow is always a great idea.

As a chef, I hear a lot of people comment on making jam, chutney, relish, or just ‘canning’ fruit and vegetables as being something remarkable. It’s not. Our grandparents, their grandparents, and so on have been doing this for eon. Since time immemorial civilisation has been making the most of harvests and doing what they could to make it last through bleaker times.

So, that’s what I want to talk about in this post – it’ll be a bumper issue, as I know I owe you several recipes from week’s past. I’ll be walking you through how to make jam, how to make chutney, and how to make relish. Of course, I’ll also discuss my favourite ways on how to save fruit or vegetables; how to freeze, how to can, and how to dehydrate them.

I promise you, you won’t need any fancy equipment (although that can be time/energy saving, it’s not essential) to get the job done. In fact, in most cases you’ll only need a large stockpot or saucepan, wooden spoons, thermometer, jars with lids, some scales, and a pouring jug. Preserving fruit and vegetables really is super easy!

Preserving Equipment:

Plain jar Hexagonal jarWhat size jars should you use? That depends on what you’re making, and how many ‘pots’ it makes – pots is the general term used for jars or containers. For instance, my recipe for relish makes on average about eight pots, or standard and boring 500ml jars. But, if I’m making a batch to give to friends and family as a gift, then I’m going to use a smaller and more decorative jars, and I’m going to need almost twice as many.

So, if you need jars, at a pinch I’d recommend these sizes:

Do you have to buy jars? Not at all, you can keep a collection of jars that you buy from the supermarket. All you need to ensure is that the jar doesn’t have any chipped or damaged edges, the lid is in sound condition, and has a safety seal – this rules out most plastic lids, so look for metal lidded jars when you choose your next commercial jam/peanut butter/chutney/relish or other preserved goods.

Preserving Tips & Tricks:

There’s a lot of ‘you must’ or ‘you shouldn’t’ humbug when it comes to making jam, chutney, or relish. But really, there’s only a few key criteria to make sure your preserved goodies work.

  1. Use a thermometer, to make sure you hit the magic jam-setting temperature.
  2. Clean jars and lids – this means SPOTLESS, clean thoroughly and dry.
  3. Bottle HOT – you want to pour the jam/chutney/relish into the clean jar as soon as you can!
  4. Clean rims – after you’ve poured your jam/chutney/relish into the jar, make sure the rim of the bottle is free of any smears of food.
  5. Sealed and ‘popped‘ – this means the lid is on TIGHT, and the safety seal has sunken once the jar is cold. You should hear the ‘pop’ when it gets sucked down, it’s the same ‘pop’ you’ll hear when you open a new jar from the supermarket.

Another wise idea is to pre-warm your jars. That way, when the super hot liquid hits the glass, there won’t be any thermal shock – as some older glass jars may shatter. I do this simply by heating my oven to the absolute lowest setting (about 70˚C), and warm the jars for about 15mins before I bottle. Some people like to ‘boil’ their jars after bottling, this ensures that the contents are hot, and that the seal is tight.

What can you Preserve?

Just about anything really – except meat, that tends not to work out so well. You can make different fruit or vegetable jams like strawberry or red onion. Spicy chutneys to go alongside your favourite Indian or Moroccan dishes. A cheese sandwich takes on a whole new dimension when you add relish; tomato, piccalilli, spicy mango and peach.

The world is yours to harvest and preserve. Of course, you can also jar fruit and vegetables as they are; tomatoes, carrots, zucchini/courgette, aubergines, peas, peaches, plums, apples, pears, etc. All of these with need either a salt or sugar syrup to prevent ageing or rotting – to remove oxygen.

Salt vs Sugar Preserving

As a general rule, if you’re preserving vegetables you’ll want a brine of 1 tablespoon of salt to 1 cup (250ml) water, or 4 tablespoons to 4 cups which equals 1 quart (roughly, 1 litre = 1 quart). But, if you’re canning fruit, then you can follow this table from the National Centre for Home Food Preservation.

Sugar to water ratio for preserving syrups.

Measures of Water and Sugar
Syrup Type
Approx. % Sugar
For 9-Pt Load (1)
For 7-Qt Load
Fruits Commonly packed in syrup (2)
in cups:
Water
Sugar
Water
Sugar
Very Light
10 6-1/2 3/4 10-1/2 1-1/4 Approximates natural sugar levels in most fruits and adds the fewest calories.
Light
20 5-3/4 1-1/2 9 2-1/4 Very sweet fruit. Try a small amount the first time to see if your family likes it.
Medium
30 5-1/4 2-1/4 8-1/4 3-3/4 Sweet apples, sweet cherries, berries, grapes.
Heavy
40 5 3-1/4 7-3/4 5-1/4 Tart apples, apricots, sour cherries, gooseberries, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums.
Very Heavy
50 4-1/4 4-1/4 6-1/2 6-3/4 Very sour fruit. Try a small amount the first time to see if your family likes it.
  1. This amount is also adequate for a 4-quart load.
  2. Many fruits that are typically packed in heavy syrup are excellent and tasteful products when packed in lighter syrups. It is recommended that lighter syrups be tried, since they contain fewer calories from added sugar.

Now, let’s get you started with some basic preserving recipes!

How to Make your own Jam

Summer Fruit Jam

This jam recipe is a great starter recipe. You won't need to worry about using pectin, as the fruit with seeds will provide enough of that, and the other ingredients are simple enough that everyone will have them in their pantry.
Course Afternoon Tea, Appetizer, Baking, Bread, Condiment, Dessert, Main Course, Preserves
Cuisine American, Australian, British, European, French, World
Keyword berries, berry, conserves, jam, jam making, jelly, preserve, preserving
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 8 250ml Jars

Equipment

  • Chopping board
  • Stockpot or saucepan
  • Stirring spoon
  • Scales
  • Jug
  • 8 250ml Jars
  • Thermometer
  • Soup ladle

Ingredients

  • Make 8 x 250 g jars
  • 4 lb Fruit of your choice: raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, or red or black currants. You can also use apples, pears, cherries, peaches, apricots, nectarines, mangoes, or a combination of fruit. (2kg)
  • 2 lb Sugar, white caster/granulated (1kg)
  • 4 tbsp Lemon juice (80ml)

Instructions

  • Wash and dry the fruit, making sure to remove any damaged flesh.
  • Place the fruit in a deep heavy-bottom stockpot or saucepan.
  • Add sugar and lemon Juice.
  • Heat over a medium-high heat, and stir until the sugar dissolves.
  • Increase the heat slightly and bring to a rapid boil. Allow the mix to boil for a few minutes.
  • Reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer the mix for 25mins approx.
  • After about 15 minutes, you will see the mixture has darkened, thickened and reduced.
  • Using the thermometer – your jam should reach 105C/220 F. However, if it has reduced significantly, and is now quick thick, you're good to go.
  • Use a soup ladle to spoon the mix into a jug, and carefully pour it into your warmed glass jars.
  • Remember to clean the rim of the jar before sealing with the lid.
  • Place the lid on, screwing on tightly.
  • Wrap tea towels around the cooling jars to protect them from cold chills.

Notes

Safety note: wrap your hot jars in a few tea towels to help lower the temperature slowly and to stop any sudden chills which may damage the jars.

Preserving Fruit and Vegetables for Chutney

MAC Chutney - Mango Apple Cauliflower

This mango, apple, and cauliflower chutney is fantastic with cured meats (ham etc), with mature cheddar, or with your Indian curry.
Course Breakfast, Lunch, Preserves
Cuisine American, Australian, British, European, French, Indian, Italian, Mediterranean, World
Keyword canning, chutney, conserves, jam, jelly, pickles, preserving, relish
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 4 250ml Jars

Equipment

  • Stockpot
  • Chopping board
  • Sharp knife
  • Scales
  • Jars and lids
  • Jug
  • Stirring spoon

Ingredients

  • 4 large mangoes
  • ½ head Cauliflower
  • 2 tbsp Salt
  • 4 cloves Garlic peeled and crushed
  • 450 gr Caster sugar
  • 2 lrg Apples; Bramley, Granny Smith, or other baking varieties chopped
  • 1 tbsp English mustard powder
  • 1 tbsp Ginger root grated
  • 600 ml White wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Cayenne pepper

Instructions

  • Put the mango slices in a large bowl and sprinkle with salt. Leave overnight. In the morning, drain off the juice and rinse the fruit.
  • Put the garlic, sugar, apples, mustard, ginger, vinegar and cayenne pepper in a pan and, over a low heat, dissolve the sugar.
  • Bring to the boil and add the mangoes. Simmer for 30 minutes until the chutney is thick and syrupy. Spoon into sterilised jars and seal.

How to make your own Relish

Tomato Relish

Tomato relish is a fantastic way to up your sandwich game. Whether it's a dry cheese sandwich, or a bland ham and salad, this relish really packs some YUM into your next meal.
Course Afternoon Tea, Condiment, Entree, Lunch, Main Course, Preserves
Cuisine American, Australian, British, European, French, Italian, Mediterranean, World
Keyword cheese, filling, ham, onions, relish, sandwich, toasties, tomato
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Soaking 8 hours
Total Time 9 hours 20 minutes
Servings 8 500ml Jars

Equipment

  • Chopping board
  • Food processor with slicing blades
  • Sharp knife
  • Stockpot or saucepan
  • Stirring Spoons
  • Jug
  • Large mixing bowl

Ingredients

  • 3 kg Ripe tomatoes
  • 1 kg Onions
  • 1 kg Sugar
  • 2 tbsp Curry powder
  • Small handful salt
  • 1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper
  • 2.5 tbsp English mustard powder
  • Vinegar to barely cover - about 300ml, give or take

Instructions

  • Cut tomatoes in thin slices, put in dish and sprinkle with salt.
  • Cut onions up thinly, sprinkle with salt in separate dish.
  • Leave both tomatoes and onions for 12 hours.
  • Pour off liquid and put together in saucepan with sugar and cayenne, and barely cover with vinegar. Boil for 5 minutes.
  • Mix curry and mustard with a little vinegar, add to other ingredients and boil 1 hour.
  • Allow it to cool and scoop into sterlized glass jars or bottles. Seal well.

Canning fruit and vegetables

How to ‘Can’ your Fruit and Vegetables

Canning your fruit and vegetables is really quite a simple process. Just remember, sugar syrup for fruit, and a salt brine for vegetables, or you could be in for a few interesting flavours in your cooking!

How to ‘Sterilise’

  • Wash your jars by in hot and soapy water, or you can place them in the dishwasher in a ‘hygiene’ cycle.
  • Dry them in the oven for 20 minutes, 100˚C is fine, this removes any excess moisture.
  • Turn off the oven, and leave the jars in there until you’re ready to use them.
  • Don’t forget: the lids will also need this process!

How to ‘Can’

  • Using a large stockpot or saucepan, use a rack to suspend your jars.
  • Fill half way up the height of the pot with water.
  • Decant your jam or fruit/vegetables with preserving liquid into your sterilised jars, and seal with the lid.
  • Place the jars into the pot on the rack.
  • Bring the water to a boil over high heat.
  • Lower the jars into the water.
  • The level of water will rise, and is best when it covers the jars by 2.5cm/1″. Add more boiling water if you need to.
  • Reboil the water, and cover the pot. Allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  • Carefully lift the jars out of the pot. Placing them onto a tea towel is a good way to protect them and yourself from slips and spills or extra moisture.
  • Leave the jars to cool completely, you should hear a ‘pop’ when the seal is sucked down. This popping means the jar is now sealed and ready for storage.
  • If the jar is cold, and the seal raised, depress the seal manually. If it stays sunken, it’s fine, if it pops back up, the jar is not sealed and must be checked: this means checking the lid itself, the rim of the jar, and reboiling before the jar is considered safe to store.
  • Once all jars are cool and sealed, they are safe to be stored in a cool dry place.

Good luck with preserving your fruit and vegetables!

Well, that’s it for this week. Apologies for not posting for a few weeks, but now you know everything you need to in order to get preserving your own fruit and vegetables!

Thanks for checking out this post on how to make jam, how to make chutney, and how to make relish. Make sure you preserve fruit and vegetables this season, so you can enjoy them through the coming winter. If you do, please check back and post a comment. Or you can share a photo on your social media accounts with the hashtag: #LarderPantryandGarden.

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