Summer is in full swing, which means that finally there is an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables available at the local farmer’s markets! We love supporting our local farmers and producers, and there’s no better way to get a taste of summer in the middle of winter than to preserve your own produce. And no one can argue that homemade preserves are just bursting with flavour in comparison to their store-bought counter parts. We try to do enough to get a small sampling of that big-summer flavour throughout the cold days ahead.
What are Preserves?
Preserves are foods that we can or bottle (with food safety precautions) that allow us to eat fruits and vegetables when they are out-of-season. They include jams (cook and no-cook versions), jellies, salsas, pickles, sauces and other tasty. In other words, lots of options for the beginner to the advanced cook!
Why Make Your Own Preserves?
If you’re looking for something canned or bottled that still has that homemade flavour, make your own instead of shopping at the gourmet grocery isles. It will not only save you lots of money, but you can choose which recipes you make and tailor the final product to include your favourite treats. I also have never been able to find any version of store bought jam, jelly, chutney or salsa to rival the taste of a homemade version. They’re okay in a pinch, an we certainly could never make a year's worth of salsa to stock our pantry, but if we had a choice of products, it would always be for the homemade variety.
Common Home Preserves:
No Cook Jams
No cook jams can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks or can be kept in the freezer for 8 months. Sterilized containers are not required for no-cook jams, but the containers do need to be washed in hot soapy water and rinsed before use. Plastic containers (specifically designed for frozen jams), or glass jars with tight-fitting lids that are no larger than 2 cups, can be used. Pros? These are super easy for beginners to make. Cons? You need freezer space to store them as they are not shelf stable (like the cooked variety of jams).
Cooked Jam / Jellies
Cooked jams can be stored in a cool and dry place (such as a pantry or closet) for up to one years. For the cooked jam making process, you need use sterilized jars, lids and utensils when cooking and bottling the cooked jams and jellies. Jams are often cooked down until they are thick enough to bottle. If the fruit has a low amount of pectin, you will be asked to add this to the recipe. Jellies (firmer in texture) require pectin to give the product the added structure.
What is pectin, you ask? Pectin is part of the carbohydrates that are found in plants, helping to provide structure to stems, leaves, flowers, and fruit. It is concentrated in the skins and cores of fruit, with some types, like apples and citrus, having particularly high levels. Want more information on pectin? Check out this article by The Kitchn that will fill you in.
There are lots of options here on how to prepare and cook pickles as well! You can make fresh packed pickles (quick processed and covered with a vinegar solution), fermented pickles (where the pickles are brined), refrigerated pickles (that are marinated from 1 day to 1 week before processing), fruit pickles (fruit that is covered in a sweet syrup), and even relishes. Lots of options, some fast and some taking a bit more time. Lots of tasty results!
Chutneys / Salsas
Both chutneys and salsas require a bit more of time to be invested since you have to cook them down (that is, cook the extra water and juices of the fruit until it evaporates). They do pack a bang in flavour for the time that you invest in them. By mid-winter when you open up a jar of (for example) of peach salsa, you are immediately are able to savour the same amazing summer-fresh flavour as if it was still 30F outside.
Our Family's Favourite Preserving Resources:
My family has a small list of favourite resources when it comes time to make preserves each year. These books have been tried and tested year after year:
- Bernardin Complete Book of Home Preserving: 400 Delicious and Creative Recipes for Today
- The Complete Book of Pickling: 250 Recipes from Pickles and Relishes to Chutneys and Salsas, by Jennifer MacKenzie
- The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving, by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard
Strawberry No-Cook Jam, from Kraft Canada
Cooked Strawberry Jam, from Kraft Canada (pictured in the main blog image)
- Catherine's Pickled Blueberries, by foodelicious on AllRecipes (Seriously - these blueberries on top of crackers that are spread with some goat's cheese... yummmm!)
- And pretty much ANY recipe from the wonderful cookbooks above, or from Bernardin's web site with an extensive recipe collection!