If you’re lucky, you’ll have memories of your parents or grandparents pickling and preserving up a storm at this time of year. My mother wasn’t a great jam-maker, but she made a killer tomato sauce that we all remember fondly, probably more so because the recipe has been lost to history. Modern food culture makes preserving summer’s bounty less necessary than it used to be, but it’s still a fun thing to do. Making smaller batches – and using a few convenient shortcuts – means you can pickle or preserve after work rather than having to set aside a whole weekend. Put in a little time and energy now and your investment will pay off in the cold, damp months ahead.
Follow these golden rules if you want your preserving efforts to be successful:
- Measure everything carefully, especially the weight of fruit and vegetables, sugar and vinegar.
- Make sure all utensils, equipment and jars or bottles are scrupulously clean. Wash jars and lids in hot soapy water (or run them through a dishwasher), then heat jars in a 120C oven for 20 minutes. Put lids in a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water, then dry thoroughly and use while still hot.
- Store the finished product carefully: if you’re not confident that you’ve sealed a jar or bottle properly, store the preserve in the fridge and eat within two weeks. Don’t chance a bubbling brew!
TANGY PLUM AND CHIPOTLE SAUCE
Makes about 1 litre
Is a barbecue sausage really a barbecue sausage without a splash of homemade plum sauce on the side? This one uses pre-prepared chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (look for them in the ‘Mexican’ section at the supermarket) to give it a little more kick. While it’s magic with a traditional pork sausage, this tangy sauce also goes well with deep-fried tofu or in a cheese toasted sandwich. It can be used immediately, but the flavours will deepen over time.
- 500g plums (about 4-5 large Fortune plums), stoned and roughly chopped
- 750g onions, peeled and sliced
- 5cm piece fresh ginger, roughly chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
- ½ cup sultanas
- 2 cups vinegar (white wine or malt)
- 6 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (about ½ a 200g tin)
- 1 packed cup brown sugar
- 2 ½ Tbsp salt
- 1 Tbsp turmeric
- 1 Tbsp five-spice powder
- 1 Tbsp smoked paprika
Put the plums, onions, ginger, garlic and sultanas in a large, heavy pot with 1 cup of the vinegar. Simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes or until the plums and onions are very soft. Transfer to a food processor (or use a stick blender in the pot) and add the chipotle peppers. Puree until smooth. Return to the pot and add the sugar, salt, spices and remaining 1 cup vinegar. Simmer over low heat for 20-30 minutes, until thickened (remember it will thicken further as it cools). Leave to cool, then pour into sterilised sauce bottles. Cap tightly and store in a cool, dark place.