Monday, 6 January 2014

Fowler's Vacola Preserving With Mason Jars Part 1

This beautiful selection of local produce inspired a two-day preserving festival this week. As I had decided to use the smaller jars Paul gave me for Christmas for my chutneys, jams and relishes, I decided to purchase some Mason jars from Big W. My replacement lids for my recycled supermarket jars were not due to arrive until next week...and I was keen to do some more preserving. Warning, it is an addiction. If you missed my first attempt at preserving here is the link Fowlers Vacola Preserving.

I had purchased the Blue Book Guide to Preserving some time ago. Although it is printed in America and they do some things differently in terms of preserving, this book is full of recipes and knowledge with regards to preserving in a water bath. I came across several sites in my research who had used the above Mason jars in their Fowler's Vacola, and as they are about half the price, I thought I would give it a go. Twelve jars cost $30, and the lids which need to be replaced each time, are only $4 for a set of twelve. The lid sits on top of the jar and the ring is then screwed on.

This is my selection of jars pre-preserving. A beautiful array of colour...shame they don't stay as vibrant when heated.

My first selection was to bottle some of the amazing lychees available at the moment. These are locally grown and about $5 a kilo at the moment - enough to fill two jars except we ate a few too many for that.

If you have never tried them before I urge you to give them a go. They are very unusual and hard to describe but the flesh is sweet and juicy, underneath an easy to peel crusty red shell.

They look a little like pickled onions or grotesque eyeballs prior to going into the Vacola.

I preserved them in a light sugar syrup and this is the end result. 

One of the recipes in the Vacola manual was for fruit salad so I combined peaches, nectarines, grapes, orange and banana as suggested. Once again I used a light sugar syrup.

This is the end result. Reminds me of the canned fruit salads where the grapes are firm and the bananas are mushy...but still yummy.

This is my first attempt at pickling vegetables. This is called an antipasto selection and the liquid used is 50% water and 50% vinegar (you can use any vinegar you like). I added some cracked black pepper and a sprig of rosemary for extra flavour.

The end result has stripped alot of the beautiful colour but I am sure it will be tasty. The squash, Zucchini and Rosemary and spring onions were all sourced from my garden.

The green grapes are lovely and sweet at the moment. This is a preserve called Honey Grapes which has a little brandy and honey added to the light syrup. Will be interesting to see what it tastes like.

This photo makes them look a little yellow. They are more like a faded green.

Finally, one of my favourite fruits...cherries! They are very expensive up here ($15 a kilo) so I only did one jar. But they will be appreciated in winter. Once again I used a light syrup.

The cherries still look beautiful and red.

I processed all of the jars in the Vacola for the recommended one hour, starting with cold water. I could have fit a couple more but I have six more jars left to fill which is another even batch. The trick with these jars is to not tighten the rings too tight so that air can escape to create the vacuum. The instructions say 'finger-tight only'.

Once cooled for at least 12-18 hours you remove the rings to check the seals. These lids do not budge and also require a tool to remove. You can store them with or without the rings. 

The feeling of sitting back and admiring your colourful jars is one that I have heard many people talk about. It is taking what you have grown (or in this case bought farm local) and taking it to the next step. Sure, I could have frozen some of these things instead, but this way they can remain on the shelf for at least a year, maybe longer. It did not take alot of time to do and once I have a surplus in my garden...I now have another way of storing it for later use.

Tomorrow I will show you what I did with the other six jars...I got a little more creative.

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