Friday, 11 April 2014

A-Z Simple Living: J = Jars of Jam and Jugs of Juice

I thought "J" was going to be a tough letter to choose a Simple Living topic for, but I think I did a good job of stringing a few "J" words together :). Today I want to talk about preserving, and jams and juice are just one of the ways of prolonging the shelf life of our fresh produce. Until recently I only thought about using what I needed in the short term from my produce, and not about utilising the excess for long term use. I am ashamed to admit that lemons and limes used to go to waste under my that I have adopted a waste not/want not philosophy, those times are long gone and I am rather fascinated with how many different ways there are to preserve. Here is a selection of some methods I have tried...and aim to try.

1. Freezing

This is the most common way of storing fresh food for the long term. I have yet to collect enough vegetables like beans to blanch and freeze, but I do currently have ziplock bags of whole cherry tomatoes frozen - because I simply ended up with too many to use at once. I also have frozen stewed mulberries from our Spring harvest, which will soooo be made into a pie soon. Generally though, I tend to let my freezer get disorganised and I forget what's in there so I have dedicated some time (it's on my long list) to sort this out....and label.

2. Dehydrating

This is a method I am only experimenting with at the the moment. Drying reduces the water concentration in order to prevent bacterial growth. In my H = Homemade post I shared my first attempt at beef jerky in the Dehydrator, and will look at doing some fruits in the next couple of weeks....I love dried apples. I have also had success doing semi-dried cherry tomatoes in the oven.

3. Jams and Preserves

In the past six months I have made two jams - mango and fig. I am not a big jam lover but it is nice to have in the cupboard or fridge...and the mangoes were free from a friends tree, so it was a bonus. I am crazy about chutney and relish as I have demonstrated on this blog many times, and I must admit it is my favourite way to preserve excess produce.

4. Pickling

This is something new for me also. I am not a big fan of pickles but I did end up with some excess cucumbers which I made into bread and butter pickles. Most home pickling involves using a vinegar-based liquid to preserve the vegetables.

5. Bottling (Canning)

There is a certain addiction to bottling or canning rows and rows of multi-coloured produce. I absolutely love to get the Fowler's Vacola out and spend the afternoon preserving fresh fruit. You need a pressure canner to preserve vegetables in this fashion, which I do not have, but you can use the Vacola to vacuum seal your pickled them a longer life in the cupboard.

6. Fermenting

This is a totally new area for me, and certainly one of the buzz words going around at the moment. Fermented foods have been through a process of lactofermentation (the biggest word I have ever used on this blog) in which natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food creating lactic acid. Sauerkraut and fruit wine are examples. This process preserves the food, and creates beneficial enzymes, b-vitamins, Omega-3-fatty acids, and various strains of a nutshell they are great for your digestion. I have made probiotic lemonade using whey leftover from my cheese-making, and have made sourdough using a starter but that is it so far...however I do have a fermentation workshop coming up in May which I am looking forward to, and will share what I learn :)

7. Juicing

This is another one of my favourite pastimes. I juice excess lemons and limes and keep them in freezer trays for cooking or just as iceblocks to have in drinks. I also use the juice to make cordial such as the 'Bickfords' style lime cordial I made a few weeks ago. Any excess vegetables are juiced for green/vegetarian smoothies...the possibilities are limitless. I just read today about vinegar you can make from fruit scraps...told you I am an addict :)

Am I the only one who can relate to this obsession? Tell me, what's your kitchen 'fad' at the moment?
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