While we were on Norfolk, I took the opportunity to play around with my mother’s Fowlers Vacola preserving kit. It is pretty old school. Got to love that retro orange!
The first opportunity came when my mother and I found boxes of local tomatoes for cheap at the markets. I scoured the interwebs for interesting recipes and found Marissa McClellan’s gorgeous blog, Food in Jars. If you like preserving, you really need to check it out (if you haven’t found her already, that is).
First up, I decided to give Marissa’s pickled red tomatoes a go. I was dreading having to peel so many tomatoes, but the hint about scoring the bottom of the tomato with a serrated knife before blanching them was right on the money.
Pickles and chutneys really test my patience. You’re meant to leave them to sit before cracking them open to judge your efforts. Tantalising. I ended up opening up a jar of the pickles after about five days.
My stomach sank as I tasted my first bite. They were so strong and astringent. For some reason – probably not thinking enough – I hadn’t expected that. I felt awful for wasting so many tomatoes and so much time.
I thought about it for a while, though, and was brave enough to go back for another taste – a smaller amount with some bite-y vintage cheddar. It was perfect. I was so glad. The recipe was a winner and I learned a big lesson. Don’t go eating big spoonfuls of pickles by themselves unless you know what to expect!
I also gave some of the preserved whole tomatoes a go. I found them much easier as you don’t need to worry about squashing the peeled tomatoes as you pack them into the jars.
I love the pretty patterns which form as the tomatoes press against the glass.
Next on my list were some pickled beets with honey. I had to reduce the recipe as we only had 600g (about 1lb) of beetroot – I just kept the vinegar/water ratio the same…except for that moment late at night where I slipped putting the lid on one of the jars and ended up with beetroot brine all over my mother’s kitchen floor and white cabinets. Murphy’s Law and all that.
There’s something so satisfying about rows of pickles, lined up all ready to be eaten.
Given that each recipe I tried was a winner – and all have been grandmother-approved too – I logged on to our local library network and reserved myself a copy of Marissa’s book, Food in Jars. I picked it up today, and it’s every bit as great as I hoped it might be. I think I might have to make it a permanent addition to my library – as well as the new Preserving by the Pint, which will be released soon.
Have you tried your hand at preserving? I’d love to hear all about your favourite recipes. It’s time to add to my repertoire!