Price Points: Preserve starter kits

Preserving starter kits | H is for Home

  1. Kitchen Craft preserving starter set, 4 pieces: £10, hobbycraft
  2. VonShef 9L Maslin pan jam preserving starter set bundle: £32.99, Amazon
  3. 5-Pieces preserve starter set by Kilner: £69.99, Wayfair

One of the things I love about the start of autumn is making jams, jellies, pickles, chutneys and all manner of other preserves. I made a batch of apple and chilli jelly this week… the first of the season.

Late summer is spent foraging for fruit such as wild raspberries, elderberries and blackberries. They’re added to the redcurrants that were harvested from our allotment in and are made into mixed fruit jelly.

You really should try it – it’s really easy, satisfying and far superior to most shop bought stuff. Get yourself one of these preserve starter kits and you’ll be quickly on your way to making your own.

Each has its own merits however, I’ve chosen #2 as the best of the preserve starter kits for a number of reasons. The most important component is the jam/maslin pan. It needs to be large, sturdy and made of the right material. It needs to be made of a non-reactive material such as stainless steel. Reactive metals such as aluminium and untreated cast iron can give a metallic taste to the food and can also cause discolouration. The pan also needs to be a good conductor of heat, for example, copper so that it achieves the high temperatures necessary in jam-making.

The next most important component is the thermometer. It’s not absolutely essential but, if you’re not entirely confident with using the cold saucer method, a thermometer is the foolproof way of knowing that the magic 105ºC/220ºF temperature has been reached.

A jam funnel is very useful if you’ve got shaky hands like mine, however buying the other components are less necessary. I have a huge store of different sized & shaped jars – I never put the finished jars of honey, mayonnaise, pesto etc into the recycling. With a little pre-planning, you shouldn’t need to buy jars specially for preserving. Just make sure ones you’re reusing have no chips or cracks and have their original airtight lids.

Having said all that – yes, both #2 and #3 come with jars as part of their kits. The former has the edge over the latter as the single 1-litre jar is much less practical than 6 smaller ones. If you store a litre of jam, jelly, chutney etc in a single jar you’ll have to eat all the contents within a couple of weeks of opening or it will go off. Also, you should store your preserves in the fridge once they’ve been opened. I usually have too much other stuff in the fridge to accommodate a litre-sized pot of jam.

In the years I’ve been preserving, I’ve never used a jar lifter (I use a pair of kitchen tongs), a jar wrench (just twist a dinner knife between the space between the lid and the jar) or a magnetic stick (again, I use kitchen tongs). So that’s 3 of the 4 Kitchen Craft items that would be neglected at the back of the cupboard. You could buy each preserve making component you think you’ll need singly – but it’s often cheaper to buy them as a bundle.

Green tomato chutney

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colander of green tomatoes

This will be the very last crop from our allotment for this year. These tomatoes were never going to ripen on their outdoor vines, but green tomatoes can be put to good use. This green tomato chutney is a tangy triumph – absolutely delicious with a variety of cheeses, particularly a good strong cheddar.

Green tomato chutney

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Green tomato chutney


  • 750g green tomatoes
  • 2 medium apples, peeled & cored
  • 1 brown onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic (I used 1 bulb of the miniature Malvi Cervati garlic sold in Lidl)
  • 3 chillies
  • 500g soft brown sugar
  • 500ml distilled malt vinegar
  • 2tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 125g raisins
  • 2tbs mustard seeds
  • 1tbs ground ginger
  • 1tsp salt


  1. Put the tomatoes, apples, onion, garlic and chillies into a food processor and blitz for about 20 seconds - you don't want the purée too smooth
  2. Put the sugar and vinegars into a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan or jam pan over a low heat and stir until the sugar has completely dissolved
  3. Add the raisins, mustard seeds, ground ginger, salt and tomato purée mix to the liquid
  4. Stir the mixture and turn the heat up to high and bring to the boil
  5. Once it has reached boiling point, turn the heat down to a low simmer and cook for 50-60 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it's about half its original volume
  6. Decant into sterilised jars and allow to cool for 5 minutes before screwing the lids on tightly

Preserved plums

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washed plums in an aluminium colander

Justin’s parents’ neighbours have a few different fruit trees in their garden. In the past couple of years, we’ve had some of the harvest. Last year we made spiced apple chutney, the year before apple cheese. This year, we picked almost 5 kilos of plums – the sweetest, ripest plums we’d ever tasted!

spiced plum chutney ingredients

We both ate half a dozen each in a couple of days but we would never be able to work our way through many before before they began to get over-ripe. I’d already made jars upon jars of fruit jam & jelly this year, so I turned half into spiced plum chutney and half into plum jam.

bottled spiced plum chutney

I used recipes from the good old Cordon Bleu Preserving recipe book for both.

stoning plums

The job of stoning was a monotonous, boring job but the resulting preserves were well worth the toil!

plums with spice mixture

When the chutney was cooking the house was filled with the most delicious smell – I wish I could bottle that alone!

Here’s the spiced plum chutney recipe:

1⅓kg/3lb plums
1tbs ground ginger
1tbs ground allspice
2tbs ground mustard seeds
2tbs dried chilli flakes
10 cloves
30g/1oz salt
425ml/¾pt white malt or white wine vinegar
450g/1lb soft brown sugar

  1. Wash & stone the plums and put them in a pan with the ginger, allspice, mustard seeds and chilli flakes
  2. Tie the cloves in a muslin bag and add to the pan
  3. Add the salt and 300ml/½pt of the vinegar
  4. Simmer gently until the plums are soft (about 3 hours)
  5. Put the sugar into a large measuring jug/basin with the remaining vinegar and leave to dissolve. Add to the plums when cooked
  6. Bring to the boil and allow to boil gently until thick (about another 2 hours)
  7. Pour into warm, sterilised jars and screw down immediately
  8. Leave for 4-5 weeks before using

softened plums in a saucepan

And here’s the jam recipe

2.75kg/6lb plums
300ml/½pt water
3kg/6½lb granulated or preserving sugar

  1. Wash the plums, cut them in half and remove the stones
  2. Tie half the stones in muslin
  3. Place the fruit in a preserving pan with the water and cook gently until tender
  4. Add the sugar and heat gently until dissolved
  5. Add the bag of stones
  6. Boil rapidly for about 25 minutes or until the jam sets when tested
  7. Remove the bag of stones and pour the jam into warm, dry sterilised jars. Cover and tie down

plum jam boiling in a saucepan

It’s a deliciously sweet accompaniment to morning croissants.

croissant with plum jam

Gooseberry pickle

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jars of home made gooseberry pickle | H is for Home

This year’s crop of gooseberries has been ever so slightly better than last year’s. We have a gooseberry bush in our back garden and another on our allotment, however both bushes seem to be afflicted by American gooseberry mildew. According to the RHS website, the fruit is still edible, each berry just needs to be given a good rubbing down and a wash – and the bushes need a good prune. It’s a good thing we didn’t have a bumper harvest then!

I went to my trusty vintage Cordon Bleu Preserving book to find some recipes that called for under-ripe (because in all honesty, that’s what they were!) gooseberries. I found recipes for gooseberry jelly with elderflower, gooseberry jam, gooseberry ketchup, gooseberry pickle and gooseberry relish. The pickle recipe was the only one that specifically mentioned unripe berries.

The recipe in my book required 2 pints of gooseberries – a very strange measurement to use – I guess you just fill up a couple of pint glasses! I worked it out at being 2 pints = 1kg. I only managed a paltry 500g of gooseberries so I’ve halved the recipe quantities here. The recipe also included cayenne pepper but we didn’t have any to hand, so I substituted it with an equal quantity of paprika. Once made, the pickle needs to be jarred up and stored away for a good six months. I reckon it would serve as a great accompaniment to fish or cheese board – I’ll report back my findings in December!

Gooseberry pickle

Gooseberry pickle


  • 500g/1 pint gooseberries
  • 115g/4oz demerara sugar
  • salt (the book doesn't specify quantities so I added 5g/⅕oz)
  • 570ml/1 pint white wine vinegar
  • 7g/¼oz mustard seeds
  • 85g/3oz garlic
  • 170g/6oz raisins
  • 7g/¼oz ground paprika


  1. Clean, top and tail the gooseberries and put them in a pan with the sugar, salt and half of the white wine vinegar
  2. Stir over a gentle heat until the sugar dissolves, then bring to the boil and cook until the gooseberries are tender
  3. In a large heatproof bowl, bruise the mustard seeds, chop & crush the garlic and mix both with the raisins and paprika
  4. Pour the boiling gooseberries over the mixture and add the other half of the cold vinegar
  5. Stir before decanting into sterilised Kilner jars
  6. Immediately screw down the jars and store for at least 6 months before use