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.

Apple and chilli jelly

Spoonful of home-made apple and chilli jelly | H is for Home

We spent about an hour this week picking apples in Justin’s parents’ neighbours’ garden. Got all that?

Chopped apples, chilli and lemon zest

We must have harvested about 10 to 15 kilos. I wanted to make something where I didn’t need to peel and core that many apples. Though they’re delicious (they’re cooking apples), a lot of them are small and misshapen – a nightmare job!

jelly making equipment | H is for Home jelly making equipment | H is for Home

Justin suggested apple and chilli jelly. It would utilise the apples – and some of the 300 glass jars I’ve managed to accumulate over the years!

Strained juice and bags of sugar | H is for Home

I weighed out 4 kilos of apples – so doubled up this recipe. I barely made a dent in the pile!

Sterilized jelly jars and funnel | H is for Home

It’s not a complicated process, but a bit of time is required for chopping, boiling, straining, re-boiling. No problem if you’re in the house as you can get on with something else as it bubbles away.

Jars of apple and chilli jelly | H is for Home

The resulting jelly is a wonderful colour – and tastes amazing! The perfect accompaniment for vegetarian or meat dishes which is ideal for this household. Perfect with cheese, burgers and kebabs. Justin thinks it will be absolutely awesome with slow roast pork and has vowed to try it at the weekend. If you have an apple harvest ready to pick then we can thoroughly recommend this recipe. It will last for months (even years) in your store cupboard – or make perfect presents for anyone deserving enough!

Jars of apple and chilli jelly | H is for Home

Now… what to do with the other 10 kilos of apples?!

Redcurrant jelly

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Jars of home-made redcurrant jelly | H is for Home

July sees the start of our food harvesting and preserving season. Last week we made a delicious elderflower ice cream with our home-made elderflower cordial.

colander full of redcurrants picked on our allotment

This week, we’ve made some redcurrant jelly using a recipe from Cordon Bleu Preserving.

Washed redcurrants put into glass jars

We inherited half a dozen or so redcurrant bushes when we took on our allotment last year. On our last trip down there this week, the bushes were heaving with little red jewels.

Redcurrants cooked in lidded jars in the oven

It took the pair of us about two hours to pick about half of them. When we got home, we gave them a rinse – they barely filled our small colander!

Weighing sugar to make redcurrant jelly

Despite this, we kept back a couple of cupfuls (to go into a pie) before making rest into jelly… it actually made 8 jars.

Straining cooked redcurrants through a jelly bag

We know that redcurrant jelly is usually matched with lamb or game and a dollop or two can go into a gravy for extra flavour. We’ll have to look for some other good flavour matches…any ideas?

Marzipan chocolate brownies
Serves 8
For the brownie layer
  1. 175g/6oz butter
  2. 175g/6oz caster sugar
  3. 75g/2½oz dark chocolate
  4. 3 eggs
  5. 85g/3oz plain flour, sieved
  6. 40g/1½oz cocoa powder
For the ganache
  1. 75g/2½oz dark chocolate
  2. 75g/2½oz double cream
For the marzipan
  1. 150g/5oz ground almonds
  2. 200g/7oz icing sugar
  3. 2tsp almond extract
  4. 1 egg white
For the chocolate topping
  1. 100g/32½oz dark chocolate
  2. Home-made marzipan chocolate brownies ingredients
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For the brownie layer
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350ºF/Gas mark 4
  2. Grease & line a 20cm/8-inch square cake tin with parchment paper
  3. Melt the dark chocolate and butter together in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of just simmering water (making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't come into contact with the water)
  4. Stir to incorporate
  5. Whisk the eggs and sugar together well
  6. Mix in the chocolate mixture
  7. Fold in the flour and cocoa powder
  8. Pour the batter into the baking tin
  9. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until just baked
For the ganache layer
  1. Melt the dark chocolate and double cream together in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of just simmering water (making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't come into contact with the water)
  2. Stir to incorporate
  3. Once the brownie layer has cooled, pour the ganache over and spread evenly. Allow to firm up before embarking on the next layer
For the marzipan layer
  1. Put the ground almonds, icing sugar, almond extract and egg white into a food processor and combine until a thick ball of dough is formed
  2. Turn the paste out onto a work surface and knead it a few times. Roll it into a ball, wrap in cling film and refrigerate whilst waiting for the ganache layer has firmed up
  3. Liberally sprinkle some icing sugar on a work surface and roll out half of the marzipan to about ½cm thickness
  4. Cut to size to cover the 20cm/8-inch square brownie layer
  5. Any unused marzipan will keep - covered in cling film - for a month in the fridge or 6 months in the freezer
For the chocolate layer
  1. Melt the dark chocolate and pour evenly over the marzipan. Allow to set completely before 'cutting off the crusts' and slicing into portions
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Gimme Five! Preserving tools

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selection of preserving tools

On our dog walk yesterday we picked elderflowers. Today I made our first batch of elderflower cordial of the year.

Elderflower cordial always marks the start of my preserving season. Good kit always makes the jam, jelly, pickling, or chutney-making process more successful. Here are a few preserving tools that I recommend!

  1. Swift stainless steel preserving pan: £59.96, Divertimenti
  2. KitchenCraft home made blister carded cooking thermometer: £5.99, Wayfair
  3. 24 assorted Kilner fruit jam labels: £2.50, John Lewis
  4. Preserves: River Cottage Handbook No.2: from £7.26, Amazon
  5. Ball® preserving starter pack: £19.99, Lakeland

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

Ingredients

  • 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
  •  
  •  

Instructions

  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
http://hisforhomeblog.com/food/green-tomato-chutney/

Charity Vintage: Kilner jars

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collection of vintage Kilner jars for sale by & in support of Wesley Community Furniture(ends 23 Sep, 2014 20:07:23 BST)

With all the jam, jelly and preserve making that I’ve been doing this summer, I’m almost clean out of jars. I always give away a lot of what I make to family & friends so the jars are never to be seen again. This collection of 16 vintage Kilner jars for sale by & in support of Wesley Community Furniture* would set me up nicely again.

Kilner jars are great for preserves but are also useful for storing dry foodstuffs like rice, pasta, peas, beans, lentils and dried fruit. And they’re so much prettier than the plastic bags they come in!

*Wesley Community Furniture aims to work in partnership with others to provide furniture and other household items at the lowest possible prices to those in greatest need in Manchester, to further relieve poverty by providing jobs, volunteering and training opportunities, and to recycle and re-use as much of the material they receive as possible.