Preserving session notes

Tasting Jacky's preserves

Yes, Jacky even brought along items to taste test! Photo: Anna Sullivan

By Wendy Justice

I was particularly excited about the topic of the recent seed savers gathering – PRESERVING.

We covered a lot of information over about an hour and I’d like to thank Jacky Cronin for presenting and sharing her valuable accumulation of knowledge and also thanks to the Seed Savers committee for continual effort in organising such events.

Due to the absolutely enormous nature of the topic of preserving we covered a few items of interest brought up by the group present. Below are some of the key points that I took from the meeting generally and I will conclude with specific points discussed on olives and sauerkraut.

SALT: When preserving with salt, it cannot contain any anti-caking agents. Flossy salt and Coles Homebrand were suggested as options. Also, Kosher salt is simply sea salt. Importantly, rinse vegies after leaching moisture with salt and pat dry.

USING LESS SUGAR/ ALTERNATIVES: Preservation by freezing does not require any sugar to be added and was the main recommendation made for those looking to avoid suar. Also suggested were: try to make jam with less sugar and freeze in freezer friendly containers (some Ball Mason jars); poach and freeze without sugar; or simply drying fruit (eg. sultanas). Two points to consider are that sugar does protect the colour, shape etc. of fruit and interestingly, fruit and veg won’t soften when sugar is added so be sure to cook down to the desired firmness.

FREEZING: A few things to consider when freezing were presented, including that a full freezer is more efficient; you need a quick freeze for food safety; and to ensure quick freezing, batch freezing is recommended. It is also important to remove air from containers to avoid freezer burn and only place warm/cold food in a freezer, not hot. Another suggestion was to freeze items on a single tray and bag once solid, and it appeared that blanching before freezing was a thing of personal preference. An important point to remember is that freezing does not kill bacteria.

As someone new to preserving, I found it especially helpful to learn that it is important to follow and stick to a trusted recipe that is already out there and known to work. It isn’t advised to play around with preservation recipes and mess with ratios or swap out vinegars for that matter due to not only the flavour change but also the difference in acid content (and associated health risks). Also to know that fresh recipes exist and to look for recipes that are meant for longer term storage; to get advice on the type of storage needed once preserved; and for how long it may last in that state.

More preserves and books on preserving

A selection of books and goodies to try. Photo: Anna Sullivan

Jacky had a lot of books, but in particular she mentioned ‘A Year in a Bottle’ by Sally Wise and also the USDA website and publications were suggested as valuable sources of information.

Personally, I believe preservation is essential, especially for the gardener where produce often abounds all at once. It is a bit overwhelming but I’m grateful for these opportunities to learn from one another. One of my best gardening/ kitchen moments has been pickling my home grown beetroots (thanks to seed savers seed). I’m looking forward to many more of those wonderful moments in the future and wish you all the best in your preserving endeavours.

Key points on:

Olives

  • Harvest
  • Oil producing olives may not be good to eat – there is a difference between oil/table varieties
  • 1 tree will produce plenty of olives and may be all you need
  • Gently hand pick – to avoid bruising, etc
  • Pick when dusty green coloured
  • Cut through the olive and if there is colour all the way, it is ready
  • Correct ripeness takes experimentation and can depend on the olive variety
  • Curing
  • Discard soft spots and bruised olives
  • Do not mix different matured olives
  • Prick olives all over, can slit but do not cut the stone
  • Pour over boiling water and sit for 24hrs, drain and repeat
  • Can take two weeks, use cold water after the first two days
  • Eat to see if they are ready – minimum 5 days
  • Caustic soda is not really recommended – due to all of the waste, personal protective equipment needed and flavour leaching. The benefit is that the olives are ready in 2 days and no pricking is required
  • Storage
  • Store under oil which can be expensive
  • Store in vinegar brine
  • Use sub-mergers as olives must be kept under the brine (Eg. Plastic part from Moccona coffe lids as sub-mergers)
  • Note, when some olives are mushy and others aren’t it could be possibly due to water uptake before harvesting. Also ensure different matured olives are not used.

Sauerkraut – (not a recipe, just notes to consider)

  • DON’T USE METAL at all in processing or serving
  • Sprinkle over ½ small finely sliced cabbage less than a tablespoon of salt
  • Can also use carrot, capsicum …
  • NO AIR in container
  • Add cabbage leaves on top then add a weight
  • Avoid wooden weights as they expand
  • Use wooden basher – press down twice a day to compact
  • Not recommended to make in hot weather
  • Put it in fridge when ready to stop fermentation

Big thanks to Wendy for taking these notes and sharing them with us all, and to Anna for the photos.
If you’d also like to help share some ideas that come from our gatherings (it can as simple as a photo or a dot point or two) we’d love your input at a future event. Or feel free to leave a comment about preserving below.

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