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  • Michelle

Preserves - getting ready

I have been making preserves as a part of my business for twelve years. They are a lovely way to capture the seasons in a jar, especially if you are lucky enough to have a fruit tree or two in the back yard, or a veggie patch full of tomatoes.

I am going to show you some of my multi award winning jams and sauces, but first, before we get to the good stuff, you and I are going to talk about basics.

The jams and sauces I am going to share with you are preservative free. I am not talking sugar or salt free, though we are using those to preserve, I am talking artificial preservative free. We have no mould inhibitors here, no msg, no emulsifiers or thickeners, this is just you, and me, our jars and lids, our pots and wooden spoons, our ingredients and heat. Ready? Okay then, here we go.

First thing we need to speak about is cleanliness. I am sure you are very clean, but a preservative free jam or sauce will tell on you faster than anything else will. So we need to be sure that everything is absolutely clean and dry before we use it. If you have a dishwasher, use that, put your pot and your wooden spoon and veggie peeler and a colander and paring knife and chopping board through on the highest heat setting. Right, so that is your utensils ready, what about your jars?

Well, I have seen and read about a lot of different ways to prepare your jars and bottles for jams, this is the way I do it and I have made a lot of jams over the years and very few of those have decided to grown their own hair. If you have a method you have used in the past that you are happy with, use that by all means, but this is how I do it.

To begin I sterilise my sink and bench with a particularly nasty spray called wipeout, you can use any disinfectant you like, but here is my next tip, wash down your area first, then dry it with paper towel, now spray it with your disinfectant, now leave that for ten minutes, then come back, wipe it over with an antibacterial wipe. Sounds too pedantic? This is why my jams do not go mouldy, pedantic cleanliness and preservative free preserves are good bedfellows.

Pop your lids into your clean pot, pop in a drop of dishwashing liquid, splash in some hot water, swirl it around, drain the water away, rinse until all the dishwashing liquid is gone, fill the pot with enough water to cover the lids, pop it on the oven and bring it to a boil.

A good rolling boil for a couple of minutes, all done? Good, strain that through your very clean colander (the one that you have put through your hot dishwasher), give each of the lids a shake, taking very great care not to touch them on their inside, rim only, your hands did not go through the very hot dishwasher or the boiling water, they have not been sterilised, so handle these lids by the rim only. Lay them out on a clean oven tray on a couple of pieces of kitchen paper, pop them into a fan forced oven on a very low heat, 40 - 50 degrees C, and let that blow on them until they are dry. The lids MUST BE BONE DRY before we use them on our preserves, the jars also, but we will talk about that in a minute. Water harbours pathogens, pathogens make mould and worse. So let them sit in the oven for at least half an hour having warm air blown over them until they are dry. Now, set them aside in a clean place while we sort out our jars.

Wash the jars in hot soapy water in your sterilised sink, pop the jug you are going to use to pour the jam from the pot into the jars in there too and give it a wash.

Give them a good wash and then a rinse out in fresh water, drain the excess water out and sit them on a clean oven tray that has been lined in clean kitchen paper.

Do the exact same thing with your pouring jug, now pop that into your oven. Do I need to tell you to scrub your oven first? No, good, remember, when we are making jam EVERYTHING must be super clean, that goes for the sink, the oven, the wooden spoon, everything.

Now how I usually do this is I boil my lids first and then get them into the oven with the blowing warm air, then I wash my jars or bottles and jugs and they go into the oven too, along with the lids, just so I know where everything is and it is all together. This warm air is not going to sterilise our jars, but we have time to do that when our lids are dry, the little white seal in the lids does not like too dry a heat so if you put them in a hot oven they will melt and twist and will not seal properly, that is okay, we boiled them, remember? All we are doing now is drying them. So when the lids are dry we take them out of our oven and put them in a clean safe place, now we turn up the heat in our oven to 100 degrees C, I usually go a tiny bit hotter than that, and we heat our jars and jug until they too are bone dry and hot enough to take our hot jam. I usually turn up the heat in the oven at about the same time as I add the sugar to my jam, anyway, you will need to have them at that heat for about twenty minutes to be sure they have sterilised and dried properly.

Hot jams and sauces must go into hot bottles or jars, otherwise they will just shatter the glass. Use clean, dry tea towels to do any handling, remember, this stuff is hot enough to give you a very severe burn. Please! Be safe, if you can’t be safe, buy your preserves from a reputable maker. Preserves making is wonderful, and fun and rewarding AND DANGEROUS. Be safe please Cookie House people.


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