Good things for the pantry

Good things for the pantry

By
Margaret Fulton
Contains
16 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781740669269
Photographer
Geoff Lung

Putting down a few jars of a favourite preserve, chutney or jam when certain fruits and vegetables are at their peak can be most rewarding. A new generation of cooks is discovering that making their favourite jam or chutney is easy with a small purchase made from the local greengrocer. Today’s homes don’t usually boast a large pantry but even a few jars of homemade preserves are enough to add a delicious charm to meals.

Jams, chutneys and pickles

Most of us love mum or grandma’s fabulous pickles and chutneys that do so much for cold meats and sandwiches. Even a simple cheddar cheese sandwich takes on another dimension when generously smeared with chutney or pickle. Homemade pickles and chutneys add flavour and variety to all sorts of food. A spoonful of chutney easily enlivens a mayonnaise, dressing or sauce, just as it helps to transform a simple grilled chicken or lamb chop into a dish fit for a maharaja.

On the sweeter side, it is a simple matter to make a few pots of jam and marmalade to preserve the flavour of summer fruits for winter. Where would we be without marmalade for the breakfast toast or jam for our scones? And who could imagine a French apple tart without its glistening apricot jam glaze?

What you should know: No special equipment is needed but, because of the acid factor involved, be sure to use stoneware, pottery or glass bowls for brining. Pans used should be stainless steel, unchipped enamel or silverstone-lined aluminium. Use clean wooden spoons for stirring.

Store pickles and chutneys in clean glass jars, preferably with glass lids, or cover with a round of baking paper, pressing onto the chutney, before adding a metal screw-top lid. Always label and date the jars before storing in a cool, dark place. Leave for several months to allow them to mellow, but all should be used within a year, when it’s time to start on a fresh lot.

When cooking a chutney recipe for the first time, it’s a good idea to make only a small quantity to start with, for the sake of time and economy. When you are sure you like the result you can invest more in the recipe, making a larger amount. Remember that the flavour of chutneys and pickles needs to mellow for at least a few weeks before opening.

Always use vegetables and fruit in good condition. Spices are best used whole, as ground spices give a muddy look and old spices impart a dusty flavour. Tie spices in a muslin cloth for easy removal as they may cloud the pickle if left in.

Make a few jars of jams, chutneys or pickles as the vegetables and fruit come into season and are at their best and cheapest. You will quickly discover what a difference they make to meals.

Pickles and chutneys

These condiments are a welcome addition to boost the flavours of foods. Cold meats, cheese and toasted sandwiches all taste better with a little chutney or peck of pickle.

Jams and marmalades

Making jams and marmalades requires the same care as pickles, chutneys and other preserves. It is the good fruit that gives each product its special flavour. Full-flavoured, just-ripe fruits are preferred because their flavour is diluted by the large proportion of sugar that is added for good consistency and keeping quality. Over-ripe fruit often lacks the necessary pectin which helps set the jam. This pectin, which is found naturally in most fruits, combines with sugar and natural acid to produce a gel. The perfect jam needs a balance of ripe (for flavour) and under-ripe (for pectin) fruit.

For the time poor, this chapter includes recipes for making scrumptious jam the traditional way, using a heavy-based saucepan on the stove, or the easy way for smaller quantities, using the microwave.

To test for setting: One of the most essential skills in jam making is knowing when it has reached setting point. The safest test is to simply put a small spoonful of jam on a saucer. Wait 20 seconds, then run a finger through it – if it crinkles at the edges and stays in two separate portions, the jam is ready.

Featured Recipes in this Chapter

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