The great thing about growing your own, herbs, fruit and vegetables, is that you get lots of lovely, fresh food, but no matter how hard you try, there’s always a glut. The answer to this happy problem is to preserve fruit and vegetables and squirrel them away for another day, it’s so nice to have a taste of summer in the depths of winter.
My preserving repertoire is limited mostly to making jam and chutney, so looking for new ideas I took myself off to the Jams and Preserves Workshop at RHS Wisley, run by their chef Neil Roster.
Neil talked us through a whole range of lovely herbs and vegetables from the garden that had been bottled, pickled and made into chutney and fruit syrup.
We sampled lots of food, including delicious raspberries with tayberry syrup. As well as bottling the syrup, Neil suggested:
- freezing it in ice-cube trays and adding them to drinks
- using it in jellies
- skewering holes in the top of plain old Madiera cake and dripping the syrup in to flavour it, much like lemon drizzle cake.
There were some nice savoury things to try too, ricotta with blueberry and apple chutney and salmon with pickled cucumber and horseradish cream.
Lots of people asked about making jam, Neil recommends using jam sugar, also called preserving sugar. It has added pectin for reliable jam setting, this is especially useful for fruit that’s low in pectin like strawberries and rhubarb.
I like to use unrefined sugar and haven’t found one with added pectin, but you can combine fruit that naturally contains high pectin like black, white or red currants, crab apples or cooking apples with strawberries, as an alternative to refined jam sugar.
Preserving fruit with alcohol works well too, we had a very nice little tipple of vodka flavoured with sour cherries, apparently this is also good poured over ice-cream.
For lunch we had roast duck with a nice gingery chutney and sweet jelly with grapes suspended in it. I shared a table with some lovely people and we had a good old chat about our favourite ways of preserving fruit and vegetables.
Thank you Wisley for letting me sample all this, we had printed recipes to take home and I’m inspired to try lots of new things, fruit syrups are probably top of the list.
Here’s a link to workshops at all the R.H.S. gardens.
If you want to try some easy preserving, have a look at this earlier post about making lavender sugar.
Happy gardening and preserving