It’s time to preserve the tempting tastes of summer. Time to pack a pickle or two. And a jam or three. However, preserving does not improve poor quality produce — the better the quality, the better the appearance and flavour of the preserve.
Piccalilli is my husband’s favourite pickle. I think it’s childhood memories that kindle his obsession. The Oxford Dictionary traces the name back to the mid 1700s when Hannah Glasse — the first ‘kitchen goddess’ — wrote ‘The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy’. Her recipe for Paco-Lilla or Indian Pickle was a winner as was her book which was reprinted over 40 times. Of course, this was well before my husband’s time!
Jams also preserve summer’s bounty. Most jams set at 104°C and the best method of testing is a jam thermometer. However, you can also use the ‘plate test’. Place a saucer or small plate in the fridge to chill. When you think the jam is cooked, put a spoonful on the plate and leave to cool. If a skin forms and wrinkles when the plate is tilted, the jam will set on cooling. If not, cook for a few minutes extra and test again.
Cut a round of waxed or baking paper and place over the piccalilli in the preserving jar before sealing. This helps prevent the acid discolouring the lid.
1/2 large (800g) cauliflower, cut into florets
2 large onions, diced
1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1-2 red chillies, seeded and thinly sliced
1/4 cup cornflour
1 tablespoon each: mustard powder, ground turmeric
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
extra cider vinegar
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Add the cauli, onions and cucumber and cook until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and pat dry.
Place the cider vinegar, caster sugar and salt in a large saucepan. Simmer, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add the cauli mixture and chillies. Simmer for another 5 minutes until the cauli is soft.
Meanwhile, combine the cornflour, mustard powder, turmeric and coriander in a bowl. Add enough of the extra vinegar to form a paste.
Stir the paste into the piccalilli. Cook, stirring, over low heat for 5 minutes or until the mixture has thickened.
Pour into hot sterilised jars and seal. Makes about 5 cups.
PLUM & PORT JAM
A whisper of anise and port flavours this delicious jam.
1kg plums, stoned and coarsely chopped
finely grated rind and juice 1 large orange
1/2 cup water
1 cinnamon stick, halved
6 whole cloves
1 star anise
4-5 cups white sugar
1/2 cup port
Combine the plums, orange rind and juice and the water in a large saucepan. Simmer uncovered, for about 15 minutes until the plums are soft.
Meanwhile, tie the spices in muslin (or a new piece of Chux cleaning cloth).
Measure the fruit mixture. Return to the saucepan with the bag of spices. Add 1 cup of sugar to each cup of fruit mixture. Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 30 minutes or until setting point (104°C) is reached. Discard the spice bag.
Pour the jam into hot sterilised jars and seal. Makes about 4 1/2 cups.
FRUITY TOMATO RELISH
To peel the tomatoes, place in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Stand for a few minutes until the skins begin to split. Drain and cool in cold water. Drain and slip off the skin.
1.5kg plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 medium sized onion, diced
425g can crushed pineapple
1 cup white sugar
1 1/4 cups cider vinegar
1 teaspoon diced chilli
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Combine all the ingredients in a large saucepan.
Bring to the boil then reduce the heat. Simmer for 2 hours, until reduced and thick. Stir approximately every 20 minutes.
Pour into hot sterilised jars. Seal when cold. Makes about 5 cups.