I recently participated in a very fun fruit preserving workshop with Seattle’s Brook Hurst Stephens, a certified Master Food Preserver whose website www.learntopreserve.com is jam-packed (pun intended) with helpful tips and tasty recipes. I loved helping transform a heap of delicious fruit and aromatic spices into a winter’s worth of jarred delights. Brook’s knowledge and enthusiasm was truly inspiring and I’ve been busy canning all sorts of things at home, which will make for great Christmas gifts.
Preserving is astonishingly easy – give it a try! The most important thing to remember is that you can adjust the seasonings in a recipe to suit your preference, but you may have less than ideal results if you tinker too much with the proportions of fruit, liquid or sugar.
Tricks of the trade
1. Use 25% unripe fruit when making preserves – you’ll get a more flavourful product.
2. Macerate fruit by sprinkling a recipe’s sugar over prepared fresh fruit, then stir to ensure each piece of fruit is covered with the sugar. Let the sugared fruit sit for at least an hour or two, preferably overnight, during which time the sugar pulls juices from the fruit, creating a luscious syrup.
3. Start with small batches – it takes less fruit and less time, plus you can test out more recipes this way.
4. Taste your preserves as they are cooking before making any adjustments to the seasoning.
5. You don’t need to sterilize jars if they will be processed in a hot water bath for more than 10 minutes, but make sure your jars are squeaky-clean and hot before filling. Jars and rings can be washed and reused but you must use a fresh snap lid each time.
6. For optimum food safety, all preserves should be processed in a hot water bath after being put into jars; processing times vary by recipe and for the altitude at which you are cooking. Visit http://www.bernardin.ca/pages/faq/33.php#43 for details on safe processing.
7. After processing, check for a proper seal by pressing down on the middle of the lid with a finger or thumb. If the lid stays down, it is sealed and will easily keep for up to one year in a cool, dark place. If the lid springs up when you release your finger, the lid is not properly sealed so you should refrigerate that jar and consume the preserves promptly.