Elspeth Biltoft, owner of Rosebud Preserves, gives expert tips on prolonging the life of seasonal fruit
THE PRESERVING YEAR
Of all the types of preserving, one of the most popular is making jams, jellies and marmalades of seasonal fruit. Plan your year and make a few jars of lots of different things to discover what you really love. Start in early spring with forced rhubarb paired with stem ginger and orange. In June, pop a couple of handfuls of fresh elderflower into a muslin bag to add to sharp gooseberries. Each summer there’s a profusion of soft fruits just waiting to be preserved – raspberries, strawberries and blackcurrants for classic jams, or redcurrants for vibrant jelly. English plums, greengages and damsons make great early autumn preserves. Pick wild crabapples and rowan berries for jellies to accompany roast meats. Make jelly from new-season Bramley apples, then add any of your favourite chopped herbs to capture their vibrancy. Close the year and start the new one with a selection of citrus fruits to make tangy marmalade. Include the classic ‘in-season’ bitter Seville oranges from Spain.
Use a heavy-based stainless steel preserving pan with a top wider than its base if possible, to help the evaporation process. A 10-litre pan should be big enough for your needs. It should only be half full after the sugar is added, to allow for a rolling boil without boiling over. You will also need the following equipment: a heatproof bowl, plate, sieve, jug, funnel, wooden spoon, slotted spoon, sugar thermometer, new jars and some matching lids and labels.
To sterilise jars quickly, wash them in hot soapy water, rinse and put in a oven heated at 160C/fan 140C/gas 3 for 10 minutes. This ensures they are clean and hot just as you are ready to start filling. Alternatively, put the washed and rinsed jars in a low 50C oven while you make the jam.