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Recipes worth preserving

Not just for nanas, preserving is a great festive gift to give, plus you get to squirrel away some lovely summer produce for yourself, making it last right through winter and beyond.

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Making jams and preserves is satisfying, thrifty, makes the most of seasonal produce – and it can be one of the most thoughtful gifts to give.

Although jams are high in sugar, it is a necessary ingredient for preservation, so enjoy in moderation. Homemade jam won’t always set as firmly as commercial jams, as the pectin and acid levels of fruit can vary greatly and we are not adding any setting agents here (yes, that means they’re all vegan recipes). No matter what the texture, good homemade preserves will always taste great – because they’re made with love.

Sterilising
You'll get better, safer results from using the right gear – and it'll be better to pass onto family and friends, seeing as you don't know how they're going to store their jar of produce after you give it to them. (Editor's note: Green Lifestyle readers get a special discount offer with Fowlers by quoting the code SNPDEC14 until 28 February 2015!) Once you have the jars, lay them on an oven tray, and place into a low oven to dry while you make the jam. Hot jam should go into warm jars, or they could crack. You can reuse old jars from your pantry; just be sure to wash jars and lids in hot soapy water and rinse well before then sterilising.

Testing
Put a saucer into the freezer while the jam cooks. When the given time is up, remove the pan from the heat. Put a teaspoon of the mixture onto the saucer and return to the freezer for 2 minutes to cool. Push the jam with your fingertip – if it wrinkles slightly it is ready. If it still seems liquid, return pan to the heat and cook for another 5 minutes. Test again.

Storage
Store in a cool dark place for the flavour to develop for about a month before using. Sealed jars will keep in the pantry for 12 months. Once opened, keep in the fridge for 6 weeks.

Strawberry & Balsamic Jam

Makes about 4 cups
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: about 30 minutes

1 kg strawberries, washed, hulled and chopped
3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar (Note: sometimes called white balsamic dressing, this available at supermarkets. It gives the distinctive balsamic flavour without the dark colour.)
4 cups caster sugar

– Combine the strawberries and vinegar in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook for about 10 minutes, until soft.
– Add the sugar to the pan, and stir without boiling until dissolved. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to the boil. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
– Remove the pan from the heat and test the jam to see if it is set. Use a large metal spoon to skim any dense froth from the surface. Spoon the jam into warm sterilised jars and seal tightly. Leave to cool, then label jars with the name and date.

Smoky Eggplant and Capsicum Relish

Makes about 4 cups
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 55 minutes

3 medium eggplants, cut into 1 cm slices
⅓ cup olive oil
2 large red capsicums
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 red chilli, chopped
¾ cup cider vinegar
½ cup brown sugar

– Preheat a chargrill pan over medium-high heat. Use ¼ cup of the oil to brush the slices, and cook in batches for 1–2 minutes each side, until tender and browned. Cool slightly, then chop.
– Meanwhile, preheat a grill. Cut the capsicums into large flat pieces and arrange skin side up on a baking tray. Cook for until the skin is black and blistered. Cover with foil and set aside to cool, then peel off the skin. Chop the flesh.
– Heat the remaining oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes, until very soft and lightly golden. Add the garlic and chilli and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the eggplant, capsicum and vinegar. Bring to the boil and cook for 20 minutes, until reduced and thickened.
– Stir in the sugar, without boiling, until dissolved. Return to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Spoon into warm sterilised jars. Seal tightly, then leave to cool. Label with the name and date.

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