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From garden to jar

Indulge in a little home preserving and you’ll recapture some of the charm and simplicity of yesteryear. Enthusiastic gardener, accomplished chef and bestselling author Laura Faire explains how

Indulge in a little home preserving and you’ll recapture some of the charm and simplicity of yesteryear. Enthusiastic gardener, accomplished chef and bestselling author Laura Faire explains how

“Maybe I’m a control freak, but I’ve always preferred to know where my food comes from,” says Laura Faire.
So it’s fortunate Laura’s garden is both a source of active relaxation and a wealth of guaranteed-fresh ingredients for her culinary creations.
Laura’s mum is a London-trained chef and her childhood was spent on a “nearly self-sufficient” goat farm in the Bay of Islands. But the appeal of preserving took more time to develop. “My mum used to bottle fruit and I didn’t want to eat it,” Laura recalls. “When I was a kid I didn’t like anything mushy.”

Those days are long gone and this autumn, Laura’s trusty enamel stock pot will once more be bubbling up all kinds of fruity concoctions. “I’ll be bottling tomatoes this year. I always preserve lemons – I love using them in cooking – and I always make some kind of chilli derivative.” One advantage of preserving is that you can inexpensively create gourmet jams, chutneys and relishes to suit your fancy, says Laura. “You can adjust a recipe to your own tastes and get the flavour combination you like.”

Plum Anise Sauce

2 kg dark plums

1 cup vinegar

1 cup brown sugar

3 star anise, roughly crushed

4 whole cloves

3 allspice berries, crushed

Cut a cross in the base of each plum and put in a large bowl. Cover the plums with boiling water and leave for 1 minute until the skin begins to loosen. Peel, then halve the plums and remove the stones.

Chop the plum flesh roughly and add it to a large saucepan with the vinegar and brown sugar. Tie the spices loosely in a large piece of muslin, add to the pan and bring all to the boil. Simmer for
30 minutes. Turn off and leave to cool completely on the stove.

Remove the spices and blend the plum mixture until smooth. Pour into sterilised bottles and seal.

Takes about 1 hour

Makes 4 cups

Dried Chilli Flakes

25–30 homegrown chillies

white vinegar

Harvest the chillies and, wearing
rubber gloves, wash them in a bowl
of warm water and vinegar.

Dry the chillies thoroughly
and cut in half from tip to
stem, exposing the seeds. Remove
most of the seeds and discard.

Spread cut side up on wire racks and place in the sun to dry, turning periodically.

Alternatively, place the chilli halves on wire racks and cook in an oven at 80°C for 3–4 hours, turning periodically until dry.

Wearing dry rubber gloves, crumble the chillies onto a large sheet of paper, then roll the paper into a funnel to transfer the chilli flakes to storage jars.

Store in a cool, dark place.

Takes 3–4 hours

Makes 1 small jar

 

Raspberry Vinegar

Fantastic in salad dressings, this vinegar will keep for a year.
It also makes a great gift.

3 cups raspberries, plugs removed

3 cups white vinegar

a few sprigs of thyme

Soak the raspberries in salted water for 5 minutes to remove
any bugs. Drain.

Heat the vinegar with the thyme in a large saucepan until nearly boiling.

Drop in the raspberries and allow to cool to room temperature. Stir and pour into a sterilised screw-top jar. Place in a cool, dark place for 4–5 days until the colour has come out of the raspberries.

Strain the vinegar through doubled-up muslin and discard the fruit and thyme.

Pour into sterilised bottles and seal.

Takes 20 minutes over 4–5 days

Makes 4 cups

Laura says …

Very easy to grow, raspberries benefit from acid soils – as do blueberries – so growing them together and mulching with pine needles is a good idea. There are both autumn and summer cropping varieties. Prune in autumn by cutting off at ground level any canes that have borne fruit. Thin out the remaining canes, keeping the strongest, and tie them to a fence or stake.

 

Passata

Passata is a base to which you can add a hint of this or that to give it a unique flavour. I keep mine simple: garlic and parmesan oil are my favourite additions, or you can use just a simple olive oil. Passata can be preserved in jars or frozen in usable quantities, and once opened it will keep in the fridge for a week.

2 kg large juicy tomatoes

4 tbsp parmesan oil (see below)

2 onions, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed with 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Cut a little cross in each of the tomatoes and place in a large bowl. Pour ample boiling water over the tomatoes and leave for 1–2 minutes until you see the skin starting to loosen.

Peel the tomatoes, cut in half and scoop out and discard the seeds.

Heat the parmesan oil in a saucepan and add the onion.

Cover and cook gently for at least 10 minutes until the onion is
soft and clear but not coloured. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.

Add the tomato flesh to the softened onion and garlic and cook for 30 minutes. Blend to a smooth sauce. Either seal in sterilised jars or freeze in small batches.

Takes 1 hour

Makes 8 cups

Laura says …

Parmesan oil is a sneaky cheat: the leftover wax rinds from parmesan are thrown into a jar, topped up with oil and left for a month in a cool dark place. I keep a jar permanently in the fridge and keep adding rinds and topping up with oil.

Orange Chilli Cheese

This recipe is similar to a quince paste or a fruit cheese, hence the name. I like to set it in small discs that can be added to antipasti or cheese platters. It has a good kick and is purely for lovers of heat.

1.5 kg orange chillies, deseeded

1 kg oranges

1 litre water
sugar

1 large piece of muslin

Place the chillies in a preserving pan.

Remove the zest from the oranges using a potato peeler, being careful not to leave any white pith on the zest. Alternatively, use a zester.

Remove the pith from the oranges using a sharp paring knife and discard. Roughly chop the orange flesh before adding it to the pan.

Add the water and boil for 1 hour.

Place a large sieve over a large bowl, line it with a large piece of muslin and pour the orange and chilli mixture through, straining out the pulp.

Tie the muslin into a bundle and suspend it over the bowl to catch the liquid; or alternatively, leave the bundle to rest in the sieve over the bowl. Leave overnight.

Discard the pulp. Pour the liquid into a measuring jug and weigh. Return the liquid to the preserving pan and add half the weight of sugar. For example, if the weight of the liquid
is 800g, add 400g of sugar.

Boil, stirring regularly, until thick. The desired temperature is between 106°C and 108°C on a sugar thermometer; this should take around 20 minutes.

Pour into lightly greased mini-muffin pans, filling each by
only one third to create small disks. Alternatively, pour into
a greaseproof slice pan (30cm x 20cm) and allow to set,
then cut into small squares and wrap in wax paper.

Store in an airtight container in the pantry until required.

Takes 1 1/2 hours over 2 days

Makes 20 small squares

Extracted with permission from Now is the Season by Laura Faire, photography by Kieran Scott. Published by New Holland 2011, $45


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