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GENERAL NOTES ON EQUIPMENT, INGREDIENTS AND PREPARATIONS
Cooking Pan - This should be a large, wide heavy-based saucepan which allows the preserving mixture to only come halfway up the sides of the pan. This is to ensure that when the contents are boiling rapidly they don't spill over onto the hob. Special preserving pans are best however, any large saucepan will suffice.
Long handled Wooden spoon - for stirring the preserve during cooking
Slotted Spoon - useful for skimming of any surface scum on jams
and bottles - most shapes and sizes, old or new will suffice so long as they
are free from cracks, chips or flaws. The most convenient size for jars are
either 450g/1lb or 1kg/2lb. Prepare the jars by washing well in warm soapy
water. Rinse thoroughly then place the jars on a baking sheet and
dry in a cool oven (140C, 275F, Gas Mark 1) to sterilise. Fill the jars whilst
they are still warm to prevent cracking. For pickling, wide necked jars are the
most convenient. The lids or corks for bottles should be boiled for 10 minutes
just prior to using.
Covers and labels - Waxed discs, cellophane covers, rubber bands and labels can be bought from cook-shops, department stores or some supermarkets, stationers and chemists.
Ingredients for Preserves
Fruit - Always use just ripe or slightly under-ripe fruit as the pectin levels decrease substantially in over-ripe fruit. Pectin is essential to achieve a good set which is why some recipes call for extra pectin in the form of sugar with added pectin or citric or tartaric acid. Always wash fruit before use
Vegetables - always use fresh unblemished vegetables for pickling. The end results will only be as good as the original ingredients used. Always wash vegetables before use.
Sugar - Granulated, lump or preserving crystals are the most suitable. Caster sugar is also suitable. Brown sugar can be used but will alter the colour considerably.
Vinegars - This should be of good quality with an acetic acid content of at least 5%. All Red and White Wine vinegars have this content as do most Cider vinegars. Use cider vinegar for sweet pickling and red wine vinegar for pickling darker vegetables such as red cabbage or beetroot as it gives a better colour to the finished product.
Oils - Use a bland oil such as sunflower or groundnut so that the added flavouring is not overpowered. A mild olive oil can also be used.
Timing and quantities - These are not given in the recipes as both can be substantially altered depending on the state of the produce used. In general , for jam add the amount of sugar and fruit to determine how much preserve will be made i.e. 3lb Sugar plus 3lb Fruit - total yield = 6lbs. You will therefore need between 5 and 7 x 1lb jars. Very soft fruit will reduce down more.
Testing for a set - Remove the pan of jam from the heat. Drop a teaspoonful of jam onto a cold saucer. Allow it to cool then gently push your finger through the jam. If it wrinkles a satisfactory set has been achieved. If it doesn’t, return the saucepan to the heat and continue to boil for a few more minutes then test again.
Filling and covering the jars/bottles
General - A
Jams, jellies, curds, chutneys - Fill the warm jars to the top, wipe the rims with a damp cloth then cover with a waxed disc (waxed side down) whilst the filling is still hot. Allow to cool then cover with cellophane, securing with a rubber band. For long term storage, secure the cellophane with a screw top lid.
Pickles and preserved fruit/vegetables - Fill the warm jars to within 2.5cm/1 inch of the top. Pour over the preserving liquid e.g. oil, vinegar, alcohol, to within 1cm/ 1/2 inch of the top making sure the fruit or vegetables are completely covered. Immediately cover with a waxed disc (waxed side down), a cellophane cover and a screw top lid. This is to prevent the preserving fluid evaporation.
Bottling vinegars and oils - Fill the warm bottles to within 2.5cm/1 inch of the top then seal with a non-corrosive screw top or cork.
Storage - Always store in a cool dark place unless the recipe says otherwise.