How to make delicious jams, preserves, drinks and more!
Great British Food
With an abundance of beautiful late summer produce currently available, food writer Heather Taylor brings the time-honoured tradition of preserving up-to-date with these handy tips for making jams, pickles, drinks and more
BOTTLE IT UP
Zingy homemade cordials can capture the flavours of the season. The basic technique involves simmering fruit with sugar and tartar or citric acid until it becomes a sticky syrup, which will keep in the fridge for up to a month. Flavour-wise, gooseberries, blackberries, blackcurrants and cherries all work well. Experiment with aromatics, such as black pepper, lavender or ginger. When it comes to using your cordial, don’t limit it to soft drinks: top up with sparkling wine for a speedy cocktail or whip it through cream and top with berries and chopped nuts for a tasty dessert.
SPREAD THE LOVE
Instead of making the usual chutney, use a glut of quinces to make membrillo. This Spanish-inspired quince paste is made from boiled, blitzed quinces which are cooked with sugar until thick, then baked in the oven at a low heat until fudgy and just set. It’s the perfect foil for cheese; membrillo’s sweetness pairs perfectly with a heady, savoury Stilton. Try making a version with plums, too – it will taste great with goat’s cheese!
TAKE THE SWEET WITH THE SOUR
Sharp-and-sour shrubs are an age-old drink which have seen a resurgence in recent years, and they’re a doddle to make at home. Use any fruit you have to hand – apricots or blackberries are perfect – and simmer with equal parts sugar and water. Add to a sterilised bottle topped up with apple cider or red wine vinegar. Pop in the fridge, ready to be topped up with soda for a grown-up mocktail, or combined with ice, gin, tonic, lemon zest and a sprig of rosemary for an autumnal twist on a G&T.
HONE YOUR HOME BREW
Now’s the time to make flavoured spirits to give as gifts come Christmas (or just quaff yourself when the chillier months set in). Look out for burnished-violet damsons and sloes in hedgerows all over the UK. Sloes don’t need to be pricked with a needle before steeping; simply pop in the freezer for a few days, then steep in gin or vodka with sugar. For extra flavour, add herbs such as rosemary, cardamom or vanilla.
GET IN A PICKLE
Pickling is a great way to preserve a glut of vegetables. For a basic brine, boil one litre of water, cool, then add two tablespoons of salt. Layer your veggies in a sterilised jar – use whatever you have; courgettes, cucumbers, squash, cauliflower, beetroot and figs all work well. Add spices as you layer, such as garlic; black or pink peppercorns, chillies. mustard, coriander and dill seeds. After a week or two stored at room temperature they’ll be ready to use. Keep in the fridge when they’re pickled to your taste, to slow down the fermentation. Throw into salads, on top of chilli con carne, or for extra wow factor, into cheese toasties.
GO KIMCHI CRAZY
A fiery Korean condiment made from fermented cabbage, kimchi is finding its way onto restaurant menus across the UK right now. It’s easy to make at home and can pep up Asian-style broths, grain bowls and fried rice. Make a batch by salting chopped cabbage and leaving for an hour or so, then mixing with a paste made from garlic, chilli, ginger, sugar and shrimp paste. Combine with the cabbage along with chopped daikon and spring onions. Pop in a jar to ferment for up to five days, then store in the fridge – the flavour will intensify over time.
There’s something grounding about simmering abundant autumn fruit into glossy jams to stash away for winter. To take yours to the next level, try roasting stone fruits such as plums and apricots in the oven with a little sugar and a couple of bay leaves first (it will give the resulting jam a gorgeous caramel flavour). Or, bake apricots then leave to steep in vermouth for a few hours before you make your jam, or add aromatic ingredients to the mix, such as an earl grey tea bag dropped in the pan while the fruit bubbles, orange blossom water, citrus zest or vanilla pods.
LOVE YOUR GLUT
A Ukrainian dish popularised by food writer Olia Hercules, fermented tomatoes are a delicious way to preserve the blushing-red, juicy late season fruits. They’re made by grating whole tomatoes, discarding the skin, and combining them with salt. Stir in whole cherry tomatoes and add a few sticks of celery. Leave in a bowl in the kitchen, covered with a muslin cloth and weighed down with a heavy pan, for around three days, until the mixture becomes fizzy and frothy. Blend and use in sauces.
PERFECT YOUR BAKES
If you’ve made some gorgeous homemade jam, don’t just enjoy it on toast or crumpets. It’s brilliant in baking – try little friands with a spoonful of jam in the centre, or thumbprint cookies topped with jam then baked until gooey on top. When making an autumn crumble, spoon jam into the fruits before topping with the crumble mix. Or, experiment with twists on the Victoria sponge; you could use blackcurrant jam as a filling alongside softly whipped crème fraîche, fresh blackberries and toasted flaked almonds for an autumnal update.
PIMP YOUR LEMONS
A versatile addition to your pantry, preserved lemons are super easy to make. Simply pack quartered lemons tightly in a jar with salt and a couple of bay leaves, and leave until they become soft – around three weeks. Muddle with olives and parsley as a marinade for roast chicken, blitz into salad dressings or chop into salsa with capers and herbs for spooning over grilled fish.
KEEP IT SWEET
Try candying surplus citrus fruit. Cook grapefruit, orange, lemon and lime peels in a pan of boiling water until tender, then dry out on a baking sheet. Boil the peel in a syrup made from equal parts sugar and water, then dry and toss with sugar to coat: perfect for jazzing up cakes.
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