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Autumn and Festive Preserves
Author: Jack Lang (Jackal10)
Jack's first course on preservation can be found here. The introduction to that course contains some scientific background to preservation and should be read in conjunction with this course.
Now the end of the growing season is here and Xmas approaches it is time to make the last preserves of the year.
Here we will look at
Green Tomato Chutney
Quince comforts (contignac)
Pamelas: Candied orange and grapefruit peel
Apple Jelly and variations
Apples have lots of pectin, so apple jelly is easy, and a basis for many other flavours.
It is made much like the Redcurrant jelly in the previous preserves section.
It can be made from windfalls, or from crab apples. I make it from the apples that get left on the tops of the trees that we could not reach to pick, and that then fall off in their own good time. I know I should prune out these top branches, but then I would not get the apples for apple jelly
Small jars of jelly make nice presents or shop goods.
Chop up the apples and discard the bad bits, but keep the pips and cores – they contain the most pectin. For 6 lbs/3kg of apples add 3pts/2.5l water, and simmer for an about an hour
Pass though a jelly bag, or a coffee filter, or a double thickness of muslin in a sieve
Resist the temptation to squeeze or force it through
Measure the juice. Allow 1lb/500g of sugar to each pint/750cl of juice
Boil until setting point is reached (221F)
Skim and bottle. When cold, label and store in the usual dark cold place.
Variations Everything except the spices are added after the sugar has dissolved and show in the final jelly:
Spiced apple jelly:
Add cloves to the apple when you boil them. You can add them to the juice which gives a brighter flavour, but they then need straining out
You can use other spices, such as pumpkin pie spices, or ginger, or lemon peel.
Add chopped mint to the juice. Some like to add some vinegar as well.
Parsley, thyme, rosemary (strain out the bits), tarragon, lavendar etc
Makes a lovely rose petal jam, Use fresh red rose petals from a fragrant variety. Wash well, and add 1 cup of petals after the sugar has been dissolved. You can increase the rose flavour with rose germanium leaves or with rose water.
Gold leaf spangles:
Add pieces of gold leaf, or a liqueur like Goldwasser that contains them. Flavour with cinnamon or aniseed..
Add chopped hot chillis: 12 chillis are about as much as even serious chilli heads can stand.
Add chopped green peppers, and green food colouring
Green Tomato Chutney
At the end of the tomato growing season there are always green tomatoes left, as well as the odd straggler or misshapen fruit. Those that don’t get fried make magnificent chutneys and pickles.
They are pretty tough and make a good sweet pickle:
3lb/1kilo small green tomatoes
2 lb sugar
flavouring: 1tsp vanilla or q tsp ground cinnamon
If you want to peel them put the tomatoes in boiling salted water for 10 mins, refresh under cold water and peel. I don’t bother.
Put the peeled green tomatoes with the sugar, vinegar and flavouring into a non-corrosive saucepan and boil for 5 mins. Pack into jars, and seal with non-metallic lids.
You can pickle them just like the cucumber recipe given in the first lesson, except they take at least 3 weeks to mature.
A good chutney is mellow from long cooking and maturing. It is quite different from Indian style chutneys, although the origin may have been Anglo-Indian. This style is deep brown. long simmered, ends up like a like a brown sauce with texture. Essential with cold meats, pork pies, or with cheese for a sandwich or ploughman’s lunch.
4lb/2 kilo green tomatoes, chopped up roughly
1lb/500g windfall apples, after peeling and coring
1/2lb/250g small raisins or sultanas
1 lb/300g brown sugar
1lb/500g shallots or onions, chopped
1/2 pt/375ml vinegar
1/2oz/25g fresh ginger, chopped.
½ oz/25g salt
Spices and chillis to taste (2 chillis, 2 bay leaves, tsp mustard seed, tsp black pepper)
Put the spices in a muslin wrap.
Chop up everything small, except the raisins or sultanas.
Put it all to simmer on a very low heat for a very long time (6-8 hours), until it is thick, and apart from the raisins, although there are chunks, the origin of each is not really discernable. The bag of spices is on the left.
Remove the spices, bottle with a non-metallic lid (because of the vinegar) and seal. Leave to mature for at least a month.
For a lighter chutney use white sugar and vinegar. If you want it sharper, add some of the vinegar towards the end of the cooking period. You can make it with almost any fruits or vegetables such as windfall apples, or marrow, plums or winter squashes that did not quite grow right
Fruits in alcohol are a wonderful and easy dual preserve. Not only do you get the delicious liqueur, but also the preserved fruit. This recipe is a more delicate version of sloe gin, made with sloes (wild plums), but also just as traditional.
First pick the damsons
1lb/500g damson plums,
I bottle (70cl) full strength gin, as the water in the fruit will dilute it
8oz/250g sugar (more or less to taste)
Freeze the damsons. This is a short cut and the object is to crack the fruit so that the gin penetrates You can hear the fruit crack when you pour on the gin. Freezing is much easier than the traditional method of pricking each fruit with a silver bodkin.
Put into a jar and shake.
The sugar will dissolve slowly, and the gin takes on a wonderful pink colour and fruit flavour.
After 24 hours
Put the jar somewhere (under the bed is traditional) where you see it from time to time and give it a shake occasionally. After a month it is ready. You can leave it, or strain the liqueur, and bottle it back into the original gin bottle, relabelled. It improves in the bottle if allowed to do so without being drunk. If you manage to leave it, it will gradually mature to a rich brown and full flavour. This is from 3 years ago.
The fruit can be added in moderation to an adult fruit salad, or pureed and set with a little gelatine into an amazing jelly.
Variations: You can add almond essence or lemon peel
Many fruits can be preserved in alcohol this way, for example Peaches in Brandy, Cherries in Brandy or Rum. We covered Rumtopf in the last lesson.
Ahh mince pies!
I don’t know why more people don’t make their own mincemeat, as it is so easy and so much better than shop-bought. Making mince pies with home made micemeat to the sound of the carol service broadcast from King’s College marks the start of the festivities for me
Mincemeat originally was a way of preserving meat for the winter, with lots of spices, dried fruit, alcohol and sugar. The meat was used as a pie filling, or part of a porridge or stuffed into a sausage skin for a pudding After a while people noticed it tasted even better if they left out the meat, except for some fat to melt and give richness and unctuousness. A few people still include neck meat or kidney, but mostly out of tradition rather than taste
On the other hand if you can get real kidney suet from your butcher and shred your own, your mince meat will be all the better and more authentic Otherwise you will have to make do with the packet stuff. If you don’t eat meat then butter is better than the dubious (and often stale) hydrogenated fats that pass for some vegetable suets.
1lb/500g each of
cooking apples, weighed after peeling, coring and chopping Use a firm apple like Granny Smith.
finely chopped suet
1/2lb/250g chopped mixed candied peel, glace cherries etc
grated rind and juice of 2 lemons
2 oz chopped almonds (optional)
½ tsp ground sweet mixed spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves – as for pumpkin pie)
1/2pt+ 1 glass rum or brandy. (Not optional!)
Mix it all together.
Pack into jars. Seal. Drink the spare glass of rum or brandy.
Leave for a month before using as a pie or tart filling.
One jar nicely fills an 8 inch pie dish.
Also great as a filling for baked apples.
Will keep a year, but may dry out a little. Revive by stirring in another glass of spirits,
George I (sometimes called “The Pudding King”) ate this Christmas pudding at 6pm on December 25th 1714.
These puddings may originally have been a thick spiced porridge version of the mincemeat above, called frumenty, sometimes cooked as a pudding in a sausage skin. In the sixteenth century people discovered that they were better if they boiled the ingredients in a bag (“bag pudding”), they preferred the texture given by eggs, breadcrumbs and flour, rather than oatmeal. The original would have been the traditional cannonball shape from being boiled in a floured cloth, often in the wash-day copper.
Once boiled, they will keep for up to a year in a cool dry place..
1 1/2lb/750g eggs, weighed in their shells
1lb/500g each of
dried plums (prunes)
1 tsp mixed spice
½ nutmeg, grated
½ tsp salt
Juice and grated rind of a lemon
Large glass of brandy
½ pint milk.
Mix all the dry ingredients. Make a well in the centre and mix in the wet ingredients.
“a stir and a wish”
Let stand, covered in a cool place for 12 hours.
Put into basins or a floured cloth.
Boil for 8 hours. A half lemon in the water helps preserve aluminium pans.
When cold recover with clean silicone paper and muslin Store cool and dry.
Before serving boil again for 2 hours. Dress with a sprig of holly
Take to table flaming: pour over a ladleful of flaming rum or brandy (care).
Serve with brandy butter (Hard sauce), cream, or rum custard or all of them.
Omit the flour. This gives a lighter pudding
Replace the milk with Guinness. Drink the rest of the bottle.
Wartime versions used carrots to add some sweetness and bulk instead of some of the sugar, which was in short supply. Versions which omit the alcohol should be ignored.
These make puddings which are mostly fruit, held together with a little pudding stuff. You can increase the breadcrumbs and flour if you want to economise, or like more stodge.
Left-over Christmas pudding is great fried with bacon and eggs next morning.
Many traditions and superstitions are associated with Christmas pudding.
When mixing you should invite the family for “a stir and a wish”
They were the original “Plum-duff” of naval catering, and dried plums are, at least to me, an essential ingredient and link with tradition.
Traditionally they were made by “Stir-up Sunday”, the last Sunday before Advent, which is around the end of November, so that they have time to mature before Christmas day. It is called “Stir-up Sunday” because the Collect begins “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people”, reminding the faithful that it is time to make puddings
The old game of Snapdragon puts raisins or currants around the flaming pudding, the dare is to snatch one from the flames (take care!). There is a reference from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass where Alice meets the fanciful Looking-Glass insects. One of them is the Snap-dragon-fly, with a body made of plum-pudding, its wings of holly-leaves and its head a raisin burning in brandy. It lives on frumenty and mince pie, and nests in a Christmas box.
It is traditional to hide a silver three-penny bit or other silver coin in the pudding. Whoever gets it, according to tradition, will receive wealth and riches in the coming year, or in other traditions are made king or queen for the day.
This is part of an older and wider lore, such as the bean in the French Three kings cake, or in the Greek Vasilopita cake for St Basils (New Years Day). Originally the coin was in the Twelfth night cake
The coin stood for riches. Other symbols and their objects were
A bean for King
A pea for Queen
A clove for Knave
A twig for the Fool
A rag for the Maid
One theory is that these traditions, together with the yule log, the holly and mistletoe, are the last remnants of the pagan traditions of the winter solstice festival of Saturnalia, taken over in the Christian tradition by Christmas. The king, chosen by the bean or the coin, is the Lord of Misrule and rules over the Revels for the day. There is deep symbolism and ancient magic here.
The health police remind us that there is a remote chance of someone choking on the small coin in their food, so warn people to be on the look out for it, and check for the very young or old. Polish and wash or boil the coin well before adding to the pudding. Make sure the coin is real silver – modern nickel coins (like nickels and dimes) leave a nasty taste. Real silver (pre-1920) English three-penny bits are still available, for example on ebay or at coin dealers for modest prices if they are not in mint condition. I just purchased some Victorian 1887 ones for about 50c each . Others replace the coin with a silver charm. You can bribe youngsters to return it by offering a reward.
Other places have their own traditional preserved foods or rich matured breads and cakes for Xmas:
Speculoos (spiced cookies) in Belgium, Stollen in Germany, Vasilopeta and Chridstopsomo in Greece, panetonni and panforte in Italy, Turron in Spain, Medivnyk Honey Cake in Ukraine, not forgetting all the preserved ginger, gingerbreads, hams, game pies, and turkeys raised for the season.
Quince comforts/Quince Cheese/Contignac/ Dulce de Membrillo
Quince paste, known by different names in different places
Depending how much you reduce and dry it it can be variously Butter, Cheese, Leather or Comfits. Comfits are an old name for a fruit jelly, served after dinner.
2lbs/1 Kg quinces
About 1lb/500g sugar
Pick the quinces
Quinces are as hard as iron when raw. Some recipes suggest stewing them, but I find baking them for an hour or so easiest
Let them cool, and remove most of the skin and bones – the pips, stalk and any hard bits.
Puree and sieve. This stuff is tough to sieve and sticks to everything. It is easier when the puree is warm.
Add an equal weight of sugar, and simmer, stirring frequently. It will get much looser at first, then stiffer as it dries. Take care, as it bubbles like molten lava, and spits.
When you can see the bottom of the pan when you draw a line it is stiff enough.
Pour into an oiled tin, or a tin lined with silicone paper, and let it set.
You can now dry it in the sun, or in a barely warm oven. Turn it over after a day or so so it dries evenly. Traditionally these cheeses were wrapped in Bay leaves and muslin, and served with cheese.
To make comfits cut it into ½ inch/ 1cm cubes and roll in sugar.
Keep either loosely wrapped in the fridge, or in a closed tin in sugar.
Add spices, such as cinnamon
Use other fruit, such as apple or Damson
Pamelas: Candied grapefruit peel
Making true glace fruit is a long business, and there is little advantage in making it yourself.
However here is a quick version, adapted from a recipe originally by the Troisgros Freres.
6 Grapefruits (about 2kg or 4lbs), preferably unwaxed
1lb 6oz/600g sugar
Cut off the top and bottom of the grapefruit.
Cut into quarters. Cut off 2/3rds of the flesh from each quarter and any seeds. You can eat it for breakfast.
Cut each quarter into 4 sticks,
(some orange crept in there)
Put them in a saucepan and cover them with cold water. Bring it to the boil.
Strain off the water. Repeat this four times to remove the bitterness.
The fifth time don’t add the water but add the sugar instead. Bring to the boil and simmer on a low heat very slowly uncovered for 50 to 60 minutes or until the syrup has evaporated and peel is transparent and tender. If you cook too fast the syrup will evaporate before the slices are cooked. Spread the slices out to dry on a rack, and when cold roll in sugar.
Damson comfits and Pamelas
For true indulgence dip into good chocolate.
You can do the same with other citrus fruits. Orange peel needs rather longer than grapefruit.
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