Beginner's Guide?

All things preserving - canning, water bath (vacola), freezing, drying your harvest. We discuss all methods and the pros and cons, be nice to each other, please we all have our ways of preserving.
pinkukulele
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Beginner's Guide?

Postby pinkukulele » Tue Oct 13, 2009 9:54 am

Hi All,

I have wonderful memories of my mother bottling all of our homegrown fruit and vegetables when I was a child. Unfortunately while I was living overseas she gave away her massive Fowlers Vacola "pot", and all of the jars... I hope whoever has it is enjoying it now, because I'm jealous!

So I want to begin preserving the fruits and vegetables that I grow - where do I start? What do I need? Are there any beginners guides that I could use?

Any help and guidance would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!

minnie
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Re: Beginner's Guide?

Postby minnie » Tue Oct 13, 2009 12:34 pm

Welcome to the forum.

To start, you need some jars (I'd buy a box of mason to start with as they come with lids and bands), a big pot (stock pot) and cake cooler that can sit in the bottom to keep the jars off the bottom, a funnel and general kitchen things such as spoons etc.

Now depending on what you want to preserve depends on the method, so high acid eg. tomatoes, cherries, peaches etc can be preserved using the 'waterbath' method which the items above are basically enough.

Low acid eg. vegetables, meat etc you would need a canner (pressure cooker) that is designed for preserving.

I'd start easy, some other may say begin with jam... I'm not a jam maker, so things like chutney and sauces or just plain chopped up tomatoes or pasta sauce etc is a good place to begin.

The reason I say about the mason (ball) jars is because you can buy a plastic lid that screws on them, and you can use them for lots of things, also they're easy and they work.

When you decide you want to preserve lots, start saving your supermarket jars and get friends too as well and then buy bulk new lids (we list some places here for buying things viewforum.php?f=3)

What were you thinking of starting with, and are you growing the produce yourself?
:D
Vicki

pinkukulele
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Re: Beginner's Guide?

Postby pinkukulele » Tue Oct 13, 2009 4:00 pm

Ooh, thanks for replying so quickly! And for the valuable information!

The waterbath methods looks like the right one for me at the moment - I just need to organise myself some jars. The link that you gave me has heaps of places for me to look, and I think there's another place near where I live that I'm going to investigate when I get the chance.

I've been hunting around and looking at Mason jars, which do look like the best way to go - uniform and easy and everything there. One question I have about them - what's the "reusable band" and what do you use it for?

I have also been saving jars over the last few months, so I'll look into getting some new lids for them.

I'm thinking about starting with fruits, which should begin to come into season soon. Also, of course, tomatoes and chutneys and relishes. I grow heaps of vegies and always have a glut of tomatoes in particular, which should be great for preserving. I'd also like to try pickling some vegies, like onions and garlic.

I'm really interested that you mentioned preserving pasta sauce - how do you make sure that this has the right acidity?

Thanks again for your answer!

- Carolyn

ellengray
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Re: Beginner's Guide?

Postby ellengray » Wed Oct 14, 2009 5:08 am

re the mason jars - the lid comes in 2 sections - a flat lid that sits atop the jar, and a screw band that holds the flat lid on when you are hot water bathing it. Once it is processed you take the screw band off. The screw bands are resuable, the flat top lids are for once only - toss them out once they have been used once.

I use both mason jars and ordinary jars. It is expensive getting bottles to start with. I don't use mason jars so much as I use ordinary bottles with poptop lids (I actually prefer these, although the mason jars can handle more and look prettier). When I first started preserving I got in a large order of jars and lids from http://www.cospak.com.au/index.asp (centres in most capital cities) although they have drastically reduced what they have available now. These jars form the core of my preserving jars.

Coles and Kmart also sell mason-like jars too and I have a large collection of those. They work just fine and are cheaper than the genuine mason jars.

Just start slowly and add to your collection over the years and you will find yourself what you like the most - everyone has different preferences.

minnie
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Re: Beginner's Guide?

Postby minnie » Wed Oct 14, 2009 7:23 am

Hi Carolyn,

Sara is spot on with
Just start slowly and add to your collection over the years and you will find yourself what you like the most - everyone has different preferences.


You find over time you like certain jars for certain things as well.

I like to use recycled jars for things that I may give to someone, so many even though they have good intentions don't return jars. So only my Mum, DH's Mum and us use the vacola, mason or staggoni (not sure if spelt correctly and too lazy to look ;) ) jars that I buy.

I use the old supermarket pasta sauce jars for pasta sauce and the chutney I use a tad smaller and a few mason as I love the plastic screw on lid and the 1litre and 2 litre staggoni are only used for storing olives. We're just near the end of olives we picked two years ago (none last season here due to weather) and they're still good, just stored in the big jars in brine a a bit of red wine vinegar, once opened then transferred to the fridge and marinate a few as we want (although DH likes them straight from the jar unmarinated).

If the pasta sauce recipe isn't in recipes I'll hunt it out and put it up for you. The thing to remember with tomatoes is they need some lemon juice in them as well as they're not as acidic as they once were, different types etc... but it doesn't taste in the product.

I made salsa (when we had tomatoes), Kathleen's recipe and a dash of my usual one and it was great... better than the supermarket one which doesn't seem to have any chilli bite for me.

We tried for a 'glut' of tomatoes summer before last and between so much rain it flooded constantly and they rotted and the blossum end rot we haven't had a garden since (kept raining for some time). There are soooo many tomatoes products so if you have lots of tomatoes there's so many things you can make, and honestly once you do, you'd never go buy the commercial version again.

I even bought tomatoes in July because I ran out of tomato sauce and we said we couldn't bear to eat the supermarket one. :lol:

I got the Pickle and Chutney by Digby Laws and every single one I've made works and is great, one of the most used books in my kitchen. His apple and date chutney is pretty close to the Rosella one, I think. So I never buy chutney anymore. I do a thing were I look at what I no longer buy. ;)
:D
Vicki

pinkukulele
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Re: Beginner's Guide?

Postby pinkukulele » Mon Nov 02, 2009 10:47 am

Wow, you guys are really helpful - thanks so much!

At the moment I'm sourcing jars - a friend is handing a few on from a relative who doesn't use them any more, apparently they're 375ml screw-top jars with extra new lids. I'll try with them first.

I'm thinking that this is a really good size to try doing a chutney/pickle type thing. One question about this - how do you seal the jars on chutney/pickles? Do you have to put them in the boiling water bath? If so, for how long?

Thanks again folks!

Cheers,

Carolyn

minnie
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Re: Beginner's Guide?

Postby minnie » Mon Nov 02, 2009 11:55 am

Hi Carolyn,

Depending on the chutney with how you seal it.

The ones I make most (from Digby Law Pickles and Chutney book... I love this book) as the jars are hot and steralise and the lids the same and the contents are hot and good vinegar content I just put the lid on and they vacuum seal as they cool.

Other ones you'd water bath, what recipe were you intending to make??
:D
Vicki

pinkukulele
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Re: Beginner's Guide?

Postby pinkukulele » Mon Nov 02, 2009 12:15 pm

Thanks, that clears it up. I didn't have a particular recipe in mind at all (yet), had just been looking around and seen the instruction "seal" but wasn't sure how. It makes sense, using the heat from everything to create the seal as it cools. I'm looking at recipes for pickling zucchinis, and eggplants - yum!

Now I just have to wait for my jars to turn up! I'm very excited!

Thanks again for your help!

Cheers,

Carolyn

minnie
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Re: Beginner's Guide?

Postby minnie » Mon Nov 02, 2009 1:10 pm

Hi Carolyn,

I posted the recipe and some images for pickling zucchini... I'll try to see if I can do the step by step this week.

Don't know if you have looked at these:
http://www.seco.com.au/step_by_step_preserving.php
:D
Vicki

pinkukulele
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Re: Beginner's Guide?

Postby pinkukulele » Mon Nov 02, 2009 2:45 pm

Oh.My.Godz - I'm going to make that caponata AS SOON AS I GET MY JARS!!!!

Thanks for the link! It's good to see things in pictures. I also really appreciate all of your help, and the whole forum - it has taken me a bit of time to get my head around the whole process, but I think it's all working out now and I'm ready to go (as soon as I get my jars!)

I cleaned out my pantry over the weekend, too (while procrastinating from studying!) - there is so much room in there for preserves!

Hubby has no idea what he's in for!!!

pinkukulele
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Joined: Mon Sep 28, 2009 3:10 pm

Re: Beginner's Guide?

Postby pinkukulele » Mon Nov 02, 2009 2:46 pm

Ooh and I've found your zucchini pickling recipe - YUM! I'll have to see what I can get more of - eggplants or zucchini/squash - see which one gets made first!

Thanks again!

Cheers,

Carolyn

minnie
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Re: Beginner's Guide?

Postby minnie » Mon Nov 02, 2009 3:13 pm

Hi Carolyn,

The Caponata needs to be processed, and I know I did an eggplant in oil (Jamie Oliver recipe from his 'At Home' series) but you have to watch things in oil, most especially garlic in oil.

I think the zucchini is a good one for Christmas too, and it could be done with all green zucchini and red capsicum for a festive look. I really like it with lots of colour...
:D
Vicki

pinkukulele
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Re: Beginner's Guide?

Postby pinkukulele » Mon Nov 02, 2009 3:28 pm

I saw that the Caponata is processed - I like the idea of giving the processing a try, but also trying some non-processed things so that's where I'd do the zucchini (and capsicum in it for Christmas - what an idea!).

Hmmm. What is it about things in oil that you have to watch? I love the idea of eggplants or garlic in oil!

Another question - I've seen around a lot of those glass jars with rubber seals and the wire flip-top type clasps on them - are they suitable for preserving? Can they be processed in the boiling water? They're quite pretty!

minnie
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Re: Beginner's Guide?

Postby minnie » Mon Nov 02, 2009 4:02 pm

Hi Carolyn,

I have some of them but haven't used them for anything other than preserved lemons... I don't know why but just haven't used them for anything processed or not.

Using recycled jars with new lids for giving away appeals to me because if they don't give them back I'm not upset.

Here's the Jamie Oliver recipe I did:
http://www.recipezaar.com/Pickled-Eggpl ... ver-321642
Put canning jars into boiling water for 5 minutes. - I steralise mine in the oven and put the lids into boiling water.

It was really nice, but next time I'd keep it in the fridge... it doesn't have a long shelf life, in cupboard or fridge.
:D
Vicki

pinkukulele
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Re: Beginner's Guide?

Postby pinkukulele » Mon Nov 09, 2009 10:35 am

Hello again,

Boy have I been having adventures over the last few days! The jars that were promised to me last week were given away to a family member, and in my devastation I turned to EBAY!

And on ebay I bought a big fowlers sterilizer complete with 140 jars, and a heap of new lids and rings! Only $80! I couldn't believe it! There aren't enough new lids and rings for all of the jars, only about 30 of each, but wow! What a start!

There are 74 no 20 bottles, and 53 no 27 bottles and those are the sizes of the lids and ring that I have. There are also about 15 no 10 bottles (so cute!) and some no 31 and no 14 and other randoms. Wow!

So OF COURSE I had to try something out over the weekend. Inspired by the caponata recipe (above), I made an eggplant and tomato chutney, enough to fill 8 no 20 jars. It was really hot here in Melbourne on Saturday but luckily my bbq has a side burner (we hardly use it, I always thought it was a bit useless, until I started PRESERVING!!!) so I could boil up the chutney, and do all of the sterilizing, outside! How fantastic!

It worked wonderfully - husband was mowing the lawn whilst I was working away, and loved the smells as things cooked up. The amount that I made amazingly perfectly filled 8 jars, with a tiny bit left over to put on bread afterwards, for sampling purposes. And all of the jars sealed! Wow!

Thanks for all of your help explaining things! I'll let you know how I go with my next adventure - the market that I bought my vegies at had fresh apricots by the box, I'm thinking of trying jam and preserved apricots next weekend! So exciting!

Cheers,

Carolyn

countrylife
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Re: Beginner's Guide?

Postby countrylife » Tue Nov 10, 2009 8:53 pm

Hi Carolyn,
Wow what a bargain. I normally pay $1 - $2 per jar at 2nd hand shops and that's without lids. I've seen them for more but I don't buy them. ;)
It's good to know there are still good deals out there and that they will be used for their original purpose.
Have fun with them all,
Katrina


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