Saturday, 8 November 2008

In a pickle

Buying jam is not frugal. Making jam is - if you do it right.

The same for pickles - and since I've missed the jam season, let's kick off with pickles, which are more realistic this time of year since they use readily available ingredients such as apples, onions, shallots, and dried fruit.

The rules of frugal pickle making;
  • Make huge quantities. The cost of energy is high so cook with your largest pan. You can ring the changes by adding different spicing or different dry ingredients at the end, just before putting the pickle in the jar. For instance, with one chutney I made, we divided the basic mass into three - one with extra citrus juice and spices, one with added walnut pieces, and one with added dried apricots. Each 'sub-chutney' was cooked just a little longer in a smaller pan, but the bulk of the cooking was done as a single batch.
  • Keep everything scrupulously clean. This is vital! Otherwise, you'll be introducing all kinds of nasties into your preserves.
  • Remember to put the pots in boiling water for a half hour or so once the preserves have cooled down - this creates an air lock and helps preserve your chutneys and pickles for longer.
  • Look in supermarkets or on markets for cheap supplies. I got a huge, five kilo tray of tomatoes for a couple of quid recently - and ended up making large amounts of tomato ketchup and pasta sauces.
  • If you have a garden or allotment, use pickling to preserve any extra fruit or veg that you can 't eat all at once.
  • Look for free foodstuffs in the hedgerow! Blackberries and rose hips are easy to find near most town centres in the UK; so are elderberries. I know a road where sweet chestnuts fall from massive trees each side on to the road - I just have to cycle out there and pick them up!
  • Look for proper preserving jars at car boot sales. The big kilner jars, with rubber rings, are the best sort. (If you're headed to France, stop off at one of the larger supermarkets or even a Monsieur Bricolage DIY store and you will sometimes find six or ten packs of these jars on offer.)
For a bonus, here's a nice article in the Independent with some pickle recipes. Enjoy.

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