Mmmmm. You should smell my kitchen right now. I’m making cumquat marmalade and there’s a delightful svent from the gently bubbling mass on the stove. This wonderful aroma and, of course, the delicious marmalade spread on toast, make up for the pain of chopping up all that fruit.
I don’t actually have a cumquat tree – although I do have lots of other citrus. This bounty was booty brought home from a trip to Tamworth in NSW where I was helping the Tamworth Garden Club celebrate its 33rd birthday with a district lunch.
One of the gardeners brought along a basket of freshly harvested fruit. Much to my amazement she wasn’t rushed so I took the fruit home already dreaming of the marmalade and maybe even some brandied cumquats for Christmas.
I must admit I am a scavenger when it comes to garden produce. I hate to see food go to waste – particularly garden-grown fruit and vegies. I always pick up fallen fruit and take it home if it is usable. And I know where there are branches that overhang fences offering fruit for the picking or where people put fruit at their gate with a note to say: “Help yourself”. And I do!
I have a preserving kit (an old Fowlers set up with jars and a large boiler – and an original recipe book) so I can also bottle peaches, nectarines and plums in season. My old set is a bit antiquated (I have to bring it to the boil on the barbecue as it is too big for my stove) but Fowlers has moved with the times and now have very easy-to-use electric versions that are readily available.
Eggs are bountiful now so I am planning to put down some pickled eggs this weekend. They are delicious and a great way to keep your eggs.
As summer rolls round I move into chutney mode and bottle any excess tomatoes I can find. Pickled cucumbers are another favourite in our household and very easy to make (just slice finely, soak in a salt brine, then pack into sterile jars with a hot, spiced vinegar). This recipe can be used for all sorts of vegies such as cauliflower, pickling onion, chilli, beans and carrot. And, in fact, putting all those together in one jar makes a spectacular preserve.
Our grandmothers and great grandmothers were a dab hand at making food last but most of us have either lost the knack or feel we don’t have time to be mucking around making a mess in the kitchen.
But I say give it a go. Keep your eyes open for free fruit (or even buy things on special at the fruit shop) and try some home preserves. Give yourself the time to enjoy the experience and relish the results. They also make wonderful gifts and help use up all those jars that seem to multiply in the cupboard!