Preserves are only as good as what goes into them
Choose wisely: Select fruit and veg at the peak of their season. Underripe isn’t flavourful and overripe is too close to spoiling. Unsure about what to choose? Ask around at the local farmer’s market. (Bartlett pears retain their shape when poached, and plum skins are full of useful pectin so leave them on when making jam.)
Always wash: Even if you’ll be peeling the produce, wash it. No soap — just give it a good rinse and a gentle rub under cool running water.
Avoid mould*: It’s critical not to use any fruit or veg that shows even the tiniest spot of mould — it can proliferate in the jars after preservation and cause the contents to become dangerous.
*When preserving, it’s imperative to follow the exact recipe to prevent bacteria growth. This isn’t the time to get creative with measurements or times, and don’t double recipes.
Why jars matter
1. Choose wisely: The only way to preserve properly is with glass jars and 2-piece lids (Mason style) or rubber rings and clamps (Weck-style*).
2. Safe space: Headspace (air between the top of the preserves and the lid) is critical to create a safe seal. Strictly follow the recipe instructions.
3. Reuse, reuse: Reuse old preserving jars, as long as they aren’t chipped or cracked. Screw bands and clamps can be reused if they aren’t rusted or dented. Always buy new flat metal lids (the rubbery compound seals only once).
*What are Wecks? German preserving jars with a glass lid, rubber ring and clamps. Find them at specialty kitchenware shops.
After 24 hours, label sealed jars and store in a dark place for up to a year. Keep jars away from direct sunlight (it can discolour preserves). Processed jars will keep well for up to 1 year at room temperature — but, once they have been opened, store them in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.