National and International Themes

Following publication of the globe-trotting recipe book I’ve been nominated for the National Diversity Awards (lifetime achievement) I can share this apparent accolade without boasting, confident that there’s no chance of winning.   My nomination scraped in on the final day of voting that had been running since March.   As we all know, after recent ballots in Westminster, it’s the votes that count.   I had no time to galvanise support so will only get the most distant brush with greatness!

On the international front, I recommend professional lecturer and blind chef Martin in Sydney, Australia, who is true to his motto: “Cooking is for EVERYBODY”.   Whether you have just lost kitchen-confidence or have a long-term health condition, his website full of recipes and tips that can make cooking easy and accessible, wherever you are in the world.   He’s even been kind enough to share one of my interviews:

Meanwhile,  George from India featured me in one of his podcasts and now talks to fellow Brit Siobhan Meade who answers questions about blindness on her YouTube channel.

Back at home in Hampshire, I’ve been stoning about 10Kg (22lb) fresh apricots for bottling.   It took nearly two hours to prepare all the fruit, but the result was a throng of jars that will keep for more than a year.   In addition to having that taste of summer all year, the freezer won’t be overloaded, and the apricots will be ready-cooked.   (I’m now hoping for some of the harvest of Morello cherries from the “Porter’s garden” near Victory Gate inside Portsmouth Naval Base.   During my years in uniform, I’ve walked past it hundreds of times without realising the delights within the garden.)

Bottling is a very easy process and just requires the right jars.   I use the ubiquitous Le Parfait variety: hinged lid with clip and rubber ring.   The recipe is embarrassingly easy:

Apricots, washed, stoned and sliced.

Sugar syrup: 750g sugar dissolved in 1.2 litres boiling water.

Pack the prepared fruit into the jars, leaving about 2cm empty at the top.

Pour in the hot sugar syrup to fully cover, ensuring any air escapes.

Place the jars in a large pan, cover the jars with water and bring the water to a simmer.

Maintain the gentle simmer for 35 minutes then turn off the heat and allow the jars and water to cool enough for removal.

Wash the jars to remove any stickiness, label and store in a cool dark place.

My Key tips:

Quantities will depend on the amount of fruit you have an, most importantly, the number of jars available.

The sugar syrup can be light as in this recipe or, by adding more sugar, medium or heavy and even flavoured e.g.  kirsch with cherries.   I had syrup left over which is stored in jars waiting to be re-boiled for the next bottling session.

Make a cut around the middle of the apricot, give one half a firm twist and it should come away to reveal the stone which can be eased out of the other half.   Cut each half into at least two pieces to avoid creating air pockets in the jar.   I have a wonderful mechanical cherry stoner from France and would never have the patience to de-stone them with one of those hand-held devices.

Pack the fruit tightly into the jars recognising that they may end up floating in the syrup after the processing.

When fitting the rubber rings, don’t be tempted to neatness by positioning the “pull” tag near the clip or hinge.   You need it easily available to pull.

The rubber ring needs to be new or in very good condition.   If it is breaking down after re-use, you might not achieve a vacuum.

Use a silicone trivet or similar on the bottom of the pan to keep the jars and contents away from direct heat and avoid the jars rocking around.

The simmering water heats the contents of the jar and the clip allows hot air to escape and create the vacuum.

You can test the jars for a vacuum by unclipping the lid and trying to lift it.   If it’s impossible, you’ve achieved the vacuum.   Re-clip after testing.   With these apricots, I made over 22 jars of different sizes and only one needed to be eaten straightaway having failed the test.

To open the jar, pull the tag very hard (you may need to use a pair of pliers) until you hear the hiss of the vacuum being released.   Now the lid will lift.

Other seasonal fruit for bottling includes: apples, pears, cherries and more.   I also have a recipe for a pork terrine that is cooked and preserved in the same way though for a longer time – it has lasted about 2 years!

© 2024 - Penny Melville-Brown
Resize Font