This week it was time to preserve that beautiful tropical fruit, mango! My O&O and I were out shopping, and we came across a tray of beautiful R2E2 mangoes – 11 for $15. It was definitely time to preserve and for me to use my time to launch into my first experiment with my Fowlers Natural Preserver, bought a few months ago. Engaging in the process of preserving food got me thinking about other things we can preserve.
We can preserve memories, such as through photos, the written word or a time capsule. We can preserve nature, our culture, our relationships. The list goes on and on. As the list developed I thought this could be an occasional series to write about in 2018.
But for now, I will concentrate on the topic of preserving food. Why do we preserve food? For me, preserving food is like having a time capsule in my pantry. I can enjoy fresh mangoes in the middle of the year when they are out of season. I know what is in the bottle – just mango, water and a little sugar, no other preservatives. Wait! There was one other ingredient, lemon juice. This addition raises the acidity level and prevents the bacteria Clostridium botulinum. To be sure any home bottling or canned food is safe to eat check that the lids are properly sealed before storing the bottles. Also, smelling the food before it is consumed will tell you it is good to eat!
I am reading and learning about home preserving and it is a rewarding past-time. After the processing period in the water bath the bottles (full of mango) had to cool down and the spring clips are not removed for 12-18 hours. Then I tested the bottles to made sure a vacuum had been created and the lids were secure. To check for a proper seal, I had to press the centre of the metal lids. If the lid is flexible, then it has not sealed properly. Once I had confirmation the bottles were all sealed okay, all that was left was to label and store in a cool dark place.
When there is an abundance of fruit and vegetables in season this is the time to buy and preserve, as they are cheaper. But for me, it is not about the money but more so the health benefits. That is, knowing what I am eating and what is in the bottle!
When fruits and vegetables are out of season or are in short supply due to unfavourable weather, they become expensive. Home preserving gives you the best food, at the best price, at the time of the year you choose! Also, bottled fruit make a great gift. That is, when we have an abundance – only 6 jars so far, this mango season!
When I was taking my time preparing the fruit for bottling my thoughts went to my great grand-mother, Mary. I was 8 years old when Mary passed away at 91 years of age. My mind wandered to how she would have managed feeding a family without refrigeration and cooking on a wood stove. Meat was preserved by curing it with salt and then hung in a tin box with air holes on the side. Onions, eggs, and beets were pickled. Jams, mustard pickles and chutney were made at home. Milk and cream was fresh each day, unpasteurised and unhomogenised!
Mary had time to preserve as she mostly spent her time at home. Any bottling Mary did would have been carried out by the water bath method. Using a large pot where the jars are submerged. Not so easy though when keeping the water at a constant temperature, on a wood stove. Living to the ripe old age of 91 years meant she must have been a great home-maker. Preparing food for herself and the family that was wholesome. It was all made from scratch with nothing out of a bottle, unless she had preserved it herself.
For home bottling it takes a little time and for now this is how I choose to use my time. However, it also takes time to go to the supermarket and reach for that canned fruit with all the artificial flavours and preservatives. Reaching into the home pantry for a bottle of fruit that is made at home, is more satisfying. When you have time, you can play around in the kitchen like me and experiment with preserving food through home bottling. Try it, I am sure you will enjoy it.