A copper basin placed on the gas stove, where the last cherries of the season are finished. Rows of jars at the top of a cupboard, and so many greedy promises in transparency… Canned foods often evoke a little past images, those of a time when the same hands harvested and cooked products from the vegetable garden or orchard. Yet they are far from being relegated to the museum of culinary preparations of the last century.
At a time when we strive to consume better, to respect the seasons, avoid waste, favor homemade, canned goods are even more trendy than ever. No need to live in the countryside to get started: you just need to know the good producers in the neighborhood market and buy smart.
5 good reasons to go for homemade preserves
- It is waste-free. Fruit that is a little too ripe, vegetables bought in too large a quantity… thanks to the canning, they will no longer end up in the trash but will go to fill the pantry for the year to come.
- It is economical. Purchased when the season is in full swing, fruits and vegetables are very affordable.
- It’s super practical. A lazy evening, an impromptu dinner? Nothing could be easier than opening a jar and sharing its authentic taste.
- It’s clean. Making your own preserves means mastering all the ingredients. Salt, sugar… it is you who dose, for natural and balanced recipes.
- It’s always in season. Canning has the advantage of freezing the seasons: the juicy and fragrant summer fruits, once trapped in their jar, remain eternally sunny!
Home preserves and jars: focus on high quality products
“When we are in high season of a product, it is not uncommon for there to be excess production, notes Yves Camdeborde, a passionate chef introduced to the art of canning by a “grandmother with good peasant sense”. This is when you have to buy: the fruits and vegetables are fully ripe and the prices very attractive, which allows you to take in larger quantities.
For jams and marmalades, the specialist advises “fruits with strong maturity”. For the vegetables, “on point” products. And all of it in quality:
“If you opt for ingredients that are not great at the base, your canning will not be successful. The raw material must be carefully chosen!” he insists.
There are plenty of fruits and vegetables to showcase. The chef advises to choose them “preferably organic“. Some vegetables have a taste that the jar changes: this is the case with salsify or Brussels sprouts. Peas and white asparagus can also develop a little bitterness canned: to give them a boost, Yves Camdeborde adds “a small whole clove of garlic, or even a small piece of smoked bacon cooked with the peas and a spoon of honey with the white asparagus”.
Water, vinegar, salt or oil for canning vegetables
- It remains to choose their method of conservation. Vegetables (olives, pickles, tomatoes, chard, asparagus, leeks, etc.) can be kept natural, immersed in salted boiled water ; then just rinse them under water to enjoy them.
- Another possibility: the vinegar. It is chosen alcohol white, the most neutral, for onions and pickles. Sweet apple cider vinegar goes well with cherries for a delicious condiment. In all cases, it is necessary boil vinegar with herbs, sugar if necessary, before pouring on the chosen ingredient.
- Reserved for vegetables, oil preservation suitable for “children of the Mediterranean”: olive, pepper, eggplant, tomato, garlic, lemon. “It is important to choose an oil of good quality, organic and first cold pressing, which ensures good conservation while diffusing a pleasant scent in the vegetables”, specifies Franck Schmitt, owner of a rural concept-store in Perche. which offers home preserves. Olive oil holds the string, but it can be cut in sunflower oil for a less pronounced taste. Storage in oil asks that the vegetables be scalded before being potted (to destroy parasites and enzymes), drizzled with oil, then drained, dried and placed in jars with dry aromatic herbs and aromatics (cumin, pepper, chili).
Summary table of cooking for the main natural vegetables
Preserving fruits in alcohol, a successful marriage
Fruits have their preferred method of conservation:‘alcohol at around 45 ° C (“beyond that, the fruits are denatured”, warns Franck Schmitt), which works wonders with figs, pears, cherries, apricots or raspberries. Jars must be clean and sterilized before use (see below).
Sterilization, how does it work?
An essential step, the sterilization of the jars with boiling water aims to kill germs and bacteria. This heat treatment is done in two stages:
- First you must sterilize empty jars as well as the lids or rubber washers by scalding them for about twenty minutes.
- Then we sterilizes filled and closed jars in a large Dutch oven at the bottom of which a grid is placed to isolate them from the heat source. Clean tea towels between the jars prevent them from breaking and knocking together when the water is boiling. Cover and let boil for one hour for the jars (one liter) of vegetables and about twenty minutes for the jars of fruit.
“The orange rubber washers are only used once and must be renewed each time they are used”, points out Yves Camdeborde.
Should you invest in an electric sterilizer? This is best if you have a lot of jars or if you often canning.
How long before consuming homemade preserves?
It remains to be patient before tasting these preparations. The jars, once stored away from light, in a cool, dry place, will keep for one year. Most are best within months of storage.
To read to go further:
- “Conserve fruits and vegetables”, by Franck Schmitt, ed. Ulmer, € 19.90.
- “The best of jars & preserves”, ed. Artemis, € 6.95.