Autumn’s coming – harvest time and I’m feeling the urge to preserve…. I think it must be an age thing for as a child I remember our kitchen being awash with fruit, vegetables and Kilner Jars as my Mum tried to conserve as much of the produce from our garden as possible.
I was a child of the 50’s and we didn’t have a freezer so bottling fruit was the best way of preserving it.
Also much food (and money) was in short supply after the War so the majority of working people had productive gardens to help keep their families fed. I have many fond childhood memories of strolling around our garden helping myself to fresh peas, strawberries and raspberries, even sitting on my swing dipping rhubarb into a pot of sugar as a treat!
Today in the western world we have grown used to everything on tap all the time. The supermarkets are awash with produce from all over the world and if you wish you can have Kenyan roses at Christmas or Moroccan raspberries in February. For me eating fresh produce at home harvest time is unrivalled for taste and flavour.
I am quite happy to do without the like of the tasteless tomatoes which have travelled halfway round the world with a devastating carbon footprint in favour of the misshapen ones I pick from my plants in the garden or conservatory at the proper time of year.
I still have Mum’s old kilner jars and occasionally I do bottle some tart fruit such as gooseberries or damsons as they are a whole lot sweeter and keep their shape better than when they are frozen.
However, most of my fruit preservation these days is via the freezer and my bottling is reserved for chutney. As a family we eat a lot of chutney and our favourite is being made in the kitchen right now – it’s Runner Bean Chutney. Runner beans are fabulous eaten with a meal fresh from the garden but they all come at once and provide more than you can eat that way.
Time to get out the preserving pans and saved bottles and jars and our kitchen transforms into a production line with everyone joining in to help. A strong aroma of vinegar permeates the house as we chop, slice boil and simmer, leave to cool and decant into jars of all shapes and sizes.
We can never make enough as many friends and relatives ask for jars of it and it often gets packaged up as presents and given to stands at WI stalls, Village halls and the like for fundraising.
Here’s our family recipe for it, it’s in my threadbare old handwritten recipe book, now very dog eared and brown with age. I know it off by heart of course but like all good things, it’s better shared. Do give it a try and let me know how you get on.
2lbs finely sliced runner beans
1.5lbs finely chopped onions
2lbs Demerara sugar
1.5 pints malt vinegar
1.5 tbsp cornflour
1.5 tbsp turmeric
1 tsp mustard powder
1. Cook beans and onions in salt water until tender.
2. Strain then add vinegar
3. Boil for 15 minutes
4. Add sugar
5. Mix cornflour, mustard and turmeric with a little vinegar and add to mix
6. Boil for a further 15 minutes
7. Cool and bottle in sterilised jars