Preserving fruit (and other food) used to be a matter of necessity. Of course, this was before the days of refrigeration and a supermarket on every corner.

Knowing lots of different ways to store essential nutrients to see you through winter was second nature, particularly for country families. Similarly, most families just knew the basics of fruit tree care.

Hugh and Katie cutting peaches for preserving
Hugh and Katie cutting fruit for preserving

These days we expect to be able to buy any type of food at any time of year. This is very weird, when you think about it, and makes you realise how completely disconnected from nature we are.

Losing life skills like preserving fruit

One of the consequences of our “fruit all year” mentality is that fruit-preserving life skills have largely disappeared.

It’s such a pity, and makes us much more vulnerable to factors outside our control for our food supply. Cities in particular can run short of food very quickly after disasters.

Luckily, the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t seen food shortages here in Australia, but it has seen panic buying. The shut-down of travel and many supply chains has made us much more aware of how vulnerable we are when our food comes from a long way away.

So it just makes good sense to keep our food supply close to home, and to preserve as much food as you can to keep our pantries full.

Turning your harvest into preserves is also heaps of FUN, and brings out your inner homesteader!

A bounty of apricots destined for the kitchen
A bounty of apricots destined for the kitchen

Start with fruit bottling

Our “go-to” preserving method is bottling (also called canning in some parts of the world). Once the fruit is bottled, it doesn’t take any more energy to store it (unlike freezing, for example). It also lasts for years.

Here’s the technique we use:

  1. Prepare the fruit by washing if needed, remove any bad bits and chop into the right sized pieces to fit the jars you’re planning to use;
  2. Pre-cook the fruit if desired (it can also be bottled raw);
  3. Wash jars, rings, lids – and have your clips handy;
  4. Place rings around the neck of the jars;
  5. Fill the jars with fruit, and top up with either water or syrup (get as much air out of the jars as possible and leave a 12mm headspace);
  6. Put the lid and clip on;
  7. Cook in the Fowler’s pan or preserving pan for the right period of time (this differs slightly for different types of fruit, depending on whether the fruit is pre-cooked, and the temperature of the contents when you start the preserving process);
  8. Carefully remove from the preserving pan, and leave to cool somewhere with good air circulation (pro tip—don’t put the hot jar on a cold surface! Sitting it on a chopping board or folded newspaper is usually good enough insulation to let it safely cool).
  9. Label and store in a cool, dark place.
Make sure the ring is fitted properly around the neck of the jar
Make sure the ring is fitted properly around the neck of the jar

Any type of fruit can be preserved using this technique. In early summer it’s great for apricots, cherries, and plums. Later in the season you can use it for pears and apples – and maybe even quinces, if you feel so inclined!

You can find more detail about this in our Fabulous Fruit Preserving short course, along with detailed instructions for other techniques including:

  • freezing
  • making jams, chutneys etc.
  • drying (including how to build your own dehydrator)
  • pickling
Preserving plums for winter
Preserving plums for winter. Photo: Biomi