My preserving obsession

My preserving/fermenting/sourdough obsession has run riot since lockdown. Which is weird when you think about it… I’ve been on a low carb diet so not eating bread; David is not a great fan of jam, and although he professes to LOVE piccalilli it’s surprising how little he eats. He doesn’t like chutney unless it’s Brinjal.  But still the cupboards are falling off the walls with the weight of filled jars, the people in the village have been stripped of all their jam jars and rewarded with a jar or two, and I’ve bought an old larder fridge off Gumtree for storage and for the four sourdough starter(s).

The sourdough is perfected using the three I was generously given by Jo (carefully wrapped and posted from Exeter), from Marion carefully poured into a bag and vacuum sealed and from Shirl’s in a big jam jar.  Each has its own characteristics and these are influenced also by the 

Bake with Jake 

method, which is amazing, and works; the special instructions from Jo (apparently her starter originated in Ottolenghi’s kitchen) produces a loaf with lots of holes, and the special no-knead instructions from Shirl (which came from The Guardian) that produce a  close texture and with great sour texture. Marion’s is a full blooded sour sourdough if you leave it long enough. Enough!  I have poseted sourdough on here already – go here if you haven’t read it.  By the way I recommend eating any of these with large slabs of Fen Farm slightly fermented butter…. which is another good reason for me to shout to myself don’t touch the bread Dawn!


I’ve featured Brinjal in many guises on this blog so I won’t post again. Suffice it to say I used the last 20 aubergines from our polytunnel (not that I’m boasting) in a great batch of Brinjal last week.  The original recipe is here


Fermented tomatoes

II took this recipe from the up-there-with-Nigella. Olia Hercules.

Take as many  green tomatoes as you like. Make a cross shape in the tops (don’t cut all the way through) then chop lots of parsley, garlic and chilli, mix together and stuff into the cut tomatoes. Place carefully in a tall jar with some slices of onion and garlic. Boil 3 litres of water with 40g sea salt. Add black peppercorns, bay leaf, 4 short celery sticks and 5 cloves of garlic to the jar with the tomatoes. Then add the brine.  As a fan of Russian, Turkish and East European food I have also learned a trick of topping the jar with oak leaves or black currant leaves. The tannin does it’s magic. Put the top on and leave for about a month,  I opened mind last week and tried them.   They are wonderful


Green tomato chutney

Chutnies are always a moveable feast because it really depends on what you have a available.  So.  I had 3kg green tomatoes, 1.5kg onions, 6 medium sized windfall Cox’s Orange Pippin apples, 500g Lexia raisins, garlic chopped (lots in our household) 250g brown sugar (less than a lot of people use, I admit), the last dregs of a bottle of molasses at the back of the cupboard, 3 chopped chillies, 1 tbsp Szechuan peppercorns, 1 tbsp ground cinnamon, 2 tbsp coriander seed. 2litres cider vinegar.

The hardest bit is all the chopping – and the belief and patience involved in letting all this gorgeousness gently simmer away for a good four hours. The operative word is gently. It should all melt into a  thick, dark brown sludge. That description does it a disservice. It is in the long slow cooking that the liquid reduces and the flavour increases. You have all eaten that pale green watery green tomatoe chutney with a few raisins floating in it.  Now you know what not to do!

My gherkins

I planted gherkins in the polytunnel. 6 plants. I planted cucumbers in the greenhouse. 6 plants. Or I thought I did. Must remember to label seedlings! So this year we had a bumper crop of gherkins.  Luckily we love gherkins.

Cyder vinegar (say 2l), light brown sugar (say 250g), chopped fresh dill if you have it, dill seed if you don’t. Bring to the boil and let it cool.  Quarter the gherkins lengthwise. Put into a bowl of salted water for an hour. Pack drained gherkins into jars (top with oak leaves or black current leaves).  Pour in the vinegar.

For all preserves, scald the jars and tops with boiling water, place in a hot oven for 10 minutes or swill them round with some vodka (then drink the vodka!). For all preserves I seal first with cling film then out the lid on tight.


Further thoughts on fermenting

My first attempts at fermenting were variable until I hit on the formula and understood the benefits of very thin slices of whatever you are fermenting.  I chop green cabbage, onion and carrot and garlic and fresh ginger root in the food processor.

Weigh your container first. Pile it into whatever container you are using two thirds full – this one is a modern crockpot. Weigh again. Subtract the weight of the crockpot. Fill with mineral water to cover the vegetables.  Now drain the water from the container and weigh it. Now you have the weight of the veg and the weight of the water. Add these together.  Now multiply that figure by 0.025.  This will give you the absolute weight of salt you need to add to the water.  Dissolve the salt in the water then pour back onto the vegetables. Add special ceramic or glass weights to keep the vegetables under the water – or simply fill a sandwich bag with water and lay it on top, serving the same purpose as the weights.

Leave in a warm room for a couple of days, you will smell it fermenting or if you are using a glass jar you will see the bubbles rising.  The trick now is to wait and get to understand it.  Taste after 4 days and then allow it to continue fermenting till you get the flavour you want. Then decant it into sterilised jars and lids and out in the fridge which will stop the fermentation process.

It WORKS. Every time,!!

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