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By August 30, 2017 0 Comments Read More →

Preserving Fruit with a Steamer

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Paul Courtney from Vigo waxes lyrical about the benefits of preserving with his steamer

A proper steamer is a real state-of-the-art bit of kitchen kit. I am not talking about one of those colander-style steamers you put inside a pan, or even a bamboo rice steamer. A proper stainless steel steamer looks a bit like those old tea urns you used to see in village halls – stainless steel and built to last, a bit like a tank.

For the self-sufficient home farmer, the real joy is that this one bit of equipment is actually a multifunctional, high quality auto cooker that’s great for a multitude of tasks, including making and preserving fruit juices, jams and chutneys. It even extracts juice from hard fruits like quinces and crab apples, as well as stoned fruits like damsons, plums and sloes, and using the base preserving pan the pure juice can be made into straight jellies or combined with other ingredients such as herbs and spices to create much more exotic combinations of flavours. This pan can also be used for making jams or chutneys, so it’s really adaptable for just about any fruit preserving tasks, and the real beauty of it is that it’s always just a single-pan operation on the hob.

Fruit is simply layered with sugar in the steamer basket, and the heated sugared syrup that runs off is then ready for hot bottling and long-term storage. Home-made cordials made this way are just so delicious that you really wouldn’t want to drink a mass-produced one ever again! You can even mix the juice with the pulp to make jams or purées, so as a preserving aid for fruit, it really is an essential bit of equipment.

But a bit of kitchen equipment is a big disadvantage if you have to store it away and forget about it for nine months of the year. However, with a proper steamer that’s really not the case. It can double as a steamer for preparing veg, meat and fish, and is ideal for blanching veg before freezing. The bottom pan – used for boiling water as a steamer – can also be used as a large pan for anything from jams and chutneys to joints of meat, and will even serve as a casserole in the oven. So a proper steamer is not just a preserving aid; it’s actually a 365 days a year kitchen aid for home farmers intent on making the most of their produce, and as a cooking method it won’t leech out any of the goodness in the way that boiling does.

You may wish to try out some of the following steamer recipes which we have collected over the years. We use the Mehu-Liisa fruit steamer from Finland, which is ideal for anyone with either a productive allotment or garden.

SPICED GOOSEBERRY CHUTNEY

A delicious chutney with the tang of gooseberries, and a great accompaniment to most cold meats and cheese.

INGREDIENTS
  • 2.3kg gooseberries
  • 1.8kg sugar
  • 500ml cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • The grated rind and juice of 1 orange
METHOD

1           Put all the ingredients together in a stainless steel pan (the bottom section of the Mehu-Liisa steamer is excellent for this purpose) and allow them to infuse for several hours until the juices run – overnight would do fine.

2           Bring the contents slowly to the boil, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon.

3           Cook on a gentle heat for about 2 hours, stirring regularly to prevent burning.

4           When thick, bottle in sterilised, airtight, screw-topped jars.

Thanks to Tricia Meredith of Devon for sharing this lovely recipe.

 BLACKCURRANT CORDIAL

The following recipe is one of our favourites, and is delicious as a cool summer drink served with ice and sparkling or still water. It is also just as good as a warming winter drink diluted with hot water – and, if you like, with a drop of alcohol added!

 INGREDIENTS
  • Pick the ripe berries on their stalks (an occasional leaf in the mix will not spoil the flavour).
  • For every 2kg of blackcurrants, add 1.25–1.5kg of granulated sugar (the quantity of sugar can be varied according to taste).
 METHOD

1           Rinse the fruit in a colander to wash off any dust.

2           Fill the bottom section of your steamer with water according to the manufacturer’s instructions, then place the juice collection section on top.

3           Starting with blackcurrants, build up alternate layers of blackcurrants and sugar in the juicing basket that fits on top of the juice collecting tank.

4           Steam for approximately 30 minutes, then run off the collected juice and pour it back over the berries.

5           Do not stir the fruit during the steaming process.

6           Steam again until the berries have collapsed and the cordial fills the juice tank. The juice tank has a convenient outlet tube regulated by a fastener for accurate bottle filling.

7           Bottle into hot (75°C), clean, screw-cap bottles. I recommend you wear ribbed insulated rubber gloves for secure handling, and to protect yourself from scalds.

8           Immediately seal the bottles tightly with clean screw-caps, then invert the bottles to pasteurise the lids. Leave the bottles upside down in a crate until cool.

Although the cordial will keep indefinitely, once opened it is best to keep the bottle in a cool larder or fridge.

ALTERNATIVE CORDIAL RECIPE TIPS

You can use a steamer to create all sorts of different cordials, either a single variety or mixed blends. For a really tasty cordial the fruit(s) should always have a good balance of both sugar and acid. Try some of the following suggestions:

  • Raspberries and damsons always taste particularly good on their own.
  • Blackberries and mulberries, which are low in acid, can taste better and have a longer shelf life when blended with a sharper fruit such as redcurrants, elderberries or crab apples. Alternatively, if there are no suitable acidic fruits available, you can add a dose of citric acid to taste.
  • Redcurrants, when used for cordials, are best blended with a more flavoursome fruit such as strawberries, damsons or raspberries, but they add fantastic colour and are very rich in vitamin C.
  •  In Finland they often blend rhubarb with strawberry; gooseberry with blackberry, and cooking apples with either rowanberry or raspberry.

Paul Courtney is the owner of Vigo Presses Ltd. and a keen preserver with a very impressive track record.

Visit www.vigopresses.co.uk, or telephone 01404 890093.

 

 

 

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“A proper stainless steel steamer looks a bit like those old tea urns you used to see in village halls – stainless steel and built to last, a bit like a tank”

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About the Author:

Ruth Tott is the publisher of Home Farmer Magazine, and together with her husband, Paul Melnyczuk, Editor,is founder of the company. But her background is far removed having specialised in Costume History with a Post-Grad diploma in Museum Studies to boot. A far cry from looking after chickens, growing veg and making bread!

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