Sharing Skills in Food Storage, Harvesting & Preserving

This Autumn, Feed Avalon organised a series of short workshops on harvesting, preserving and storing food.

Participants learned how to bottle fruit and vegetables, experimented with fermentation techniques and more. As part of a day long Winter Food Storage course, learners explored how to make clamps, store vegetables in sand and safe freezing techniques. There were also practical workshops on jam and chutney making.

If you are interested in participating in the course next year, please email nicole@feedavalon.org.uk.

For more upcoming courses in 2015 visit: http://www.feedavalon.org.uk/projects/eat-project/

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Workshop Handout: Vegetable & Fruit Bottling

Written by Karin Shaw of Dragon Willows Farm: http://www.dragonwillowsfarm.co.uk/

For more courses organised by Feed Avalon visit: http://www.feedavalon.org.uk/projects/eat-project/

DSCF3423Most fruits and vegetables are able to be preserved by bottling.

Bottling is simply a way of sterilising the fruit or vegetable and sealing out air and thereby preventing bacteria making the produce deteriorate and go bad.

Traditionally ‘Kilner’ type jars comprising of a heat-proof glass jar, rubber seal, glass lid and metal screw on seal were used for bottling.  However these are expensive to buy and unless you already have some of these jars, it is much more economical to use largish jam and/or pickle jars and really environmentally friendly to recycle and reuse these type of jars.  Most of us will have access to used jars.

The priority in all cases is to ensure that the jars are very, very clean before use.  To achieve this wash them in very hot water and washing up liquid and then dry up-side-down on a backing tray in a warm oven (100°C) for around 20 minutes.  Then keep them upside down while they cool before use.  Alternatively, they can be run through the hot wash cycle on a dishwasher.

Apart from the jars you will need lids – they will not take oven drying as the plastic sealant inside most lids will melt.  Lids can be sterilised by immersing in a bowl of boiling water for a few minutes before using to seal the jars.

Also required for bottling is a large pan if you are planning to sterilise using the top of a cooker, or a roasting tin if you are going to use the oven.  In either case you will also need something to place on the bottom of the pan/tin to prevent direct heat on the base of the jars, for example a wad of folded newspaper, some cloth, a folded tea-towel etc., or you may have a roasting tin or fish kettle which has a wire trivet in the bottom already.

You will also need a thermometer to check the temperature of the contents of the jars to ensure that the required sterilisation temperature has been reached.
A kitchen thermometer is worth the investment and does not need to be very expensive.

Method:

Small fruits and vegetables such as berries, peas, shelled beans, etc., can be bottled whole.  Ensure the produce is clean and any stalks etc., have been removed.  Large and or hard produce should be shelled/peeled where applicable and cut into junks that will fit easily into the jars.  For example apples should be cored and cut into quarters. Carrots can be diced or sliced, runner beans should be de-strung and cut into chunky slices.

Fruits/vegetables that can be bottled whole but have skins, i.e., plums, tomatoes, gooseberries, need to have their skins pricked with a skewer before packing into the jars to ensure they do not burst open during sterilisation

Pack the fruits/vegetables into the jars (give them a little shake to ensure that the produce settles in the jar to get maximum fill.)  For items like plums and tomatoes or chunkier vegetables it is sometimes helpful to use a long skewer or knitting needle to get them placed in the bottom of the jar.

Once packed fill the jars to within 1cm of the top with cold water.  Place the full jars into the pan or roasting tin having first placed either folded cloth/newspaper etc., as described above into the bottom to stand the jars on.

Ensure that the jars do not touch the sides of the pan/tin or each other or there is a chance they will crack during heating.

Then fill the pan/tin with cold water to come half way up the jars in the case of the pan, and sufficient without over-filling in case of the tin.

Then heat up starting on low heat either on top or in the oven and slowing increasing the heat until sterilisation temperature (see below) is reached. Use the kitchen thermometer to check the temperature by inserting it into the centre of the contents in each jar.

Once sterilisation is complete (see timings below) remove pan/tin from heat and remove the jars (use oven cloves or cloth as jars will be hot) and place them on a flat surface on either a folded cloth or newspaper – DO NOT PLACE THE HOT JARS ON A COLD SURFACE AS THEY WILL CRACK.

Then seal them with the relevant lids.  Place the jars in a cool, dark place to store.  Check them ever so often.  Any signs of fermentation (bubbles rising in the jar) can be stopped by emptying the jar into a pan and boiling the produce. It will however need to be used within a couple of days.

Other liquids can be used with the produce in the jars.  Salt can be added to vegetables (approximately 1 teaspoon of salt to 1 pint of water).  And a sugar syrup can be used for fruits (340 gms of sugar to 2 pints of water) – boil them together to make a syrup and then pour over the fruit in the jars.

The advantage of using plain water is that it is very economical and the produce can be flavoured with anything when it is used later – i.e., for soups, fruit puddings, pies etc.

Sterilisation Temperatures and Times:

Soft fruits and berries (raspberries, blackberries, strawberries etc.,) must be allowed to take 1½ hours to reach a temperature of 75°C and kept at that heat for 10 to 15 minutes.

Hard fruits and vegetables such as plums, apples, pears, beans, peas, carrots etc., should be allowed 1½ hours to reach 75°C and kept at that heat for 15 minutes.

Some of the harder vegetables will not necessarily be ‘cooked’ soft during sterilisation and cooking can be completed when the vegetable is eventually going to be eaten.

Soft fruits will almost certainly shrink in the jars during sterilisation and the jars should be topped up from one of the other jars being sterilised.  This may result in a jar less than full at the end of the process and the contents of this jar should be used as soon as possible.

Energy & excitement at the Community Food Forum

On Friday 24th October 2014, Feed Avalon hosted the first Community Food Forum in Glastonbury. It was an event designed to bring together people from Glastonbury, Street and surrounding areas, who are already engaged in community food work or projects, or simply care deeply about changing the food system. More than 30 people came and shared food together. We talked about our challenges and ways we can move forward as a network.

If you would like to join the new email list created following the event please email nicole@feedavalon.org.uk

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Become a Growing Mentor with Feed Avalon

The ‘Growing Glastonbury’ Project will promote food growing in and around Glastonbury, bringing together experienced gardeners to support people new to growing, or those who would like to grow more vegetables and fruit, to share skills, to eat well, save money, be active, make new friends, connect with nature and contribute to local food security. Local growers will produce food in community growing spaces as well as individual gardens.

Become a Growing Mentor

Peg workshop seed savingGrowing Mentors are volunteers with experience and passion who want to share their food growing skills and knowledge. As well as supporting individuals and families in their own gardens, Growing Mentors will be encouraged to attend community events, talks, schools, groups and to write articles, take photographs or make use of any other skills that help spread the buzz about food growing and bringing people together.

Mentors will provide tips, inspiration and advice as needed over a 12-month growing season. We are looking for people with at least two years food growing experience and willing to promote environment-friendly, organic methods, with minimal use of man-made chemicals.

Mentors will be supported by a Project Co-ordinator and will benefit from regular training in food growing and will learn coaching techniques and gain confidence in working with new food growers. Previous mentors, under the Garden Organic Master Gardener’s scheme in Somerset, have gone onto further training and community food growing work.

Applying to be a Growing Mentor

We are currently recruiting new mentors. There is a short and simple application form, available online (link to application form here), or for details please get in touch with Carol Stone, carol@feedavalon.org.uk, mobile 07552975778. The next induction training weekend is Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th January 2015 at the Red Brick Building.

If you would like help from a Growing Mentor

To help get you started with food growing, your mentor will share their knowledge and experience, so that you can make the most of your growing space throughout the year. You can also come along to a weekly Gardening Club in Glastonbury and participate in regular skills-sharing events and workshops organized by Feed Avalon.

FREE Gardening Clubs

Growing Glastonbury will be offering weekly 2-hour growing sessions, one for women growers and the other will be in the Windmill Hill area. Sessions will be free and informal, with the aim that participants attend regularly to build up their skills, knowledge and confidence growing food. No previous experience is needed, just a willingness to get hand’s on with support and guidance from a member of the Feed Avalon team. Let us know if you are interested in joining (link to expression of interest form here).

Avalon Abundance Course – practical workshops in harvesting, storing and preserving food

Avalon Abundance

HarvestsLearn:

• How to make jams & jellies
• Super simple soup making
• Low impact food storage including clamping, cellars & cool storage
• How to make chutney
• How to store beans of all varieties
• How to dehydrate produce
• Bottling & canning
• How to freeze & chill produce safely • How to make juices
• Techniques of fermentation

Workshops can be taken individually or as part of a longer course.

Workshop spaces will be on a first-come-first served basis. Individuals doing the longer course will be prioritised.

All workshops will take place at kitchens in Glastonbury & Street and be led by experienced tutors. Total beginners welcome!

Workshops are free for individuals on benefits or a low income. Suggested donation of £10 per workshop for those paying, or £65 for the whole course.

Dates, times & locations available on request. Interested? Register by emailing: nicole@feedavalon.org.uk

This course has been funded by Somerset Skills and Learning.

Community Food Forum

Feed Avalon are organising quarterly community food forums. The aim is to bring together interested individuals and groups from the local area who are currently active, or interested in becoming active, in reclaiming our food system.

They are informal events where we can talk, share food and build relationships.

The next forum is:

6-8pm Friday 24th October, Red Brick Building, Glastonbury 

Please bring some food to share!

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