It’s fig season and they’re delicious fresh and in salads and deserts. Our neighbour on one side has two massive trees and we usually get some given to us. They prune them very hard and while they are quite old they aren’t much taller than a person but are very wide. This makes for easy harvesting of the fruit and easy netting. The neighbour on the other side also has two fig trees. The big one is quite tall and the birds tend to get most of those fruit as its really hard to pick from it. The small one is growing over our side of the fence and the fruit is delicious. As well as drying the fruit to preserve, it also makes a lovely jam.
1 kilo figs, peeled and quartered
200 grams sugar
4 tablespoons water
Select figs that are just ripe and are firm. Peel and quarter the figs. Prepare a syrup with the sugar and the water. Add the figs to the boiling syrup and cook on medium heat until gelling stage is reached. Put into sterilised jars and seal the lids. Boil jars for 10 minutes to preserve.
Preserving most things requires some sort of sterilised storage jar. I bought most of my big jars by scouring the op shops and Gumtree. I looked for old fowlers jars and found heaps. Up until 30-40 years ago every household had a set. Most households were used to preserving their own food and were well equipped. The fowlers jars are tough and purpose built for the job. Replaceable rubber seals and lids can be found at any Mitre 10. I also keep jars I’ve finished from things I’ve bought from the shops – eg passata bottles. Just check that the seals are still intact and not split and don’t have any mold on them. New screw cap lids and jars can be bought from places like Globe Importers or Imma and Mario’s Mercato.
Get your jars and clean them as well as you can. I run them through the dishwasher with dish washing powder. Washing in the sink is fine too. Leave on a clean tea towel to dry but don’t wipe the jar dry with the towel. Put them on a tray and put in a preheated 180C oven for 10 mins. Take them out carefully and place on a clean tea towel on your bench or table. They are now ready to fill.
While the jars are in the oven sterilise the lids at the same time. Boil the kettle and put a shallow pan on the stove on high. Add the boiled water then add the lids and rubber rings of your are using them in the boiling water for 10 mins. Take out and place on the dry tea towel, they are now ready to use.
Plums are one of my favourite fruits and I have great memories of eating plums as a kid. I only planted this tree 18 months ago and have had my first harvest. The fruit was actually pretty juicy and better than any plums I’ve ever tasted before. They were very much enjoyed while they lasted.
The tree is still small so the bird net did it’s job and I hardly lost any to birds. However, a bird did get it’s foot caught in the net and died which was pretty awful. I’m not sure how to avoid that happening again. This post is actually late as the fruit all got harvested a couple of weeks ago. I got about 8 kilos of fruit and most of it was eaten fresh but I also made jam.
Plum Jam recipe
1 kg pitted plums
500 grams sugar
juice of one lemon
This recipe works with any quantity of fruit. It’s a ratio of 2 parts fruit to 1 part sugar. It makes a loose jam.
This fruit was large so I cut it into eight pieces. Put all the ingredients into a pot and cook on low heat for an hour or so. Don’t be tempted to turn up the heat as the sugar will burn. Take off any frothy impurities with a spoon. Freeze a small dinner plate so you can test when it’s ready. It’s ready when you take half a teaspoon out of pot and it sets a little like toffee on the plate. Pour mix into steralised jars and then seal. Boil jar for at least 10 minutes and let cool. Store in dark cupboard and eat within the year.
This year had a very long winter and my tomatoes have been very slow going. I really hope the tomato season gets going soon. In previous years the tomatoes have been pumping at this time of year starting at the beginning of December and finishing up around March.
Previously, I grew these cherry tomatoes on a simple tent like bamboo structure which worked well. The only downside was the ones growing on the inside needed specialist picking, luckily I had the perfect person with keen eyes to find them. The six plants were very prolific and supplied us with plenty of tomatoes.
Later in the season at the end of March I bought two big boxes of South Australian sauce tomatoes from the local fruit shop to make into tomato passata. There are lots of ways to make it and everyone who does make it seems to have their own special way to do it. A few of the ways to do it ask for the skin and seeds to be removed. I much prefer the idea of using all the fruit so that’s what I did. Also, I read that there is a spike in hospital admissions of people that have had sauce bottles explode in their face and burn them so I took that into account when experimenting with my first rather small batch of 20 kilos. I tried a couple of ways to do it and settled on a recipe I was happy with.
Twenty kilos sounds like a lot but it was so good we used the passata in everything. The flavour really was pretty amazing and I can see now why people devote a whole weekend to preserving this beautiful fruit. To work out how much our family uses in a year I have been saving all our passata jars to get an idea of exactly how much of this we actually eat. I will recycle these jars and use them to preserve the following years supply.
1 kg of tomatoes will make around 750 ml passata
Wash the tomatoes well and cut of any bad bits. Slice tomatoes in big chunks eg – four to six pieces, and place in big pot. Put pot on stove on medium heat. The juices should start being released from the tomatoes. Once they have released enough tomato juice get a stick blender and puree. Simmer the tomato puree until fragrant, 15 – 20 mins or so. Put puree into pre-washed and sterilised jars and seal lids. I used a combo of fowlers jars and supermarket passata bottles, you can also use beer bottles.
Get a preserving unit. I used an old one I picked up off Gumtree that has a built in thermometer. Our next door neighbour uses a large drum over a fire. Use whatever you have. Put a towel at the bottom of the unit and then start stacking the bottles in with tea towels, cloth, rags, newspaper (whatever you have on hand) to separate the bottles so they don’t break when the water is boiling. Fill the drum with cold water and slowly bring to the boil. I heated up my unit on the BBQ. Using the BBQ kept the kitchen cool and meant that I didn’t have to move it when hot to use my stove. Make sure the water boils for at least 30 mins and then turn the heat off.
Don’t try to remove the bottles at this stage as you might end up in hospital. Leave the bottles in the unit overnight and remove when cold the next morning. Store bottles somewhere dark until ready to eat. Enjoy.