Home preserves: the pandemic effect

Home preserves: the pandemic effect

Posted by The Wares Team on 21st Jun 2020

As we draw ever closer to the fifth month of Covid-19 lockdown in the UK, we might be seeing some easing of restrictions, in England at least, but we are still very far from the normal that we once took for granted. We’ve seen food shortages in the supermarkets and elsewhere, the closure of weekly markets and a sea change in how people think about shopping in general. It’s true that restrictions are gradually starting to be lifted now, but people’s appetite for shopping is still low, and there is always the threat of a second wave on the horizon.

With these thoughts in mind, perhaps, and with the possibility of price hikes and food shortages next year due to the combined effects of Brexit and Coronavirus-related harvest problems, more and more people are currently thinking about home preserves and about how they can build up a store of produce and preserves to see them through the months ahead.

Whilst full self-sufficiency is just a dream for most of us, we can all do at least something to preserve as much fruit and vegetables as we can, whilst they are in season and readily available. If we achieve nothing more than providing our families with a tasty treat of strawberry jam or a jar or two of tangy chutney, it will at least bring cheer to the damp days of autumn and free up some cash to buy those essentials that we can’t readily make ourselves, such as pasta and flour, for example.

In today’s blog post, we take a look at some of the things that are in season and available right now, and what to do with them to preserve them for the coming months.

Mason jars are your best friend

If you are about to embark on a home preserves marathon, you need to stock up on Mason jars, in a range of shapes and sizes. These clever jars come with two-part lids that form the perfect airtight seal, to keep your preserves safe from harmful bacteria that could spoil the contents. From large gallon jars for pickled eggs and onions to smaller jars for items such as chestnut terrine, there’s a Mason jar for every project.

Whilst Mason jars themselves can be re-used, the lids, with their distinctive rubber seals, are not intended for re-use and should be replaced with each use. Fortunately, we also stock inexpensive replacement lids, so check what Mason jars you already have, and order some new lids alongside any new jars you intend to buy.

A checklist of simple home preserves

Whether you have your own vegetable plot or allotment, or you plan to bulk buy from your local greengrocers or market (restrictions permitting), it pays to get organised with a list of things that you want to preserve. That way, you will ensure that you have the right number of Mason jars, labels and so forth, before you start each project. Start with a few simple jams to use up some of your fruit glut. Strawberry jam is everyone’s favourite, of course, but blackcurrant jam, raspberry jam and rhubarb and vanilla jam are all delicious in their own right and well worth making.

It’s also worth pointing out that strawberry jam may well be your favourite but if you make dozens of jars of this and no other flavours, you may find your love of this particular preserve starts to wane sometime around the end of November! Variety is the spice of life, so have a go at a few different types of jam to keep everyone happy. Gooseberries are also in season right now and make a lovely jam, and it won’t be too long before it’s time to make some apple and blackberry jam too.

Having stocked up your larder with jam, the next preserve to think about is chutney. The good thing about chutney is that you can make it using pretty much whatever you have to hand. Again, the Mason jar is the perfect design to use for this kind of preserve. Some people love broad bean chutney, whilst others prefer a sweeter apple or plum chutney. Green tomatoes, aubergine, cauliflower, beetroot and even bananas can all be used in chutney.

It’s a great way to use up any fruit or vegetables that are slightly over-ripe or past their best, which means you’re doing your bit to reduce food waste at the same time as creating something sensational. If you shop at an independent greengrocers, you’ll find that they often have some amazing bargains on offer for larger quantities of fruit or veg that have been slightly bruised or are coming towards their best-before date. These are perfect for converting into chutney, and with a little experimentation, you can find just the right combination of spices to flavour your own creations perfectly.

We’ve only really scratched the surface with building up a pandemic pantry filled with preserves, and we’ll cover more ideas for filling up those Mason jars in future blog posts.