In the Kitchen: Preserving
When you tune yourself in to the seasonality of fruit and vegetables it’s impossible to resist the urge to preserve the ripest, most delicious flavours of the year. Since moving to Italy five years ago, we’ve tried and tested, talked about it (a lot!), smiled and even cried about it (don’t ever try to re-use wonky lids). Preserving is thoroughly rewarding and we wanted to share a few of our favourite recipes with you that include Olive Oil.
Ahead of that, a word on sterilising your jars. There’s not really much corner cutting you can do here. Essentially you need to wash thoroughly (I usually choose a hot cycle on the dishwasher) and then lay the jars on baking sheets and place in the oven at 120C for 10-15 minutes. Fill the jars when warm and make sure the top of the jar is completely clean when closing to ensure you get the perfect seal.
Spiced Feta in Olive Oil (Diane Henry, Salt Sugar Smoke)
Having lived in Greece many years ago, I have a real weakness for Greek ingredients and Feta is something I love. Once marinated, Feta becomes something even more incredible.
The Olive Oil tends to set around the Feta, so let it come to room temperature before serving.
Makes 2 x 250ml jars
175ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil, we use Grand Cru Nocellara Etnea from Frantoi Cutrera in Sicily, with its herbaceous, mineral aromatic character it meets the Feta perfectly.
Juice of 2 lemons
2 springs of thyme, destemmed
½ tsp chilli flakes
½ tsp fennel seeds
½ tsp black peppercorns
½ tsp white or pink peppercorns
250g feta cheese, broken in to chunks
Mix the olive oil with the lemon juice, thyme and chilli. Put the fennel seeds and all peppercorns in a mortar and crush them lightly to release the flavours. Add to the oil mixture.
Put the feta in to sterilized jars (not piping hot or the feta will melt!), and pour over the oil and lemon mixture. Seal and keep in the refridgerator. Make sure the feta is always covered with a layer of oil and eat within two weeks.
Great alongside houmous, taramasalata, baba ghanoush etc. or as part of a salad.
Sugo di Pomodoro (our recipe, tried and tested!)
At this time of the year, we always make our winter store of sugo, the tomato base to so many other dishes including ragu, aglione, lasagne, ratatouille or briam to mention but a few.
Makes around 20-25 x 250g jars
10kg ripe, heavy tomatoes full of perfume and with a firm skin, roughly chopped
1 celery head, finely chopped
2 white onions, peeled and finely chopped
6 medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1 tbsp brown sugar
salt and peper to taste
Gently sautee your soffrito (onion, carrot, celery) in Extra Virgin Olive Oil for 5-10 minutes until the onion has gone clear. I usually add salt at the beginning to prevent the onions from burning (is that just an old wives tale? Does anyone else do that?!)
At this point add in the chopped tomatoes, sugar, salt and pepper and mix. Cover the pan and slowly simmer for an hour. The tomatoes should have relaxed in the pan giving plenty of liquid, if you are worried they aren’t juicy enough, add a small amount of water.
Our children are really fussy about there being ‘bits’ in their sugo, so I make it as smooth as possible. To do this, I blender it and then pass through a mouli.
Spoon in to sterilised jars when hot add a dash of EVOO and seal. Make sure you don’t use wonky old lids, you can use the jars again each year, but I recommend new lids each time to avoid disappointment!
Then place the jars on their sides in a crate and cover with a tea towel. Store for 2-3 days on their sides in a cool dark place (where you keep your wine and oil would be perfect). After this time, you can then turn the jars back upright and store in the cupboard/larder as usual.
Garden Pesto (Pam Corbin, River Cottage Handbook of Preserves)
We often make a standard pesto with basil, which the boys love but sometimes, we like something slightly more grown up and this recipe is one of our favourites.
Makes 2 x 225g jars
50g nasturtium leaves
2-3 mint leaves
2 garlic cloves
6 nasturtium seed pods
75g hard goat’s cheese/pecorino/parmesan, finely grated
juice of half a lemon
Petals from 2 marigold flowers
150ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil, we use S’Ciappau from Paolo Cassini in Liguria, it is perfect for pesto.
Salt to taste
If you are a purist, you will want to pound the ingredients together with a pestle and mortar, but you can also whizz them in a food processor if you are short of time (just leave out the marigold petals and salt to fold in at the end).
Spoon the pesto into small, sterilised jars and pour a little olive oil over the surface to exclude any air. Cap and store ideally in the fridge. Consume within 4 weeks.
When you come to use the pesto, stir it well before spooning out. Make sure the surface of any pesto remaining in the jar is completely covered with oil before you return to the fridge in order to preserve it.
Anyone who is particularly interested to launch themselves in to the world of preserving might want to consider a day course and we highly recommend these two: