How to preserve fruit

These tips accompany the story Queen of Preserves by Pearl McHugh.

Pearl advises “First you must have very clean jars and you must have as good a quality of fruit that you can buy or pick off your trees.”

The type of fruit determines how it is cut. “Apricots are cut in halves and they are stacked so that they are on top of the other in rows, you put two in then you put two on the other side. With peaches I slice them and you have one row turning one way, one row turning the other way, and the top row the opposite way (I put three rows). Pineapple is very attractive, I cut them into little triangles that fit within each other.

“I’ve tried most fruit: plums, pears, kiwifruit, rhubarb; Anzac peaches are no good as they are too soft.”

“Next, you put in as much sugar as you want, and you boil the water and sugar to dissolve it. I use ¼ cup sugar per cup of water, but the recipe was about a cup of sugar to a cup of water, so it’s a heavy syrup. You can do them in water and some fruit I do, in case I have people come who are diabetic, not that people nowadays are as serious about sugar as they used to be. You can make them as sweet as you like – we don’t like them too sweet.”

“You add it to the fruit and you put on a rubber ring, which must be new every year, and put on the lid and the clip.”

Pearl then places her jars of fruit in her old-fashioned preserving pan, which is made out of copper and has a holder on the side where you can put your thermometer. “You add water into the pan until it is ¾ of the way up the jar and put the pan lid on. You bring the temperature up to 180˚C, let it drop to 160˚C and cook for 2½ hours. Then take the jars out and cool somewhere. Next morning you take the clips off and put them away.”

Pearl is not sure how long they keep for, “I’ve had them keep four years, but we usually eat them within two years.”

Preserves in the cupboard. The top shelf are the last remaining preserves Pearl made before she passed away. The bottom shelf are Max's. Photo by John Mannion.

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