Returning from being away from a week at this time of year, there is always plenty to preserve. The tomatoes are starting to get red, the peaches and plums are ripe and the apples are dropping madly.
The main way we preserve is with the Vacola. It seems every garage or clearing sale has a set at giveaway prices. I have had lots of people approach me to help them empty their shed of dusty vacola jars. I prefer the size 4 ones that are big enough to put your hands in, particularly for the peaches.
First I make a sugar syrup. I make it medium which means about 2kg of sugar dissolved in 5 litres of water. I make a big batch so it can be used anytime while the stonefruit are ripening. Meanwhile I clean and sterilise the jars. It is important to put the rings next (which I have soaked for at least 5 minutes in hot water) before putting anything in the jar.
I peel the peaches with a potato peeler (if the skins don't come off by hand) and remove the stones. The flesh is then cut int segments which are placed with the curve out around the sides of the jar. About every six or seven segments I put one or more in the middle to keep the rest to the edge. This does depend on the size of the fruit. After each piece of fruit I pour in some syrup and make sure the air bubbles are out before repeating the process. Once there is almost no space at the top of the jar I place the lid on and secure with two clips. One of these is removed a day after the jar has come out of the water bath and I leave the other on till it is used - though it is not necessary.
The Vacola Unit takes 9 size 4 jars or 13 size 3. Once the jars are placed in, the water is added to the shoulder of the jar. The temperature is raised to 54 degrees Celsius over one hour. Then raised up to 83 degrees C in 30 more minutes. This temperature is maintained for 15 minutes before turning off and allowing to cool.
With tomatoes I wash them and boil them up with onion, garlic, basil, excess zucchinis and carrots and any other veg I have spare. I use a stick processor to mush it all up and then pour into sterilised jars. Plums and apples are simply stewed and then processed.
Fruit preserved in this way tastes great for up to a year if kept in a dark cool place and then gradually deteriorates.
It takes up less space and energy than freezing or drying and tastes wonderful as dessert on a cold winter night.