Preserving in My Kitchen

With the weather being so warm this year, many summer crops have lingered on into October. Early in the month we had tomatoes galore and tender young courgettes with their lovely yellow flowers, peppers and aubergines. As a consequence, we had a lot of tomato salads and tomato based dishes (in addition to the standby ragù for pasta). One dish I tried was tomato and basil risotto that even the not-to-be-named risotto-ambivalent member of the family enjoyed. It still amazes me that anyone could be opposed to risotto – except, possibly if one is badly made.

After reading an excellent blog article by Erica of Sapori e Saperi on making homemade tomato passata, I bought a Passatutto, a marvellous machine designed to produce skinless/seedless passata by separating the skins and seeds in the grinding process and spitting them out the side in a separate chute. Making passata is a great way to preserve the taste of summer tomatoes.

Have a look at Erica’s post as it gives detailed instructions on making and bottling/canning passata from your tomato harvest. Or, you can buy good quality tomatoes from your farmer’s market – or open air market like I have here in Athens. The tomatoes I buy come from the town of Timbaki in south central Crete.

One of my own harvests this year has been limes. This is the first time since I planted the tree three years ago that I got more than 6 limes at one time. By the time I got around to taking this picture, we had already used a few. It is still a young tree, so I hope the harvests will keep multiplying!

When we were graduate students, Lemon-Lime marmalade seemed the height of luxury. After a lot of chopping and bottling, it still tastes luxurious – sunshine on toast. Getting in practice for the orange marmalade season in a few months.

Apples and pears are abundant in the liaki (open air market) at the moment. So, it means it is time to make my annual batch of apple butter – my grandmother’s recipe that was one of my first posts on this blog.

Meanwhile, we are enjoying seasonal pear cardamon cake although some of the pears are being poached in wine. They can either be bottled or frozen for preserving and are beautiful dessert offerings for the holidays. Also in my kitchen this past month is The Africa Cookbook by Jessica B. Harris, one of the James Beard award winners this year. There is an intriguing Tunisian pickled (sweet and sour) pear recipe in it which I might try.

Another fruit I preserve annually is quince. The quinces are peeled, cored and quartered then poach it in a light sugar syrup in the oven on a low heat for a long time until the fruit turns ruby red. The quince is put into packets and frozen with a little of its syrup for future use.

Some of the poached quince I purée, add a bit of the cooking syrup and sugar (about half the weight of the purée) to a pan on the stove to make membrillo or ‘quince cheese’. At a lowish heat, being careful to stir frequently, the purée is transformed into a thick, deep purplish, slightly translucent pulp. Then it is time to pot up, cool and refrigerate. Slices of this membrillo are perfect with sharp cheeses. I particularly like it with a good Stilton or Gorgonzola.

Autumnal veggies are now making an appearance. We are very seasonal here in Greece. Beetroot and their lovely greens, cabbage, broccoli and celeriac. For me, this signals time for soup. When making soup, I usually double the recipe and freeze the other half so we always have a supply on hand. Easy to do, cheaper and tastier than canned soups.

Last, but not least, pumpkins have been roasted and the pulp scooped out and frozen in packets for future cakes and pies. Greek pumpkins are squat or round, have deep orange, less watery flesh, and taste more like a winter squash although they still have the recognisable pumpkin flavour. I am thinking I may even try to create a pumpkin version of Greek bougatsa (a sweet creamy custard wrapped in layers of phyllo and dusted with powered sugar and cinnamon).

On the preserving front, I am dreaming of a good quality dehydrator to make my own dried goodies. But, after the Passatutto purchase, I might wait a while for the next kitchen gadget investment. Good to be sharing happenings in my kitchen with other IMK bloggers who connect at Sherry’s Pickings. Wherever you are in the world, stay safe.

19 comments

  1. Your harvest looks wonderful. It’s impressive that you have preserved so much for winter, as well as enjoying the fresh produce in season. Quinces seem especially exotic to me.

    be well… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

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  2. Loved this post. It’s such a good feeling to see jars of marmalade or jam lined up on the counter to cool or to look in the freezer and see homemade freezer meals and jars or packets of pumpkin and other things for future use. #InMyKitchen

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  3. Your preserving credentials are impressive. I used to do a fair bit in France, but the Mediterranean vegetables I’d most like to preserve – specifically tomatoes – are never as satisfyingly rich and flavoursome here, or available in such abundant quantities at a reasonable price for such enterprises. Congratulations on the lime harvest!

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    • Thanks Margaret. I learned to preserve and bake bread from my Grandmother when I was young, so it comes naturally. Plus, I am a natural hoarder and like to see the jar line up on the shelves and the freezer well stocked. I agree re. tomatoes. When we eventually return to the UK they (and the other fresh seasonal produce) are something I will miss. I noticed the vast difference between my laiki here and the my UK supermarket when we were last home – nearly a year now!

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  4. I’m so envious of your lime tree! First question, where did you get it from? Nobody seemed to have them here, finally a friend brought me a couple from Egypt, but they didn’t do well. Tips please!

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    • I got the lime tree in a garden centre in Athens. It was a large one possibly in Argiroupoli that I think is called Plant Market. I was taken there, so don’t really know for sure, but the Google street view looks like it. They have a lot of trees in the back and the label on the lime said it came from a nursery near Sparta, so Greek grown! We had to baby the tree for the first few years, covering it when it snowed or was too cold and making sure it got enough water. It is small still, but seems to have settled in and as you can see from the limes, it is producing.

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  5. what an amazing machine that passatutto is! how clever. thinking of lemon and lime marmalade, we used to get it here in tins. i am still convinced they made it with chokoes!! which are cheap and tasteless. uurrggh… bad memories but the real stuff is great. our friends nearby have a lime tree and our neighbour has a lemon tree so we are lucky to be supplied with organic fruit. Love all the produce you have. aren’t quinces amazing? the colour they turn into … thanks so much for joining in IMK.
    take care
    sherry

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    • The passatutto is amazing. In the past, I used my mouli, but you still had to deal with getting rid of the skins and seeds (and many of those seeds would slip through the mouli’s holes. I had to look chokoes up. Odd that they would substitute these for limes. I agree, quinces are amazing!

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  6. Love all that fresh produce and preserving. I’ve always wondered about a tomato press. Our lime tree (which is now in the greenhouse) has a lot of limes on it this year.

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    • The tomato press is marvellous – but read Erica’s post (which I link to) for a very good description of how to use it and produce authentic Tuscan passata. As I write this, the main tomato season is finished here, too. However, we still get fantastic cherry tomatoes from Crete.

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  7. I’ve never seen that tomato press before, it looks fascinating to me! I’ve always wanted to have a lemon tree so I finally bought one this year after moving into my own place. It’s probably a few years away from giving me any lemons, but I aspire to make preserves like you one day in my future life!

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    • Hope your lemon tree produces lovely lemons for you. It is a wonderful tree to have just outside the kitchen door. I also had never seen a tomato press before reading Erica’s post. The things you learn from blogging!

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  8. Debi, “sunshine on toast” sounds like the perfect way to start the day. Your membrillo also made my mouth water — I’ve only had quince paste once and it was a luscious treat. Very cool that you make your own! I also loved your risotto and the fond mention of your grandma’s apple butter. (My grandma was the inspiration for my blog, too.) Beautiful produce pictures and thoughts! Be safe and well, xo.

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    • Hi Kim, Don’t you love quince paste? My grandmother had a quince tree in her garden and I have one in the UK, but sadly not here in Greece. Although, they are easy enough to find in the market. I couldn’t do without apple butter – lovely old fashioned taste that takes me back to childhood. And, yes, that marmalade is sunshine on toast!

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