Bottling time!

Best bit of the year is upon me. Time to gather courgettes and French beans by the bucketful. I love the way you never know how many you are going to get. If you plant a cabbage, you know you’re going to get just one cabbage. Planting a courgette plant, you could have one or dozens (usually dozens!).

The only problem is that hubby only likes a couple of courgette recipes. One is battered and deep fried, with a crispy batter full of fresh curry spices. The other is fried with bacon and onion.

That leaves quite a few kilos of courgettes unaccounted for.

Then, why do so many French beans come at once? I’ve tried freezing them but I don’t like the watery result.

I can’t bear to throw anything away, so I’ve devised a few recipes for preserving them so we can eat them through the lean winter months. These have been evolved from the wonderful Margeurite Patten’s book of ‘Jams, preserves and chutneys’.

My own cook-in sauces

Dhansak sauce and Greek Beans, awaiting their labels.

Important points

  1. This can be a dangerous operation because of the enzymes in vegetables and the lack of acidity, so you must ensure that the jars are pressure cooked (gently) for 40 minutes, no less. Fruits, including tomatoes, can be sterilised in much less time, but vegetables must go through the full process.
  2. You’ll notice I’m not using posh Kilner jars. Firstly, they’re expensive. Secondly, the stoopid things are the wrong size to fit in my pressure cooker!  Amazingly, recycled ‘cook-in’ sauce jars work just great. I’ve looked into buying new ones on the internet, but they are colossally expensive if you want less than 30,000, and I can’t find the all-important tops with the safety buttons. I did experiment with some VERY cheap jars last year, when our Sainsbury’s was offering it’s ‘Basic’ curry sauce for a staggering 4p a jar. (We actually ate the sauces, though my original thought was to throw them away and just use the jars. Not bad….) It didn’t work too well because the jars and lids were flimsy, and I didn’t have a great rate of lids sealing properly.

Slightly acidic sauces work best, hence the tomato in the beans. The curry sauces are good with the addition of lime or lemon juices, and tamarind seems to have enough natural acidity to help out.

Potential disasters

I was experimental last year, and had a couple of disasters. I made a curry sauce with a cashew nut paste in the sauce. Delicious when made fresh, but cashew nuts really don’t like being tortured in a pressure cooker for 40 minutes. The result was a bitter mess. The aubergines stuffed with coconut, peanuts and spices and cooked in a tamarind sauce taste good, but look like bottled poo, so I won’t be doing them again.

Bottled, stuffed aubergine

Bottled, stuffed aubergine - tastes great, looks like sewage.

Please excuse the haphazard nature of quantities in these recipes. It’s a question of eyeing up how many veg you have available and how many bottles you think they’ll go into!

Greek Beans – so called because they are based on beans I remember eating in Corfu on one of my first holidays abroad. They were meltingly tender, heavy with garlic and oil, and some tomato. This is one of those recipes that probably tastes nothing like the original, but has been filtered through my memory banks and has popped out like this.

Vegetable dhansak. When you want a curry in a hurry, fry some meat in spices, cook until tender and then add this sauce for the last ten minutes. You’ll notice there’s a lot of spices in the sauce itself. It needs to be tasty and pungent to because all the vegetables will absorb the flavour. Also, the preserving process itself seems to quieten down the flavour, so you need to make it really zing.


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