Sweet or savoury, here are some tips from local chefs on how to get started preserving at home.

With fall comes harvest time, which means canning and preserving the last of summer’s bounty to store for those cold winter months. Sweet or savoury, here are some tips from local chefs on how to get started preserving at home.

photos by Ingrid Kuenzel

Chef Matthew Batey – The Nash

Nothing is more classic in the world of canning and preserving than a homemade jar of pickles. At The Nash, Chef Matt Batey serves their bread and butter pickles as a garnish for many dishes, but they can also stand alone. “My favourite way to eat them is on their own or with our house made charcuteries, such as paté,” he says.

When making pickles, there are a few things to keep in mind in addition to properly sanitizing the jars. Be sure to wipe down the jar rims with a clean, damp cloth after you have filled them but before putting on the lids.

Another big no-no is over-tightening the jar lids. “Over-tightening can result in a failed seal,” Chef Batey says. “If jars are failing to seal, the two most common causes are over-tightened lids or dirty jar rims,” he explains. Unsealed jars don’t mean your pickles are ruined though. You can either reprocess them or simply store them in the fridge until they’re ready to eat. Now who said canning and preserving had to be difficult?

Check out the recipe for The Nash Bread and Butter Pickles here.

Chef Eric Larcom – One 18 Empire

Canning and preserving isn’t just about how you treat the jars themselves, it’s also about what goes in them. “Canning is not a way to improve food quality; it is a way to preserve what you have,” says Chef Larcom. If you start with low quality ingredients, they will only get worse after you age them in a jar or can.

It’s also important to monitor the acidity level of whatever you are preserving. Ingredients that are low in acidity may result in an unsafe final product, whereas high acidity helps to preserve food and ensure that it is fit to eat.

As for the type of acid to use, Chef Larcom notes that, “lemon juice will add a sharper note while vinegar will soften it out a bit.” If you’re worried about it being too sour, sugar helps to balance out the tartness, and also does double duty as a preservative.

Check out Eric Larcom’s recipe for Bourbon Mustard Seeds here.

Chef Michel Nop – Kensington Riverside Inn

Canada’s short growing seasons help to foster a hyper-seasonal attitude; taking advantage of what is currently available, and using it in as many applications as possible. During the fall months, this means tree fruits like apples and pears, as well as plenty of root vegetables, all of which are ideal for preserving because of their heartiness. But before you get started with Chef Nop’s Vanilla Pear Ginger Jam, he has some pointers to safely guide you through the canning process.

“The major thing is the jar,” he says, “you have to sanitize it.” This means boiling them, along with their lids and seals, for at least 5 minutes. You also want to ensure that whatever liquid you are putting inside the jar itself is piping hot, whether that is a sweet jam, or a savoury pickle brine. Last but not least, don’t forget to label those jars before you store them away for the winter. “If you do 10 different jams now, a few months down the road you are going to forget what’s inside,” Chef Nop says. Sometimes surprises are nice but it’s also good to know what you’re eating!

Here is the recipe for Chef Nop’s Vanilla Pear Ginger Jam.

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