Green Goddess: Tips for preserving

Long Lunch 23/01/2018

Green Goddess Preserving Tips
By Wendyl Nissen

Preserving food is such a lovely old-fashioned way to make sure we get the best out of produce while it is in season.

Before the days of freezers, our nanas would bottle and preserve all their garden produce while it was in season and bursting with goodness.

Then for months on end their families would be nourished and nurtured by it.

These days it’s a wonderful alternative to freezing fruit and vegetables because I think the flavours are nicer.

If you don’t have a garden you can buy produce at good prices in season and save a lot of money for just a little input of time.

Here are some hints and tips for getting the best out of preserving.

  • The principle of preserving is to heat the food up to a high heat which then destroys any bacteria which might be present. You then need to get it into a sterilised jar which then seals in a vacuum, meaning no bacteria can grow.
  • This means everything has to be clean, clean, clean so wash your hands often, make sure your boards and utensils are washed and ready.
  • Don’t include any rotten parts of the fruit or vegetable – cut them out to avoid the bacteria getting in the mix.
  • Adding lemon is a great idea as it makes the mix slightly acidic and therefore less likely to harbour germs.
  • It is best to sterilise your jars at the same time as you are cooking up your recipe so that they are both hot at the same time.
  • To sterilise your jars, wash in hot soapy water and rinse clean with hot water. Place the jars in an oven heated to 110°C and leave for five minutes. You can also place the metal rings but leave the seals out as the plastic will melt. Wash them thoroughly and pop them in some boiling water for a few minutes.
  • For sauces and jams the easiest method to use is the hot method where you cook the food, pour it into hot sterilised jars, place the lids on and seal. As the food cools a vacuum will be created causing the metal seal to pull inwards to form a concave shape. This is how you know your preserving has been successful.
  • Another more old-fashioned method is called the overflow method. You place the food in sterilised jars and fill to the top so that it slightly overflows the jar. You then wipe the rim clean and seal the jar.
  • If you are just wanting to pack fruit into a jar without cooking first then you can do this using the water bath method. Simply pack the sterilised jars with the raw fruit such as tomatoes or plums and cover each layer with a sugar-syrup solution, wine or juice. Seal the jar with vacuum seals, loosely screw on the metal bands and then place in a large saucepan or roasting dish filled with water so that it comes three-quarters of the way up the jars. Bring the water to the boil and cook for about 30 minutes. Once the syrup is bubbling and the fruit looks cooked remove from the bath and screw the lids on as tightly as you can. When they cool a vacuum should form.
  • You can also seal with paraffin wax but you have to make extra sure there are no gaps left for air to enter and that the wax comes right to the top of the jar so that it is easy to get the wax off when you need to.
  • When you have poured your food into the jars get a skewer and run it down inside the jars to release any air bubbles which might be in the jars, or alternatively thump the jar on the bench a few times.
  • You can find second-hand jars and preserving equipment like pans in second-hand stores and op shops, but do buy the rings and lids new as they are most likely a bit rusty and could contaminate the food.
  • If you are making a pickle or chutney, some people like to pour vinegar over the jars before filling to prevent fermentation.
  • Be aware that you are preserving, not mummifying! Your jars will have a shelf life. Most jams and pickles will last for a year, chutneys and relishes for about 18 months. So make sure you date all your preserves and if you are at all unsure about a jar discard the contents rather than take the risk.
  • Try to use stainless steel cookware as other metals can affect the flavour
  • Most recipes call for sugar in vast amounts and there’s a reason for this – it is a preservative. Don’t be tempted to replace it with another substance to save on calories.
  • Keep all preserves in a cool, dark place. It’s tempting to have them all on display but you will only shorten their shelf life if you do.

Make sure you are in a good mood. If you are rushing or don’t really feel like cooking your preserves you will miss out on the joy of a few hours spent in the kitchen just like Nana did.

Here's my Arrabiata recipe - the first thing I ever preserved!


  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 5 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp lemon, zest only
  • 1/2 tsp crushed dried chilli flakes, or we use two fresh chillies from the garden
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon caster sugar


  1. To make the sauce, heat oil in a medium saucepan.
  2. Stir in garlic and chopped tomatoes until warmed through.
  3. Add lemon zest, chilli, vinegar and sugar. Simmer for 10 minutes and pour into the sterilised jars right to the top while hot. Shake them slightly and push a skewer down to release any air bubbles that have formed.
  4. When you have sealed the jars with preserving rings and lids and the sauce has cooled the lids should be concave, proving that they have been well sealed. If not, you’ll need to try again.
  5. And finally, AWW or Family Circle preserving guides are great look on trade me, you can often find them there.

Afternoon Talk with Wendyl Nissen, 12pm - 3pm on RadioLIVE and streaming live to the rova app on Android and iPhone.