Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Variety of Preserved Fruits and Vegetables

A well stocked pantry should include some of our own preserves!


My sister Katie sent me a book on preserving for Christmas.  It is a great book, and I will review it soon.  I have dabbled a bit with preserving in the past.  When I lived in Kentucky, I made some Black Cherry Jelly, Crabapple Jelly, and Blackberry Jam.  They were all great.  However, it has been some time since I made any preserves to, well, preserve.

In the last few years, I have often made a quick jam or jelly when I have just a few pieces of fruit from the market.  I'll make a tiny batch, maybe just enough for one sitting, on my stove and store it in a small glass cup covered in plastic wrap in the refrigerator.  Now after reading this book on preserving, I am excited about doing some more larger scale production again soon.

As I read, I noticed that there are a lot of terms used in preserving fruits.  Vegetables are often preserved in similar ways or even mixed with the fruits as well depending on the preparation.  Whatever the ingredient, there are specific terms and definitions for what is made.  I thought it would be interesting to actually figure out what they all were.

Following is a list of the most common types of preserves along with a quick definition of each.

Jam
Made with whole fruit (or vegetables), crushed or chopped, and sugar.  Typically made with just one fruit, but some say it may be made with two fruits, and any more would be called a Conserve.  Consistency should be thick but spreadable and do not hold the shape of the jar (contrast to jelly).

Conserve
There are two definitions:
First - Made like jams, but are mixed with two or more fruits (or vegetables).  Often dried fruits (often raisins) and nuts are added.  Nuts are typically added at the last five minutes of cooking.  Consistency should be as Jam.

Second -  A fruit jam made of fruit stewed in sugar.  Often the whole or roughly chopped fruit is layered with sugar and left for a day before cooking.  Usually the fruit(s) are processed with as little water as possible to set.

Jelly
Made by cooking fruit (or vegetable) juice with jelly and sugar.  Ideally, the juice should be processed in a way to maintain clarity (clear or translucent) in the final jelly.  Consistency should be thick enough to hold its shape on a spoon, but be soft enough to be spreadable.

Marmalade
Made similar to jelly, but with the addition of small fruit pieces and/or peel evenly suspended throughout the jelly.  Consistency should be as Jam.

Preserve
While all of these items listed on this page are "Preserves", some separately define a "Preserve".
Made similar to jam, but with whole fruit (or vegetables), that are not crushed or chopped, and sugar.  Consistency should be as Jam.

Fruit Spread
A jam or preserve with no added sugar.

Fruit Butter
Made by cooking fruit or fruit pulp with sugar.  Often spices are added.  The fruit butter is cooked low and slow until the butter is thick and spreadable.  Consistency should be thick enough to round up on a spoon.
Examples: Apple Butter

Relish
Made by cooking chopped fruits and/or vegetables in a sauce that often contains vinegar, sometimes with sugar as well.  The goal is a condiment that has discernible pieces of fruit and/or vegetable (i.e. not smooth like a sauce) with a strong flavor that will compliment or contrast the food with which it is being served.

Chutney
An Indian relish combining vegetables and/or fruit and herbs, with classic "Indian" spices.  Often cooked for long periods of time.  Sometimes with a smoother consistency.
Examples: Mango Chutney, Mint Chutney, Coriander Chutney, Tamarind Chutney, Red Chili Chutney

Chow-Chow
A Southern American pickled relish made from a variety of vegetables.  Cabbage is often an ingredient and may be the origin of the name (chou is French for cabbage), although green tomatoes are also very common.  A very similar product made with more spices is the British piccalilli.

Confit
Pronounced "con-FEE", comes from the French confire, to preserve.  Typically made from meats, often poultry (Duck Confit is world famous) and pork, cooked and left in their own fat until the fat sets.  This old world style of preserving allows meats to be stored in a cool place for months with no refrigeration.  A less common variation is to make sweet confit with a fruit base and honey or sugar syrup preserving agent.  A savory confit calls for vegetables, like tomatoes and/or garlic with an oil, often olive oil, preserving agent.

1 comment:

  1. I wish I had known you were into preserving - I would have had you come help can peaches and make peach jam this fall. Ah well. I'm interested in how your cauliflower is doing.

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