Down here in Oz, we’ve historically put up preserves for about 150 years, but only using the hot water bath method.
The main contender in the preserving field has been Fowlers Vacola, who have been in business for a very, very long time, and still produce water bath kits, jars, lids, seals and clips. But we haven’t done much pressure canning, or as we call it here, bottling. So when I started looking around for one here, I drew a blank. I ended up buying one through Amazon.com, a Presto, and very good it is too. Today was its inaugural outing in the kitchen, and I now have 10 pints of bottled mangoey, orangey loveliness.
I bought a tray of 15 Bowen mangoes earlier this week. They were perfectly ripe, big, heavy and very juicy. They were being sold at a stall at the side of the road by a farmer who couldn’t sell them to a supermarket because the skins were slightly imperfect. I got them for $11 for the tray of 15, which is an extraordinary price – less than a dollar each! Anyway, today was the day. Out came 10 of my 1pt preserving jars, lids, seals and clips. I stood for an hour preparing the fruit and then put it with about a litre and a half (3pints or so) of orange juice into my big stockpot on the stove, to come briefly to the boil so I could hot pack it. Then into the warmed jars using my flexible wide mouth funnel – it’s a good thing I have that, or it would be hot splashes everywhere. Fill up to the bottom of the neck, then put on the lid, which sits down snugly on the rubber seal you’ve already put around the groove in the neck, and then the clip on top.
Into the pressure canner, to be processed for 10 minutes at 6psi. Let it cool down, lift the still boiling hot jars out of the water using another brilliant gadget, the jar lifter, and let everything calm down and stop bubbling. As the jars cool, the lids suck down and form a vacuum, and you can then take off the clips to use another day. You can reuse the lids too, but the rubber seals have to be replaced each time.
The canner’s dead easy to use, comes with very clear instructions, and you can use any jar designed for preserving – not commercial jam or pasta sauce jars, the glass is too thin and wouldn’t stand up to the processing. Mason jars, Kilner jars, or Fowlers Vacola jars are all very solid, thick glass and have proper closures and work just fine. You can now buy Ball brand Mason Jars in Big W in Australia, sold with the Ball water bath preserving kit but also suitable for pressuring canning. They come in a couple of sizes, which is handy if you don’t want big jars of preserves.
So now we have 10 lovely jars of mangoes bottled in orange juice to put on our breakfast cereal in the winter, when mangoes are no longer available. No Queenslander in his right mind would buy mangoes imported from overseas – we know what a mango should taste like, and something that’s travelled thousands of kilometres in cold storage just doesn’t cut the mustard. So when we have a hankering for mangoes in winter, we can now eat local! I’m pleased to find how easy it is, and I’ll be spending some happy and messy hours dealing with a tray of tomatoes fairly soon…
Off to read some more preserving recipe books!