Annabel Langbein makes the most of a home-grown harvest by bottling fruit for use in less fruitful seasons while Yvonne Lorkin suggests drink matches
There's something so satisfying about home preserving — seeing all those pretty jars lined up on the bench, filled with the season's harvests, ready to squirrel away and bring out in winter or spring when the pickings are lean.
I hate the thought of wasting any of the gorgeous fruits from my garden — apricots, cherries, gooseberries and currants are all so fleeting and glorious — but then I get slightly obsessed and overdo things, bottling everything that I can lay my hands on right up to the end of autumn. Each year I end up with a kerzillion jars of jams and chutneys, pickles and preserved fruits and nowhere to put them (and often no one to eat them all).
A few weeks back, in order to fit this year's stash into the pantry, I did a big sort-out. Oh, some ancient finds! The 2015 currants in vodka are still looking good. I have written down what needs to happen to them next to turn them into cassis: add sugar. Alcohol is such a good preservative — I remember my mother finding a 15-year-old bottle of blackberry brandy and it was damn fine.
But the bottled apricots of that vintage that had been pushed into some corner had turned a rusty, faded terracotta and sort of collapsed. While they wouldn't kill you, there was no way they were going to taste any good.
I came across about a dozen jars of bottled wild cherries, about the size of peas, in a washed-out hue of greyish purple with no date and wondered what had possessed me to bottle them in the first place — each mouthful is mostly pits.
The worst is when I forget to label the jars. Is that black peach chutney, plum sauce or some kind of berry jam? It's hard to give away as a nice little gift if I don't know what it is.
Often, I will experiment with cherries in pinot noir syrup with star anise, pears with cardamom and ginger and suchlike. Sometimes it's great but other times I wish I had just kept things simple so I could taste the actual fruit. My advice is, once you have found a favourite preserve recipe, stick with it.
There are lots of great books on preserves out there, from Diana Henry's Salt Sugar Smoke: How to Preserve Fruit, Vegetables, Meat and Fish to Alexa Johnston's Ladies, a Plate: Jams and Preserves or Sally Wise's Out of the Bottle: Easy and Delicious Recipes for Making and Using Your Own Preserves, the Australian Women's Weekly's Classic Preserves: Jams, Chutneys, Relishes, The River Cottage Preserves Handbook and, of course, my own books and website.
Making a few special things that you can't buy in the shops (or that are expensive) is a great way to give food your own individual stamp. Open a jar of your favourite homemade chutney or pickles to amp up a ploughman's-style lunch platter with cold cuts, salad vegetables, bread and cheese, serve homemade bottled figs or peaches with cream fraiche or mascarpone for a simple-but-stunning dessert, or use your preserves to fast-track main course oven bakes, glazes and marinades.
The very best preserves multi-task across many uses. The following ever-so-useful recipe for a tangy apricot chilli glaze is not one of those "now I've made it, what the hell do I do with it?" preserves. It's super-delicious and can be used as a glaze, dip or marinade.
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Apricot Chilli Glaze
Ready in 20 mins
Makes 3½ cups
I call this savoury apricot jam a glaze as it gives a wonderful tangy golden gloss to baked chicken, spare ribs and ham. It also makes a terrific dipping sauce for fresh vegetables, spring rolls or fritters. You can double or treble the recipe if desired.
2 Tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1-2 long red chillies, or more to taste, finely chopped
1 tsp five-spice powder
2 tsp soy sauce
Zest of 1 lime or lemon, finely grated
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
¼ cup white vinegar, or more to taste
½ tsp salt
Ground black pepper
De-stone apricots and place in a large, heavy-based pot with all other ingredients. Bring to a simmer, stirring now and then, cover and cook over medium heat until fruit is very soft and pulpy (about 10 minutes). Transfer to a food processor and whizz until smooth. Adjust seasonings to taste.
Stored in a jar in the fridge, it will last for up to 2 weeks. Or preserve hot into sterilised jars with sterilised screw seal lids and store in the pantry, it will keep for months as long as it is sealed, refrigerate once opened.
Yvonne's pick: A normal person wouldn't even think of pairing a drink with just a glaze. However, one may very well need liquid sustenance while preparing said glaze, right? I happily recommend a long, tall, cool glass of the Somerton's Sparkling Mead ($96 x 24 330ml cans). Crafted by winemaker Kate Acland and naturally fermented with native bush honey from Mt Somers Station in the Southern Alps, it's a crisp, clean, beeswaxy drink that pairs perfectly with standing over a simmering pot of sticky stuff for 20 minutes.
Pork and coriander spring rolls
Ready in 30 mins
Makes 12-14 rolls
Keeping a store of spring roll wrappers in the freezer means you can whip up a tasty snack or first course at the drop of a hat. I've used pork mince here but chicken mince also works well – just don't use mince that has been frozen as it will be too watery.
600g pork mince
2 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
¼ cup chopped coriander leaves
2 spring onions, finely chopped
¼ cup chopped water chestnuts
Zest of 1 lime or lemon, finely grated
12-14 spring roll wrappers
About ¼ cup neutral oil, for frying
1 cup apricot chilli glaze, to serve
Place pork mince, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, coriander, spring onions, water chestnuts and lime or lemon zest in a bowl and mix well.
Place about 2 Tbsp pork mixture in a short sausage shape near the bottom of a spring roll wrapper. Fold in sides and roll up tightly like a fat cigar. Place on a plate, join-side down.
Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling. The spring rolls can be prepared ahead to this stage and chilled for up to 24 hours before cooking.
When ready to cook, preheat oven to 200C fanbake. Heat about 2 Tbsp neutral oil in a frying pan and brown spring rolls in batches over medium heat for about 2 minutes each side, starting with the join-side down to seal. Add more oil to pan between batches.
Transfer browned spring rolls to the oven and bake until crispy and fully cooked through (about 10 minutes). Cut in half on the diagonal with a serrated knife. Serve with apricot chilli glaze as a dipping sauce.
Yvonne's pick: Arneis (ah-nay-iz) is just the knees of the bees with anything featuring coriander, ginger and dipped in chilli glaze. This smorgasbord of spice is complemented by the delicately citrussy Coopers Creek "The Little Rascal" Gisborne Arneis 2015 ($20.90). Indigenous to Piedmont in north-west Italy and now grown by Doug and Delwyn Bell, its name literally translates to "Little Rascal" in Piemontese and describes how difficult this grape is to grow. White peach, lemon zest, soft apple and almond notes make it the perfect chum for crunchy spring rolls.
Ready in 45 mins
I'm always adding to my repertoire of fridge fixings — make-ahead recipes you can use to transform a simple dinner into something special without having to start from scratch. The sweet tartness of my apricot chilli glaze partners with chicken thighs and red peppers in this oh-so-easy oven bake.
6-8 chicken thighs, bone-in, skin-on
Salt and pepper, to taste
¾ cup apricot chilli glaze
1 red pepper, pith and seeds removed, thinly sliced
Preheat oven to 180C fanbake. Place chicken thighs in an ovenproof dish and season with salt and pepper. Add apricot chilli glaze and red pepper and stir to coat chicken. Spread in a single layer in the dish and bake until golden and cooked through (about 40 minutes).
Serve hot, accompanied by rice and lightly cooked greens or a fresh slaw.
Yvonne's pick: Simon McGeorge's name is synonymous with Waipara and all North Canterbury has to offer. He's a bit of a rockstar in those parts because he's absolutely obsessed with the grapes that grow there. Every vintage has his brain working overtime to see what he can fashion with the fruit to create excellence in a bottle and his McGeorge Waipara Chardonnay 2018 ($29) is one of his stars. White nectarine, a pinch of pineapple, toasty tweaks and lovely length of flavour are all unveiled in the glass, especially if apricot glazed chicken is on the menu.
Annabel's duo of Essential savoury and sweet books (Annabel Langbein Media, $65 each) create a beautiful compendium of her best-ever recipes and cooking tips. Alone or together, they make a wonderful gift or treat for yourself, and are on sale now at all good bookstores or online at annabel-langbein.com. Follow Annabel Langbein on Facebook or Instagram to find out more.
PHOTOS: Annabel Langbein Media