I love to live my life with an approach that no matter how qualified I am, I'll never stop learning. After three years of teaching others to cook in my cooking school, as well as collating my know how into my first cookbook, I have begun this year with a fresh inclination for me to keep on learning.
A lack of time and a shortage of available funds, have often detered me from pursuing further learning in years gone by. However, I have determined that this year, I am going to make the time and if necessary earn the funds, to enable me to keep learning, either new skills or expanding on skills I have already.
It is hands on learning that really excites me the most and it must also involve interaction with people, preferably people who are madly passionate about what they are doing and teaching.
A couple of weekends ago I did just that, I enrolled in a course I had been wanting to do for a few years, it was a preserving course, located in Bowral in the Southern Highlands of NSW.
I booked into the course through Jill Dyson of Food Path they provide a selection of culinary tours and foodie experiences. It was my turn to learn from a master in preserving, a friend of mine Steve Hogwood. You can read more about Steve and his 1910 Bottling Co in my book Naked Food.
I wanted to learn the how and why of preserving and bottling sauces, fruit and vegetables. Preserving was originally done by our grandmothers, to make the most of the seasonal harvest of excess fruit and vegetables. In those days people lived according to the seasons and when they had an abundance of tomatoes, they made sauce, strawberries or apricots, they made jam, pears and peaches they bottled and preserved them, then stored them in the pantry for a later time. It was done to save wastage and allow you to enjoy such fruits and vegetables out of season in their preserved state. My mum recently told me that her mother, my grandmother, who lived on a property in Griffith NSW, used to preserve peaches and many other fruit and vege from the abundance of the harvest. To think she could have showed me how herself, had she lived long enough for me to be interested in learning!
I have been making my own jam and chutneys for many years, but had never really delved into the preserving of fruits or pickling of vegetables, properly stored in preserving jars. What with our new market stall on a Friday, creating an opportunity to display and sell our wares to the public, I decided it was time to learn from an expert on how to do it all both properly and safely.
Steve related so much helpful information about the necessity to be aware of health regulations, the need for safety when bottling, the different types of food storage and preserving jars available, the importance of quality produce and an understanding of how to tell if a jar has sealed properly for storage.
He was willing and able to answer our many questions and repeat information a second time if we hadn't quite understood. Our class had 8 eager learners, and was hands on, where we were all able to bottle a jar of preserved pears ourselves to take home.
In the pot to boil and seal the jars
Included in this 3 hour session was also a CD of information on preserving jars and of course your jar of pears to take home and enjoy. We also enjoyed a lovely lunch of local Highland Organic cheeses, served with local sour dough breads and a selection of 1910 Bottling Co pickles and preserves to taste.
It was such an enjoyable day and provided much inspiration and information for me to absorb, to help to do further preserving in my home kitchen soon!
Oh and if you have any tips on preserving....feel free to leave me a comment and share...I am still learning!