14 November 2011
Environmental Benefits of Food Preservation
By: Laura Trotta
There is no doubt that we're heading into the busiest period of the year. Christmas preparations aside, I'm referring to the drive of the home cook and gardener to preserve the delicious summer fruits and vegetables to enjoy year round.
Before the days of refrigeration, preserving food was a common occurrence throughout the world to ensure adequate food supplies year round. Preserving food is still a fantastic way to stretch your budget, help the environment and live a healthier life all at the same time. Some of the many benefits include:
- eating 'in season' all year round and enjoying summer produce in winter without resorting to buying fruit and vegetables that may have travelled half the globe.
- minimising waste from your homegrown harvest - even a large family would struggle to eat a tree full of fruit when it ripens at the same time!
- giving old jars and bottles a new lease of life rather than disposing or recycling them (reuse before recycle remember).
- dishing your family up quality food preserved the 'old fashioned' way, i.e. without the use of artificial preservatives.
- quality food at a bargain price! Even if you don't grow the fruit and veg yourself, bulk boxes of in-season fruit and vegetables from markets are very economical.
- homemade preserves make wonderful gifts for friends and relatives with next to no environmental impact. Christmas gift anyone?
So, despite me having a crazy to-do list when returning from Adelaide a couple of weeks ago, I couldn't resist buying a large box of ripe and juicy tomatoes to make my annual batch of tomato sauce. My total inability to eat commercial 'fake' tomato sauce, and desire for my family to follow suit, was enough motivation to peel tomato after tomato and after a few hours, pour sauce into bottle after bottle. Crazy, I know! But, I know I'm not alone since a friend popped over a few nights ago to raid my jar cupboard while she had a large pot of tomato relish simmering on the stove.
My efforts resulted in 16 bottles of delicious sauce. Definitely an end result worth the effort but I am glad it's over for this year....until apricots come in season of course! You may like to try the recipe below that yields a much smaller batch (I just had a huge box of tomatoes to work with so multiplied the quantities, and effort required).
Recipe: Homemade Tomato Sauce
- 2.5kg firm, ripe tomatoes
- 1 large onion
- 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
- 2 teaspoons whole cloves
- 2 teaspoons whole allspice (pimento)
- 1.5 tablespoons tomato paste or purée
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 0.25 teaspoons cayenne pepper
- 600ml (2.5 cups) white wine vinegar (or cider vinegar)
- 250g (1 cup) sugar
- Gently slice a cross into the base of each tomato and place in boiling water for a minute before peeling the skin. Discard the skin.
- Roughly chop the tomatoes and onion. Place the peppercorns, cloves and allspice on a square of muslin and tie securely with string.
- Place tomato and onion in large pan with the muslin bag, tomato paste, garlic, ginger, cayenne pepper, vinegar and 1 teaspoon of salt. Slowly bring to boil then reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes.
- Add sugar and stir over low heat for 5 minutes or until sugar has dissolved.
- Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour, or until sauce is thick and pulpy. Stir frequently during cooking and watch that the mixture does not burn. Discard muslin bag.
- Blend gently with stick blender and pour into clean, warm jars or bottles and seal. Turn bottles upside down for two minutes, then invert and leave to cool. Label and date.
- Leave sauce for one month before opening to allow flavours to develop. Store in a cool, dark place for up to 12 months. Refrigerate after opening for up to six weeks.
Note: You can get away without peeling the tomatoes but will need to sieve the sauce prior to bottling to remove the peel and pulp. I prefer a thicker sauce so omit this step and blend instead.
Recipe adapted from: Murdoch Books, 2006, Jams and Preserves: Best Ever Jams and Preserves Recipes.
About the author: Laura Trotta (BEng (Enviro), MSc (Enviro Chem)) is an eco mum, environmental engineer and founder of Sustainababy. She lives in regional South Australia with her husband Paul and son Matthew. She enjoys gardening and cooking and making preserves!