23 January 2011

What to do with lots of apricots and strawberries

I took a quick trip to Dandenong market on Friday to buy potatoes and onions. These are the two things I know I won't be able to grow enough of in our veggie garden and they are the two vegetable staples for my family.  Take away their spuds and onions and they feel really deprived.

I picked up a 10kg bag of potatoes for $8, 80c/kg is a fair price to pay for potatoes. The onions were a little more expensive, $10 for a 10kg bag, but still cheaper than in the supermarkets or my local greengrocer so I was happy to pay those prices.

It won't take us long to go through the potatoes, so they are just stored in the box in the bottom of the pantry. The box is lined with newspaper and the potatoes are spread in layers, with newspaper between each layer so they stay cool and dark. There is an old hessian bag over the top layer to keep the light out and let them breathe. They should be good for at least a month stored like this.

The onions though are another matter. Ten kilos of onions is a lot of onions. Some of them are in the pantry to use whole for baking. The rest of them I peeled and soaked in cool water. Half of them I sliced into rings, for salads, barbecues, burgers, casseroles etc. The other half I chopped, in the food processor, to use when I need a grated onion.  All the onions are now bagged in half cup lots and safely in the freezer.

I'm so glad I kept the ziplock bags from the last bulk lot of onions. They still had that distinctive onion odour so I didn't want to use them for anything else, but for more onions they are just perfect.  It might seem odd and penny-pinching to save ziplock bags and other plastic bags, but as long as they haven't had raw meat or poultry in them, they can be washed, dried and re-used over and over again. Just be sure to wash, rinse and dry thoroughly.

I calculated the savings on re-using sandwich bags a few years ago. By re-using (or better still, not using them at all) sandwich bags you save around $24 a year per person - not a lot, but think of  it as one hour you don't need to work. And what about all the bags that aren't going to landfill!

While I was at the market I had a quick look at what other fruit and veg were on offer. Prices have already started to creep up, much as has been forecast. I found a tray of strawberries (15 punnets) for $10 and a 5kg box of lovely apricots for $7 so I snapped them up too.

With so much fresh produce in the house it has to be preserved before it goes to waste.

I was up early this morning, around 6am, to get the work done before the house heated up. The strawberries were easy. Some I sliced into  a bowl for nibbling on. The rest I've made into strawberry jam. There are eight 500g jars of the most delicious strawberry jam cooling on the kitchen bench right now.

With the apricots I made half into jam and the other half I packed into bottles, covered in water and used the microwave method to seal the jars. I am a fan of microwave bottling. It makes preserving even small quantities of fruit so easy, anyone can do it.

The strawberry jam is just delicious.  We tried it this afternoon on fresh scones and it was hard to stop at just one.  Luckily I made a double batch with thoughts of putting some in the freezer. The boys made short work of them, so only a half-dozen actually made it that far. 

And I don't know why I am surprised!


  1. Where is a good place to find the best info on microwave bottling?

  2. Mel I swear by Isabel Webb's book, 5 Minute Microwave Bottling. It's not a very big book, and not expensive if you buy it, around $15,but well worth the money. See if your library has it, if they don't request they get it in for you.

    There is also plenty of information online, just search on "microwave bottling" or "microwave canning".


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