I started building a garden of raised vegetable beds at the beginning of 2020 when few of us had even heard of COVID-19. Since then the world has changed in ways that we could never have imagined and so too has the scrappy piece of land behind my house. No longer able to travel, I’ve found myself with the time to scrape grass, dig soil, mix cement, plant seeds and vegetables and tend to their needs over the summer months. My vegetable garden has very much been a ‘lockdown project’ but one which will give me pleasure – and food – long after the pandemic (hopefully) passes. Now, as summer turns to autumn in Italy, I’m starting to harvest the fruits of my labours and have an abundance of tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers so I’ve started exploring a range of preserving techniques including pickling and chutneying. This page contains links to some of the recipes I’m trying including using both ingredients from my garden as well as those foraged on walks in the Italian countryside. People have preserved food for centuries, long before fridges and freezers were invented, it’s not difficult or complicated. But you do need to take good care not to give yourself food poisoning by properly sterlising the jars in which you store your preserves. I used the oven method to sterilise my jars and I’ve included the key points in my recipes but is plenty more information online if you are worried.
Foraged fig jam – It’s been a wonderful season for fruit and I’ve been lucky enough to be able to pick wild figs from a tree close to our house all summer long. Last year I tried my hand at foraged fig chutney which was delicious with cheese, but this year I decided to go down the sweet route, simmering my figs with a little sugar and some lemon juice to make a thick fig jam
Plum and apricot jams – One of the worst things about having COVID was that I completely lost my sense of smell and taste. Fortunately the return of my taste has coincided with the summer fruit season here in Italy and I’ve found great pleasure picking the fruit from the trees in my garden and making jam. This recipe has reduced sugar and lemon juice which lowers the PH of the jam and helps it to set.
Pickled peppers – Whilst the alliterative tongue twister ‘Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers’ was a childhood favourite, I’ve never actually eaten a pickled pepper let alone a peck. But my vegetable garden currently has an abundance of beautiful cherry peppers so I thought I’d try making some of my own.
Pickled cucumbers – I have a glut of homegrown cucumbers which, unlike many vegetables, really can’t be frozen so I’ve gone down the pickling route to deal with the surplus. These should taste great with cheese or a veggie burger.
Foraged fig chutney – A delicious chutney made with foraged wild figs and apples, perfect with cheese