THE THOUGHT OF food preservation may seem ridiculous to anyone with a kitchen the size of a telephone booth. A bushel of tomatoes, a large water bath canner and a case of quart jars can overwhelm the tiny kitchen.
In the fall, when a small kitchen with the stove on no longer feels like a blast furnace, those without a lot of room, a lot of time, and a lot of spare produce can make out-of-the-ordinary pickles and preserves in small quantities.
It's worth the time and effort since homemade is better than anything you can buy (even when you start with store-bought produce). Using end-of-summer bounty, a green tomato chutney served with ham or a spicy poultry dish, not necessarily curry, adds an unusual touch to an informal dinner party. And your own fruit and nut conserve put up in attractively labeled half-pint jars is a unique and appreciated gift.
What's more, none of them takes anything very elaborate in the way of equipment. Because the preserves are processed in half pint jars, you can use any pot that's large enough to hold the jars with at least one inch of water to cover. And because the preserves are high in acid, they don't need steam pressure.
Except for the jars and lids, you probably already have in your kitchen all the equipment you'll need: a large, heavy pan for cooking down the ingredients; a candy thermometer for a couple of the recipes; a ladle with a lip (a metal 1-cup measure will do in a pinch); tongs to lift jars and lids out of hot water; a pot with a lid or several pots large enough to hold six to eight half-pint jars and a small saucepan to sterilize the lids. It would be convenient to own an inexpensive wide-mouth funnel, for neatness' sake, but it certainly isn't necessary.
What you won't need, except for preparing the pepper jelly, is a blender, food processor or electric knife for slicing. Especially in a recipe like the Love Apple Pickles, in which the vegetables pretty much keep their shape, you should take care to cut them carefully by hand in uniform chunks and slices. It goes without saying that any spices or herbs on your shelves older than six months shouldn't be used in preserving; if you can get fresh herbs, all the better.
The mixture you're preserving should be cooked uncovered, then poured boiling hot into clean jars that are closed with two piece metal lids. To process in a hot water bath, put the filled, closed jars on a rack in a kettle filled with rapidly boiling water, making sure the boiling water covers the tops of the cans by at least one inch.
The recipe for Miss Dora's chutney was closely guarded by the women in my family; in fact, my mother wouldn't give it to me until my wedding day. Miss Dora Colmore (she was always known as Miss Dora) was the genteel caterer in the small southern town my mother's family came from. No one else was supposed to have the recipe for her chutney; I have no idea how we came by it. Miss Dora is dead now, and I don't suppose anyone cares any longer if her recipe is secret or not. It makes a great chutney -- the kind that's better served as a relish for cold meats and pork, than with curry. MISS DORA'S CHUTNEY (Makes 7 or 8 half-pints) 2 pounds green tomatoes or green cherry tomatoes 1/2 pound green peppers 1/2 pound yellow onions 1 small hot pepper, seeds and membrane removed or 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper%T1/4 pound celery 1/2 pound crystallized (candied) ginger 1/2 1.25-ounce package mixed pickling spices 2 pounds dark brown sugar 4 ounces seedless raisins 2 cups cider vinegar 1/2 pound cooking apples
Cut the tomatoes, green peppers and onions into 1-inch chunks. If using green cherry tomatoes, cut in half. Thinly slice the hot pepper and cut the celery into thin crescents. Chop the ginger into small pieces. Tie the pickling spices in cheesecloth and mix all the ingredients except the apples in a large kettle.
Simmer for 2 hours, adding the apples, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks, after 1 hour. Pack into clean jars. Process 10 minutes in a hot water bath, making sure jars are covered by at least 1 inch of boiling water. LOVE APPLE PICKLES (Makes about 6 half pints) 12 medium-sized green tomatoes 3/4 cup kosher salt 2 small bermuda onions 1 small hot red pepper, seeds and membranes removed 2 cups white vinegar 1/4 teaspoon turmeric 1/8 teaspoon mace 1 cup sugar 3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped or 1 tablespoon dried
Remove the ends of the tomatoes and cut into 6 sections. Place in a large bowl, add 3/4 cup salt and water to cover. Cover with a plate and a weight to hold the vegetables in the water. Let stand 24 hours in a cool place. Drain well and rinse several times. Taste; if too salty, rinse again.
Cut the onions in thin slices and mince the red pepper. Boil the vinegar, spices, sugar and basil for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, onions and hot pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer 5 minutes -- no longer. Pack immediately in clean jars. Process 10 minutes in a hot water bath, making sure jars are covered by at least 1 inch of boiling water. WHITE GRAPE PRESERVES (Makes 2 half pints)
The price of seedless grapes in the supermarket is finally low enough to invest in some for preserving. Don't attempt the following recipe if you don't have a plant or two of fresh mint (unless you can buy it). These aren't the sort of preserves that go on toast; try them with cornish game hens or cold meat. 1 cup sugar 1/2 cup water 4 cups seedless grapes 1/4 cup dry white wine 1/8 teaspoon salt 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried 6 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
Boil the sugar and water together, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients except the mint; cook over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture reaches the soft jellying point (218 to 220 degrees on a candy thermometer). Pack into clean jars and process 10 minutes in a hot water bath, making sure the jars are covered by at least 1 inch of water. FALL FRUIT CONSERVE (Makes 6 half pints)
The following conserve is quite sweet, but it can be used in small amounts as a sauce for game or roast pork. It's also good heated as a sauce for vanilla ice cream with the addition of a little rum. 2 tart cooking apples 4 pounds firm bartlett pears Rind and juice of 2 lemons Rind and juice of 2 juice oranges 2 cups brown sugar 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg 2 teaspoons cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves 1/2 teaspoon allspice 1 pound golden raisins (15 ounce box will do) 1/2 cup pecans, broken
Peel and core the apples and pears and dice them. Grate the rind from the lemons and oranges and extract the juice. Mix all the ingredients together in a heavy kettle except the raisins and nuts. Simmer for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Add the raisins and cook 45 minutes more. Add the pecans and immediately pack into clean jars. Process for 15 minutes in a hot water bath, making sure that boiling water covers the jars by at least 1 inch. RED PEPPER JELLY (Makes 8 half pints)
Pepper jelly has enjoyed some vogue as cocktail-hour hors d'oeuvres with cream cheese and soda crackers. Try it instead as a condiment with pork, cold meats or fowl. This recipe is not, obviously, the fiery red pepper jelly made with hot peppers; the red sweet peppers are used mostly for color. About 1/2 pound red sweet peppers 5 1/2 cups sugar 1 cup white vinegar 1/3 cup lemon juice 6-ounce bottle liquid pectin)
Put the peppers through a meat grinder or grind in a food processor to make 2 cups. Mix with the sugar and vinegar; bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and let stand 15 minutes.
Reheat to boiling; add lemon juice. Boil 2 minutes. Add the pectin, boil 3 minutes. Skim.
When the mixture reaches the jelly stage, 220 degrees, pour immediately into clean jars and process 10 minutes in a hot water bath. Be certain that boiling water covers the jars by at least 1 inch. Let stand two weeks before using.