Preserves

Preserves

By
Stefano de Pieri
Contains
12 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781740661713
Photographer
Earl Carter

Preserves in all their expressions – jams, marmalades, pickles, chutneys, jardiniere, pastes, jellies – lined up in the pantry are a most enjoyable sight. They represent the bounty of the warmer months and the skilful greed of the provident cook who knows how to store many goodies for the long winter months ahead. Alas, while a few true believers continue the tradition, most people who live in cities and lead a fast life aren’t into the art of preserving.

Instead, these days, preserves are sold as commercial products. People like to indulge in the harmless fantasy that some ‘mama’, or, better still, ‘grandma’ out there has lovingly created a jar of jam and decorated it with a piece of recycled gingham, but unfortunately in reality that fantasy is the result of a skilled promotion campaign.

I am proud to say that, however, a few of us have stuck to our guns, and keep on producing preserves of great integrity and culinary interest with a strong seasonal quality. My friend Maggie Beer does not hesitate to discard a batch of jam she does not like or somehow does not represent the quality she aspires to. In my kitchen, Lyndall Vandenberg still cuts every orange or nectarine by hand and refuses to cook in pots larger than five litres.

Preserves take a fresh product and change it into something else. In effect, there is very little ‘preservation’ going on. When an orange turns into marmalade, it appears to me that that is a major transformation, rather than an act of preservation. That action is both cultural and gastronomic, and it lifts a vegetable or a fruit to another plane. A pickled mushroom, for instance, has little mushroom flavour left, but the strong flavours of vinegar and spice make it a perfect complement to a pork sausage with a piece of crusty bread. If the product is changed into something else, that ‘something else’ must stand up on its own in terms of flavour and texture. And this is when you can see the difference between products – the balance of acid to sugar, the colour, the clarity, the consistency and the texture should add to a desirable experience.

I got into preserves because Lyndall joined my kitchen and brought enormous integrity, skill and passion to the job. She had been involved in small catering jobs and felt drawn by the possibilities of preserves when she moved from Western Australia to Mildura for family reasons. This person, unknown to me, walked into my shop and began talking about preserves. I had been working on olive oil and was already leaning towards the idea that Mildura’s fruit and vegetable bounty grown in sunshine should end up in a jar. The rest, as they say, was history.

Our logo is a mythical creature, part fish, and part bird, reflecting the nature of the Murray River. Our motto is ‘Esse Quam Videri’, which roughly translates to ‘to be rather than to seem’. There is a lot of emphasis on presentation and design when it comes to food in the contemporary, commercial world. A lot of products are stronger in presentation than taste. We wanted to affirm that, for us, content is more important than appearance.

Featured Recipes in this Chapter

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