This week I spent a lovely evening with some new friends bottling pears. It was a lovely night and a great time to get to know them better, enjoying a lovely wholesome dinner with some wine with the sound of bottles clinking in the background. Looking out through the north facing passive solar windows at the darkening bush enjoying the small things.
For those who are interested I use a fowlers vacola system which is an Australian system of bottling fruits and vegetables. It uses a glass bottle designed to fit a rubber ring and corresponding lid on top of the rim. A clip holds the lid and ring in place during the cooking process, and as the bottle cools down a vacuum seal is produced that will keep fruits for about 12 months.
I grew up eating fruits preserved in this way for sweets my entire childhood when we went to my grandparents (my parents didn't give us sweets very often so this was very special) but I never saw my grandmother making them. Last year some friends asked me to came around for a night of bottling and in much the same way they showed me practically how it is done. Shall we say I was hooked.
I bought some bottles at op shops and garage sales and then had the idea of speaking to my grandparents, who had a spare bottling unit and gave it to me complete with thermometer, more jars and stainless steel lids (very exciting as these can be reused, whereas cheaper-tin lids can only be used once or twice.
So when I was catching up for coffee with some new friends and they mentioned they had gotten a unit second hand but were too afraid to use it because they didn't know how, I suggested we get together and have a bottling night. I went to the local wholesale fruit market and asked how much a box would be. one box was 18 kilos which was a bit much for us to do in one night, but they were happy to sell me a half box for the same amount per kilo (about half the advertised price.) It pays to ask and to get to know your shopkeepers. Hopefully once I buy a property I won't need to but fruit to bottle, but until then I still buy fruit, making sure it is on special and in season so that I get the best price for the best quality. Things like pears and quinces and stone fruit are very seasonal and ideal for bottling because you can't buy local all year round.
We spent an hour or so peeling and slicing and packing the fruit into the bottles and then filled them with water, placed the rings and lids and clamps on and stick them in the stovetop unit and left them to simmer away while we cleaned up and then enjoyed our dinner. We had energetically peeled more pears than fit into bottles so we stewed some up in red wine, raw sugar and cinnamon served with double cream for one of the most delicious desserts out.
My bottles don't look quite this good ( and I don't have enough people to eat this many yet) but I'm working on it. And I have some more bottles of pears to open - just whenever I feel like. I have new friends who I'm a lot more friendly with, and that was a blessing.
Love to you all til next time. Hannah
PS, my mother has just had surgery for a mastectomy, hoping this is all that's needed apart from the dreaded chemo and radiotherapy. If you have a faith please hold her up in your prayers.