Cooks' Questions on Preserves

A picture of Delia's Cooks' Questions on Preserves  how to cook guide

Q: While in Andorra last week, we ate a meat fondue - cooking pieces of duck, lamb and beef in oil - and it was served with an 'onion marmalade'. Do you have a recipe?

Delia has a recipe for Pot-roasted Beef in Red Wine with Red Onion Marmalade, just click on the link below to view it. We hope you enjoy cooking it.

Q: Can you tell me why preserving sugar is different to normal sugar?

Preserving sugar has larger crystals than ordinary sugar, which apparently reduces caramelisation. It also often has extra pectin added. I don't find that special preserving sugar is essential, and, in fact, I never use it because it's so much more expensive.

Q: I really want to make some home-made pickles. What is the best way to store them?

You must bear in mind that the vinegar in pickles and chutneys can corrode metal. So, for these, plastic-coated lids are essential. Never use paper or Cellophane covers for pickles and chutneys. Vinegar will evaporate during long storage if the jars aren't completely airtight, which paper covers never are. This is why chutney shrinks and dries out when covered with paper.

Q: I've made some chutney, but how will I know when it's ready to eat?

A chutney is ready when the vinegar has reduced sufficiently. You can tell this by running the edge of a wooden spoon right across the surface of the chutney – if the spoon leaves a channel imprinted for a few seconds, without it filling with vinegar, then the chutney is ready.

Q: Do you have a recipe for Mediterranean Pickle?

If you enter pickle or chutney into the search facility on the homepage of Delia Online you will find a selection of ideas, one of which is Italian Garden Pickles.

Q: What should I do if my strawberry jam does not seem to reach setting point?

Strawberries are naturally low in the setting property pectin. If your jam won't set, tip it back into the pan, add the juice of a small lemon to give the jam extra pectin, bring it back to the boil for five minutes and test again for a set. If this does not seem to work, continue to boil the jam, testing for a set every two minutes. I do believe there should never be any need to use commercial 'setting agents'.

Q: Sometimes when making jellies, such as redcurrant, the yield is not always the same as that stated in the recipe. Why is this?

The quantity that is made can vary slightly because some berries, even of the same variety, will vary in the amount of juice they yield. Also the straining process for jelly-making will affect the yield. It's a good idea to press the residue through the sieve lightly to extract maximum juice, although you might not get a completely clear jelly.

Q: Can you please tell me the length of time your pickled limes etc can be stored after use?

In her recipe for Pickled Limes, Delia states that you should keep them for a month before eating. After that, you should eat them within two months.

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