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Tips On Bottling Seasonal Produce

If you own a property in the country or live in Bulgaria you will be aware that August and September is a time of abundance and a plethora of magnificent fruit and veg abounds. Time to stock up for winter and here are a couple of perfect recipes for the winter store cupboard. Bottling is a time-tested way of storing foods, using seasonal produce for a better diet and cheap cost of living.

Used for fruit and veg it is a simple method of preserving home grown or locally bought harvest to see you through the meagre winter months and home bottling has never lost its appeal in Bulgaria. There is much more to making bottled magic than fruit. Pickled vegetables, chutneys, jams and relishes all add to the winter store.

Easy bottled peaches

Ingredients:

350g sugar

2kg peaches
1 litre water

Peaches are currently about 1.30 leva a kilo at the market and these are a fab treat in winter, bringing a taste of summer to your table.
Sterilise the jars - either through the dishwasher or with soapy water and rinsed in boiling water and dried in the oven.
For the syrup, heat the sugar in a pan with the water until dissolved.

Prepare a pan of boiling water and a bowl of iced water. Dip the peaches into the hot water for 30 seconds, then plunge them into the cold to loosen the skins. Peel, halve and stone the fruit.

Pack the peaches tightly into the sterilized jars to just below the neck, then completely cover with the hot syrup. Remember to leave a headspace of 1.25cm. The peaches can be stored for up to 12 months.

Simple ratatouille

Fabulous for winter meals, goes great with meat and casseroles. Aubergines and peppers at market are only 1.00 leva a kilo and tomatoes can be found for 40 stotinki.

Sterilise jars as above. The cooking time for this recipe is only 35 minutes, so it's quick and easy.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 large onion, quartered and sliced
1 small aubergine, cubed
2 green peppers, coarsely chopped
4 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped, or 2 tins chopped tomatoes
3 to 4 small corgettes, cut into slices
1 teaspoon chopped basil
Leaf of thyme, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley

Heat the olive oil over a medium heat in a solid saucepan. Add the garlic and onions to cook until softened, about six minutes. Add the aubergine and stir to coat with the oil. Add the peppers. Cover and cook for about ten minutes stirring from time to time to ensure the vegetables don't stick. Add the tomatoes, courgettes and herbs and mix well. Cover again and continue cooking over a low heat for another fifteen minutes. The ratatouille is then ready to bottle.

Bottling tips and hints:

- Sterilise your jars to prevent bacteria ruining the product. Put the jars through your dishwasher just before you want to use them or wash in hot soapy water, rinse in boiling water and stand them upside down in the oven at 150 C for about 30 minutes.
- Jars must be hot when you spoon in the mixture.
- Use a large, heavy based pan.
- Add sugar to the liquid over low heat and let it all dissolve naturally without stirring.
- After bottling and as cooling occurs, check jars for air bubbles and tap jars to remove.
- Seal the jars straight away with lids.
- Avoid storing in moist or warm conditions. A store cupboard should be dry, dark and cool.