Friday, 5 August 2011

so good it should be bottled

my parents bought their first home just after the second world war when returning service men and women were granted reduced home loan of the first things my parents did when they moved in was to plant fruit trees around the whole perimeter of the back garden..there was a grapefruit, valencia orange, mandarin, navel orange, apricot, white peach, yellow peach, almond and an angelina plum..and out the front grew a jonathan apple..if as children we requested something sweet after a meal we were invariably directed to the fruit trees in the garden or we were offered bottled apricots, plums or a real treat in summer my mother sometimes made the most delicious apricot ice blocks..apricots can sometimes be sour but these ice blocks never were because she would use the ripest fruit and bottle those we didn't eat fresh..

one of my very early culinary childhood memories is of helping my mother and grandmother pack homegrown plums, peaches and apricots into preserving jars and filling them with a sugar syrup and then putting them into the empty cauldron..that huge metal fiery monster with the thermometer in a channel on the side was an awesome thing to me as a child once it was boiling on top of the gas stove and we were remonstrated to keep away from it's terribleness..the cauldron though produced dozens of beautiful jars of preserved fruit that were lined up on shelving, especially made by my father, in the kitchen of my family home..

image from web of an early vacola kit and caboodle
 i have a copy of this early fowler's vacola instruction
 manual that i bought from an op shop for $0.20

the newer versions of the fowler's vacola are more user friendly because they are electric.. i place mine strategically on the draining board of my kitchen sink with the drainage outlet over the sink so that when the processing has completed i can just turn the tap to dispose of the boiling water..the older vacola had to be placed on a gas or electric stove and then it was a matter of taking the bottles out of the boiling water and either waiting for the water to cool and risk having a huge pot of dangerously hot water sitting on the stove for hours or the other option was to bucket the boiling water out incrementally which was also very hazardous..

of the two newer vacola units available i purchased the 'simple natural preserver' which included some jars, lids and rubber rings and cost $'s really simple to operate because all you do is put the bottles into the unit, fill it with cold water, plug it in and after an hour it's done..

the vacola system has been designed so that the temperature of the unit and the heating time sterilize the contents of the bottle and so that surplus air is expelled..this is achieved because the lid is held in place by a metal spring the contents of the bottle are heating, the spring clip allows the lid to lift slightly so that steam can escape and as the bottle cools down the spring clip holds the lid firmly in position until the vacuum seal has formed..this vacuum also acts to prevent entry of micro-organisms..

the vacola is only recommended for preserving fruit though because the high acidity levels in fruit helps to control those micro-organisms that might grow in improperly preserved bottles..
Simple Natural Preserving Kit
image of the newer vacola kit and caboodle
courtesy of the 'bake and brew' website
last year i processed 16 bottles of tomato puree using the above method and all winter i have been using the puree in pasta sauces, soups, for pizza toppings and so has a remarkably fresh flavour, more so than store bought puree, and because there are no other ingredients included it's really versatile..i've bottled tomato puree before with some italian friends and while we had access to some amazing equipment i found that using the same method of skinning and deseeding the tomatoes that we had used that i could puree the tomato as effectively using my food processor..i also processed about 8 bottles of apple quarters from apples that i had collected from apple trees growing by the roadside during drives into the countryside to go bushwalking and blackberry picking..and of course one aspect of yesterday's post was about my bottled pears..

my pears are enjoying their notoriety!
oh..and by the way i have no foul deals going on with mr fowler :)'s just that i had a couple of responses about the vacola and i also thought it would be good to share my love of the new and updated version of an iconic aussie product..jane


  1. I love a Fowlers. Ours is an older model - the Year Rounder, which is very similar to your Simply Natural, bought from ebay. I also happened to come across another Year Rounder in the op-shop a year or so ago for $8. $8!! Unbelievable. Of course it made it's way home with me, too. It's so comforting standing and staring at a cupboard full of home preserves. Happy pear munching. :)

  2. hi christine..$8..what a bargain..unfortunately in all my op shopping ventures i've never spotted one..what things do you bottle? jane

  3. I've never used one but I think I could become quite obsessed with one if I did :)

  4. least fruit's healthy!.. :) jane

  5. I've got my name scribbled on my mums old one when I have the space to take it. My childhood memories are also full of lined shelves of bottled fruit. My absolute favourite being cherries!
    Interesting to see what the newer ones look like.

  6. oh..cherries..i love everything about them..i can't wait to do some this summer..jane