Top 5 – Summer Vegetables to Preserve

For many Australian kitchen gardeners February is the most bountiful month of the growing year.  (If you have any doubt about this check out the Witches Kitchen’s haul, impressive eh?)

February is a month in which the volume of produce can start to get overwhelming and if you can’t give it away then the choice is between composting it/feeding it to the chooks or preserving it.  Naturally my preference is for the latter.  I looked at summer fruits last week so this week I turn to the vegetables.  (Yeah I know that technically most of the below are fruit but as I’m writing from a culinary perspective I’m calling them vegetables.)

Catalina Pickling Cucumbers

Cucumber – Usually I turn all my excess cucumbers into Bread and Butter Cucumbers to ensure I have sufficient for the whole year.  However my crop (and indeed my parents crop) has been so good this year that I have also attempted some gherkins.  I’ll be interested to see if they are any good.  I’m using the recipe in my Fowlers preserving book but if you have a tried and test gherkin method then I would love to hear about it.

Tomato Ketchup

Tomatoes – Are there any methods of preserving tomatoes that don’t taste delicious?  I usually preserve a heap as passata/sauce (simply tomatoes chopped up, cooked down, put through the mouli and bottled).  I also make sauce – as in ketchup, and lots of chutney.  Of all the things you can make chutney with my favourite has to be the tomato.  When I lived in the UK I used to bring jars of my mums back with me every time I visited Australia.  The other thing I like to do with tomatoes is dry them.  My parents grow Principe Borghese especially for drying and they work really well dried in the oven and then later added to sauces etc or, as is Miss 6’s preference, eaten as snacks.


Onion/Shallot – Now I have to admit I’m not the biggest fan of pickled onions.  They are a bit too vinegary (without the sugar offset that I personally enjoy) for my palate.  However the rest of my household love them and as I love them I dutifully make them for them.  I know, I know I’m a saint…  There is one way I really enjoy preserving shallots in particular and that is as Crispy Fried Shallots.  A delicious addition to heaps of dishes.  I use them in kedgeree and Vietnamese Coleslaw in particular.

Preserving Chillies

Chillies – I am currently eating my second last jar of sambal (made with the second recipe on the link, bottled and stored in the fridge) .  This is perfect timing as the chillies are about to ripen again.  I find making sambal the perfect way to preserve chillies.  I use it to adjust the heat of my meals, as I like chilli but have to make most dishes mild to please the kids.  I do also dry quite a few chillies each year both to use whole and to make flakes from as well as making Tomato and Chilli Jam.  I found a two year old jar of it in the cupboard the other day and gosh it was good.

I have to say I deliberated on the final spot in the 5 this week.  I quite like beans preserved the Italian way in vinegar and olive oil.  Ditto carrots.  But in the end I decided on:

Eggplant – I only ever preserve eggplant in one way (are there others?) and that is as an Indian style pickle.  I have used recipes from a variety of sources and yet to pick a favourite but all of them have combined the softness of the eggplants with the warmth of spice and the heat of chilli.  Just delicious.

Which vegetables do you preserve in summer and how do you preserve them?

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28 Responses to Top 5 – Summer Vegetables to Preserve

  1. My kids love dill pickles, so I am aiming to preserve some of those this year. And I love pickled banana peppers, so I am hoping for those, too. Your list sounds great.

  2. Must admit we mainly freeze things

    • Liz says:

      My freezer is tiny and I’m loathe to invest in a larger one as I think having to think about what to do with the harvest makes me more creative….or should that read keeps the compost heap happy……

      • Nina says:

        For many, many years, I had a very old fridge with a tiny freezer. Finally, I bit the bullet and invested in a side-by-side. It was a big commitment at the time but it was the best thing I ever did. I’ve had it for maybe 2 years now and I LOVE it. I kiss it good morning, every day. 🙂 It is my favourite thing in the house.

        It holds a heap of easy-to-heat home cooked meals (soups, curries, spag bol etc) which are life savers at times, as I work full time and often get home late-ish and don’t have time to cook from scratch. And all of those meals use stuff that I’ve grown myself so I still have the creative challenge of using up seasonal produce. Win, win!

        It also holds produce such as silverbeet, broad beans, corn, chilli, celery, capsicum and tomatoes plus home made stock.

        If you can, Liz, get a larger freezer. It will transform your life – it did, mine!

  3. Balvinder says:

    I don’t believe you pickle eggplant. I don’t preserve anything here,my mom used to do when we were kids and I remember making her tomato sauce as well. I learnt from her and tried making for few years but when I heard about the dangers of sodium bezoyate I stopped. What do you add to preserve tomato sauce?
    I want to make chilli jam.

    • Liz says:

      I don’t believe you don’t preserve anything. Really? I don’t add anything to preserve the sauce, I put the bottles in a water bath and boil them when sealed and that generally ensures they are fine. I think tomatoes are acidic enough that if they do go bad (which can happen if the seal isn’t great) it’s pretty easy to tell, they ferment.

      • Balvinder says:

        I make jams, chutneys and pickles and recently made harissa but they are in small quantity. I never really preserved anything other than crushed tomatoes which I preserve as you said with water bath method. But I freeze a lot of things even ground green chillies (in small containers) I will try tomato sauce this year as I love with some mild spices.

  4. KL says:

    I just freeze them in the freezer. Except tomatoes and chillies, nothing taste that better, but I am too busy to do anything else. But, I love to hear your recipes to try.

  5. Andrea says:

    So hoping my chilli plants will set fruit (protected by wire from the rabbits) so I can make some jam…….Made some indian spiced chutney with my eggplants and now I have heaps of peppers………….maybe roasted with garlic and olive oil ? Heading down to Melb this arvo with a box of fruit/garlic/spicy plum sauce/lemons for the kids and hoping they cook my a great dinner in return. Market tomorrow to buy sauce tomatoes, mine don’t look to good at all!!! Oh well there’s always next year.

    • Liz says:

      They should be very grateful! -your kids I mean. I’m going to buy sauce tomatoes too (although mum and dads crop was looking pretty good – i’m off to check it out tomorrow) – perhaps I’ll do sauce on Friday when I have a bit of time.

  6. Clare says:

    Have made apple and fig chutney that I’ve made for years and is a winner, but this year with foraged apples. Cheap and super tasty strawberries and plums from the Italian green grocer have been turned into jams, and savoury plum sauce, and now it’s the zucchinis…aah, the zucchinis! Am going to freeze grated in usefully sized and bagged amounts ready for slices, fritters, muffins and cakes, will grill slices and preserve in oil, am going to try a bread and butter pickle and have just made a chocolate zucchini cake. Just found another 3 monsters lurking in the leaves this morning. My mother in law treated one like an eggplant by baking and then currying it.i like that it turned a several kilo beast into a teeny, but delicious bowlful. Yum!

    • Liz says:

      Apple and fig chutney sounds fabulous. Theres a fig tree locally with low hanging branches that I’ve been eyeing off lately – its fruit look perfect. Or do you/can you use dried figs? I should really invest in a stand alone freezer because freezing crops is very sensible, but difficult given our fridge top freezer is filled with kids icy poles and chicken stock so I can’t fit much else in. i do like the idea of making zucchini masala. I will definitely give that a try.

  7. I envy you the eggplant pickles! Eggplants are hard for me – I have lots of wild tobacco in the bush around, and it’s a host for flea beetles, that prefer eggplant when they have a choice. I have a decent crop this year, but rarely enough to preserve.

    • Liz says:

      My eggplants seem to have really enjoyed the conditions this year which is nice. I also have an eggplant adverse family so it doesn’t take many arriving at once to give me enough to preserve. I don’t envy your flea beetles – they would be annoying. I get potato beetles on my Cape gooseberry and they are bad enough frankly.

      • Nina says:

        You asked about other ways of preserving eggplant. I have a recipe for grilled eggplant with oil, balsamic, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper. Very easy. Would you like it?

        • Liz says:

          Oh yes please.

          • Nina says:

            Okay, here it is:

            750g eggplant
            extra-virgin olive oil
            6 cloves of thinly-sliced garlic
            1/4 cup freshly chopped thyme (including stalks)
            sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
            50ml balsamic vinegar

            Cut the eggplants lengthways into 1cm thick slices then cut the slices in half diagonally. Brush with oil and grill on a char grill pan. Turn them once only.

            Transfer eggplant to a bowl or deep baking tray and allow it to cool. Scatter with the garlic, thyme, salt and pepper.

            Mix the vinegar into half a cup of olive oil and pour 2/3 of this over the eggplants – turn to coat them.

            Pack the cooled eggplant into sterilised jars and pour over the rest of the vinaigrette – shake the jars to release any air bubbles and then seal.

            This should keep for several months.

            A friend (another Liz!) gave me this recipe and I believe it originates from Stephanie Alexander and/or Maggie Beer.


          • Liz says:

            Oh you – thankyou – I have a couple of Bonica ready for harvest and I think at least one if not both might be destined for this treatment.

  8. Last summer we cropped so few veggies that there was no call for pickling… or so I thought, but I have just discovered a batch of beetroot in a forgotten border, so if they’re up to it I’ll make beetroot chutney this weekend.

    I am rather fond of the occasional Bloody Mary, and one particularly good tomato year (many many moons ago), I tried making tomato juice to freeze. It takes A LOT of tomatoes to make tomato juice and to be honest, it didn’t taste delicious and it has been the cause of many a cheeky remark in our house ever since.

    • Liz says:

      Devastating – both for the waste of tomatoes and for giving people ammunition…I made a particularly horrific Turkey tajine about 10 years ago that I have yet to live down.

  9. Balvinder says:

    After reading Nina’s reply I remembered that I did preserve green beans and beets in vinegar. I am not that old but I am loosing my memory.

    • Liz says:

      Ever since I had children (and possibly before) I think my memory has slowly deteriorated. I think its all the multi tasking meaning I’m not really concentrating on any one thing at any one time. I’m always surprised by how much I enjoy preserved beans.

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