With seasonality set to remain a top trend in catering, chefs are keen to make use of correct storage and techniques to preserve the flavours of the harvest so they can be used to brighten the dark winter months later in the year.
David Swain from Mash Purveyors at New Covent Garden market says: “The main way to prolong the life of fresh produce is by using even, cold temperatures. But there are items that need particularly careful handling and treatment to bring out their best.”
Here we look at ways of storing and preserving the best flavours of harvest throughout the year.
Storage and ripening Black winter truffles have a very short shelf life, but correctly stored, they can retain their flavour and aroma for up to two weeks. Truffles can typically lose around 2% or 3% of their body weight every day, so they must be refrigerated. The best way to store them is to wrap in tissue and store in an airtight container in the fridge, but change the tissue every 24 hours.
Product tip Truffles will transfer their aroma to other foods – store with salt, flour, eggs, cheese or in oil to infuse the flavour. However, be aware that storing truffles in
rice will sap the moisture out.
To preserve Infuse in alcohol, such as port or Madeira, to make a great drink.
Storage and ripening Customers can buy ripe or under-ripe fruit from the wholesale market, depending on its intended use. Jam and chutney-makers prefer to buy fruit that is already on the turn and available at lower cost. Allow stone fruit to ripen at room temperature and only ever refrigerate when soft. Ripe fruit should keep for up to a week when refrigerated.
Product tip Stone fruit freezes well and is excellent in pies and sauces, allowing chefs to buy fruits in season in autumn when they are at their best. Remove the skins and kernels, which can impart bitterness during freezing, and place in an airtight container. The fruits can be frozen for up to a year.
Storage and preservation Autumn harvested horseradish roots are best kept unwashed, loosely wrapped and in the refrigerator to maintain moisture. Remove green leaves and store them separately.
Product tip Fresh horseradish’s powerful bite and aroma quickly starts to degrade once it is cut or grated and it will turn dark and bitter if left unpreserved. Wrap the root tightly and freeze – it can be grated straight from frozen. Horseradish roots can also be stored in dry sand and kept for months.
To preserve Peel, chop and store in vinegar. The preserved root will lose some of its pungency, but you’ll have wonderfully aromatic horseradish vinegar.
Storage and preservation Squashes are a great winter staple because they keep so well, as long as you store them in a cool, well-ventilated spot, preferably between 8°C-12°C. Don’t store a winter squash in the fridge as the cold will damage it. You should also keep squash away from light and heat, which will convert the starch to sugar too quickly.
Product tip Thin-skinned varieties, such as butternut squash don’t grow so well in the UK and won’t store for so long.
Hedgerow crab apples
Storage and ripening Since apples give off ethylene, which speeds the deterioration of many green vegetables, they should be stored separately. Remove any apples that are damaged or overripe so they don’t spoil the bunch.
Product tip Wild crab apples grow in woods, scrubland and field hedgerows. They are distinguished by their size – they are smaller than a golf ball – and their tart, bitter flesh. They are generally cooked or processed without removing the skin, core or pips. Traditionally, crab apples were made into cider, wine or low-alcohol apple juice and verjuice, which can be used in place of vinegar or lemon juice, or preserved as a jelly, fruit cheese or butter (see recipe for crab apple membrillo, below).
Storage and preservation Cobnuts, which grow in Britain, are a type of hazelnut. They are marketed fresh, still in their husks. They are in season from the middle of August through to October. At the beginning of the season, the husks are green and the kernels are juicy. Nuts harvested later on have brown shells and husks and the kernel has a fuller flavour.
Product tip Cobnuts are fresh and should be kept in the fridge. To prevent mould they should not be allowed to sweat. Loose husks should be removed, but it is not necessary to take off every one. The addition of a little salt helps preserve the nuts. Stored correctly, ripe nuts will keep until Christmas and beyond.
What the chef said
Peter Weeden, head chef at Newman Street Tavern
“Here at Newman Street Tavern, our menus follow the seasons closely. Many of the best ingredients have short seasons, such as Seville oranges or crab apples. By using preserving techniques we can extend the life of more interesting produce and have it on the menus for longer.
We have a strong reputation for our traditional kitchen that prepares everything in-house, allowing us to adapt our menus at different stages of the season. For example, we’ll serve whisky sours at the beginning of the Seville season, but move on to marmalade to keep them on the menu through the lean months.”
Crab apple membrillo
850g crab apples
150g rowan berries
Sugar of equal weight to the fruit pulp (see below)
Simmer the apples and berries until reduced to a pulp. Pass the pulp through a fine vegetable mouli. Weigh the pulp and then weigh out an equal amount of sugar. Return the pulp and the sugar to a large, heavy pan and cook until the jam setting point is reached.
Transfer this into lightly oiled trays and bake at 80°C for about six hours until set. Turn out and cut into cubes. Wrap in silicone paper and keep in airtight containers in the fridge. The membrillo should keep for at least a month in the fridge.
New Covent Garden Market
New Covent Garden Market provides 40% of the fruit and vegetables eaten in London restaurants. For more information or a guided tour, phone 020 7622 6746
or visit www.newcoventgardenmarket.com
Mash Purveyors at New Covent Garden Market
020 7720 9191