Now who doesn't love a nice mason jar? One glance on Pinterest will bring up thousands of ways to style them, craft with them and use them to give gifts in. 99% of those mason jars you see on Pinterest will undoubtably be the iconic Ball brand, but whilst they are prevalent in the US, they're not so easy to track down here in the UK. Until now.
Lakeland are now selling Ball mason jars exclusively in the UK, so make sure you pop along or order online so you can join the in-crowd.
Much as I love using them for all kinds of decor and crafts, they are of course designed as preserving jars. I went along to a demonstration by Ball to see just how easy they are to use to preserve food for up to one year.
If like me, you like to make the most of seasonal produce and have a glut of certain foods from the farmer's market, veg box delivery, your garden or allotment, then preserving in Ball jars is perfect. My freezer is already groaning under the weight of foraged plums and blackberries so I was definitely needing a new way to store and extend the life of fresh produce.
So far I've made soups (with the glut of tomatoes from the garden) and jam (from my hedgerow raids) but I'm now thinking ahead to Christmas food and gifts.
You can get a starter kit from Lakeland for £19.99 which contains all the equipment you need to get started, and four 240ml jars with seal lids. The process is simple, sterilise your jars and lids in a pan of boiling water. The jars sit in a plastic basket which prevents them from touching the base of the pan and cracking in the heat, and also acts as a tool to easily lift them. Fill with your homemade product, place the lid on, screw the cap over and return to the water to process them.
My recipe below uses fresh figs which are in season right now. You can pick them up cheaply in supermarkets, mine cost 69p for four. Figs in sherry are perfect as a decadent dessert with good vanilla ice cream, or strain them off and serve with your cheese board. They also make an indulgent addition to a goats cheese salad, or a lovely gift for a foodie friend. Make them now and they'll be perfect for Christmas.
Ingredients (makes 2 x 490ml jars):
Approx 12 fresh figs
250ml good quality, aged sherry (my favourite is a Taste the Difference 12 Year Old Sweet Pedro Ximenez from Sainsburys)
Place your jars in a large jam pan to sterilise.
Remove the stem from the figs and cut in half lengthways.
In another pan, heat the water and the sugar until dissolved. Once the syrup starts to bubble, pour in the sherry and add the fig halves.
Gently poach for around 5 minutes. You'll need to reduce this time if your fruit is particularly ripe, you want the figs to hold their shape.
Remove from the heat.
Lift your jars and drain off any water.
Gently place the figs inside using a spoon. Fill almost to the top then pour in the sherry syrup to fill the jars to the recommended height. You want to cover the fruit in syrup.
Gently screw on the lids and return to the boiling water to process for a further 15 minutes. Ensure the water fully covers the jars.
Carefully lift out your jars and allow to cool fully.
Disclosure: I attended a workshop with Ball Preserving Jars and they gifted me a starter set.