28 Feb 2022

Expert feature: Kylee Newton with Preserving

From Afternoons, 2:30 pm on 28 February 2022

After years in London, preserving master Kylee Newton is now living back in Taranaki and excited about the potential of New Zealand's seasonal fruit and vegetables.

Her new book The Modern Preserver's Kitchen focuses on delicious ways to use preserves in baking and cooking. 

Kimchi Fried Rice with a Fried Egg by Kylee Newton

Kimchi Fried Rice with a Fried Egg by Kylee Newton Photo: Laura Jayne Edwards / The Modern Preserver's Kitchen

'Preserving' is any method of giving fruit and vegetables longevity, Newton tells Jesse Mulligan, usually with the aid of sugar, vinegar and salt.

The process can be broken down into four categories - jam-making, chutney-making, pickling and ferments

Kylee Newton

Kylee Newton Photo: Laura Edwards

Jam - good for ripe​ fruit

Old-school jam recipes tend to include a whole lot of sugar, but in jams, you can cut the sugar significantly by using pectin - a natural fruit sugar that works well as a gelling agent. 

When Newton does use sugar, it's granulated white sugar, which helps with sucking moisture out of fruit and vegetables and has a neutral flavour.

"With jam, because we're relying on pectin to make this chemical reaction and gel up and set, we want the fruits to be ripe but not overripe and not too fresh. The longer [they sit] after they're picked [the more] they lose their pectin value," Kylee says.

When it comes to jam, she likes "spinning the flavour wheel" and adding flowers, nuts and alcohol.

At the moment she is making Apricot and Amaretto Jam - her husband's favourite - and Cherry and Cacao Nib Jam.

Figs are good for both chutney and jam, and go well with orange flavour and alcohol, especially something nutty like Frangelico or Amaretto. 

Newton's next book Jams With a Twist will be out in August 2022.

Chutney - good for not-quite-fresh produce

Relishes tend to be fresher and quicker and may be kept in the fridge, Chutneys tend to be longer-cooking and can be reduced on the stove for up to an hour.

"Chutney is the perfect waste not-want not preserve. You want to use things that might go slightly brown in your fruit bowl, chuck them in with sugar and vinegar. It's a reduction game.'

Pickles - good for fresh produce

To keep pickled vegetables crunchy, salt them first, then wash off the salt before pickling them, Kylee says.

"With pickling, you're trying to make a time capsule with vinegar, brines and spices. Pickle them at their best, when you want to keep them in that state for longer. Therefore [don't use vegetables that are] too overripe, as well."

Safe and effective preservation 

In the preserving process '"bacteria is your biggest threat'', Kylee says, and your jars should be an environment where they can't grow and reproduce.

To achieve this, Kylee washes her jars with hot soapy water, then rinses out the soap residue and drip-dries them upside down.

She then heats them in the oven at 100 degrees Celsius for at least 20 minutes. (If the oven is too hot, the jars' rubber seals and lids can burn)

"If you have done the sterilisation and filled the jars [while they are hot], no bacteria should possibly be able to live in that time. Once you've sealed it up, it should be all good to go."

To determine whether a preserve has gone 'off', just actively use your senses, Kylee says.

"Give it a little smell, maybe give it a little taste test… before you decide to throw it out. Open something up and give it a little test first."