A few years ago I discovered a cool little book called Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning written by The Gardeners & Farmers of Terre Vivante.  I was intrigued by this book because it outlined traditional techniques using salt, oil, sugar, alcohol, vinegar, drying, cold storage and lactic fermentation.  These types of food preservation were basically unheard of in my family.  By the time I came around in the 70’s, nobody was preserving food with these methods. Where I grew up, there were two ways to keep food (lots of vinegar or lots of sugar) and both involved subjecting foods to plenty of heat. So, for me, this type of book is controversial.  It goes against the advice and intelligence of my first community.  I feel though, that this intelligence was under the influence of a particularly recent trend.  My grandparents parents likely knew some of these methods.

Many of the recipes outlined in this book would make perfect gifts; dried fruits, sun dried tomatoes, homemade vegetable bouillon powder, harissa, herbs in oil, marinated rosehip jam, fruit syrups, chutneys, and fruits in alcohol.  The recipes for crocks of lactofermented fruits and vegetables look delicious to me, but… these might not be everyone’s idea of a perfect gift.  I will try to stick to the recipes that I know will be a hit, like steeped fruits.

I once made two varieties of the most delicious steeped fruits; plums and cardamom and pears with vanilla and black pepper.  I picked out perfect fresh fruits (this is important) and a little spice, filled two clean canning jars with them, added one cup of sugar to each and filled the jar with alcohol.  I let it steep a couple months before I opened the jars.  If my grandma knew how easy it was to “can” something, she might be shocked.  It is extremely easy to make fruits in alcohol and it makes a very decadent gift.

Right now you will likely not find any perfect fresh fruits.  But you can make this with dried fruits.  It is not exactly the same, but it is still a very special treat.  A very small quantity (like a tablespoon) of this with a little cake or ice cream is a nice occasional treat.  You can also use these little fruits in baking such as butter-tarts and cakes.

Today I am steeping fruits for Christmas cake and pudding. Over the years, we have actually developed a taste for these foods.

Here are some combinations that I have heard of:

  • dried apricots, vanilla, brandy and a little sugar
  • raisins and currants in Pedro Ximénez sherry
  • prunes, red wine, brandy and a little linden tea
  • golden raisins in Grand Marnier
  • raisin with rum or raisins with gin.
  • sun cooked cherries, brandy, a little sugar

An easy gift that does not involve alcohol is the “Compote Bonne Maman Ceries – Cherry.”

Make it DIY by decorating the jar!

This is a lovely gift!

Tammy Schmidt, Montreal

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