Use ripe, but not over-ripe vegetables and fruit for making pickles, and fully ripe for chutney, relish and sauces.
Cider vinegar is best for most preserves, but use malt vinegar for darker pickles. Vinegar must have 5% acetic acid – check the label. Vinegar is the preservative in pickles so always use the amount given in the recipe.
Use white or brown sugar as you wish.
Use whole spices tied in muslin for paler preserves, or ground spices for darker ones.
Use iodised or non-iodised salt as you wish.
TECHNIQUES AND METHODS
Always wash, drain and dry vegetables and fruit before you begin.
Chutneys, relishes and sauces need at least 1 hour of cooking to thicken them and achieve a warm, rounded flavour so make a good-sized batch or the mixture may catch and burn on the bottom of the pan.
Use an aluminium or stainless steel preserving pan for this sort of preserve, not a copper pan.
Always use hot sterilised jars or bottles and fill close to the top. Less air space mean less likelihood of mould.
You can leave chutneys and relishes to get cold in the jars, covered with a cloth, then cover with sterilised lids. Make sure metal lids are lined or the vinegar may make them rust.
A food processor or blender is useful for making smooth sauces.
Always label preserves and store them in a cool, dark place.
Leave pickles, chutneys and sauces for at least a fortnight – and as long as two years – before using them. They improve and mellow with age.