I was out at my local thrift shops yesterday looking for retro fabrics (and having no luck) when I stumbled across what appeared to be a gigantic stock pot. It caught my eye because it had a $50 price tag on it and I've got a bit of a bee in my bonnet about the ridiculous prices in some second hand stores. Take old sheets for example. I happen to need a lot of retro patterned sheets for a project I'm working on, and I can't tell you how many are sitting there for months with a $10 ticket on them. Seriously people, it's an old sheet. Some unknown person slept on it. And probably did other things on it too. Sometimes I hear the elderly volunteers out the back of the shop deciding what price to put on donations that come in, and there is absolutely no logic. It's worth whatever they say it's worth. I've even heard them getting quiet feisty when opinions differ on how valuable something is perceived to be.
Anyway, back to the big pot. As I got down to have a look at it, I saw a little label on the outside with the words 'Preserver' on it. Heart rate went up a notch. I peeled off a bit of the tape holding the big brown lid on, and saw - oh be still my beating heart - piles of old jars, lids, rings, and covers. This was not just any preserver, it was a Fowler's Vacola. Suddenly that $50 price tag was looking mighty good. I knew that these sets went for well over $150 on ebay and the jars alone are really rare and costly.
So I trotted out of the thift store - OK, actually I waddled out, because the Vacola was really heavy. When I got home and unpacked it all I realised there was a slight hiccup. No instruction manual. Never mind, google is my friend. I spent a happy few hours reading everything I could find on bottling, Fowler's, incorrect seals, and food safety guidelines.
The plan was that Jemima and I would go to Bilpin in the summer to buy some boxes of fruit to preserve. But then, patience has never been my strong point. I made a trip to the local markets today and spotted some cherries and nectarines for $3 a bucket, and this afternoon I got that Vacola cranking.
First we washed them and then we took out all of the stalks. I asked Jemima to separate out any yucky ones but she was so ruthless that we hardly had any to bottle. I had to rescue some of the rejects when she wasn't looking. Maybe she has a future in quality control.
Once they were all done I put them in one of my nice old mixing bowls because well, you know.
Then they went into my sterilised jars and some hot sugar syrup was poured on top. This was the moment I realised I should have put on the tricky rubber rings before filling the jar with boiling hot liquid. Once on, I placed a glass lid on top, and got out the clips which are meant to hold the lid down. They were trickier than the rubber rings and I wasn't sure if the lid was still meant to wobble or not. Suddenly my Internet research wasn't so reassuring.
Onwards and upwards!
Into the enormous pot they went along with two jars of nectarines. I should have had a thermometer but I don't.. so I guessed. I read somewhere that a rolling boil for 20 minutes should do the trick. So that's what I did.
One thing I do know is that you're meant to take the jars out of the hot water straight away after the time is up. Actually doing it was near on impossible. We don't have any fancy tongs for jars and it was hot in there. I ended up scooping out the hot water with a jug before Jeremy carefully pulled them out for me.
So here they are post preserving pot in all their glory. I have to wait for a 12 - 24 hours before I remove the clips and only then will I discover if my jars have sealed. If not, all is not lost. I'll just pop them in the fridge and make them into puddings like this GF nectarine and cherry crumble that I made with the leftovers:
And it was good!