Poaching And Preserving

 

Choose firm fruits for poaching that are not too ripe so they holds their shape. Preserving fruits in alcohol is an ideal way of storing fruits to be eaten later in the year when your favourite fresh fruits are out of season.

POACHING IN SUGAR SYRUP

Infuse the natural sweetness of fruits with a flavourful poaching liquid. The amount of sugar in the syrup is determined by the fruits to be cooked. A light sugar syrup is suitable for hard and stone fruits, which hold their shape well, while soft berries are best in a heavy syrup, which will help them hold their shape.

1. Add stoned fruits (here plums are shown) to simmering sugar syrup, making sure the fruits are completely submerged.

2. Poach fruits until tender, 10-15 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon. Boil the syrup to reduce it, strain and serve poured over the fruits.

POACHING IN WINE

Fruits that are poached in wine take on the flavour of the alcohol and, in the case of red wine, the colour. This is the classic French technique for poaching whole pears, as shown here. Before poaching, peel and core pears, leaving their stalks intact. This will help to make slicing easy and will give an attractive presentation.

1. Heat wine with flavourings and sugar until sugar dissolves. Add prepared pears and bring slowly to a simmer. Poach for 15-25 minutes.

2. Remove from the heat, cover and let cool in the liquid. Remove pears with a slotted spoon, reduce liquid and cool. Serve the fruit sliced, on a pool of syrup.

FLAVOURS FOR POACHING FRUITS

Serve poached fruits for a simple dessert, or purée and use as the basis of desserts, such as mousses, soufflés and fools. Different flavourings, some subtle, others strong, can be added at the beginning of cooking to infuse the sugar syrup.

• Strips of pared orange, lemon or lime zest.

• Whole spices such as cloves, star anise and cinnamon sticks.

• A split vanilla pod buried in a jar of caster sugar.

• Fresh lavender sprigs.

• A slice of fresh root ginger.

• A bruised stalk of lemon grass.

MAKING A DRIED FRUIT COMPOTE

A compote is a mixture of fruits poached together to make a delicious blend of colours and flavours. Here, dried fruits are soaked overnight in liquid and flavourings. Sugar inhibits the cooking of the fruits, so it is added at the end.

1. Place fruits and soaking liquid in a pan. Add water to just cover fruits. Bring to a gentle simmer, stirring.

2. Poach the fruits gently, just until tender, 15-25 minutes. Remove fruits with a slotted spoon.

3. Sweeten the cooking juices, then reduce by about one-third. Serve fruits with the juices ladled over.

COMPOTE COMBINATIONS

Soaking overnight plumps up dried fruits and allows them to absorb as much flavour as possible. Try the following ideas:

• Make a classic combination of dried apricots, figs, peaches and dates with white wine and honey.

• Mix a tropical blend of dried mango, pineapple and pawpaw, with rum, coconut milk and cinnamon sticks.

• Soak dried apples, pears, apricots and prunes in tea, then cook in orange juice flavoured with cloves.

PRESERVING AND STORING WHOLE FRUITS IN ALCOHOL

Alcohol is used to preserve fruits so they can be kept for an indefinite period of time, although it is advisable to use them within a year in case of fermentation. Choose fruits that are just ripe and in good condition.

Place the prepared fruits in sterilized Kilner jars, and add whole spices, if you like. Pour alcohol into a pan and bring to the boil. Add sugar and stir to dissolve, then remove from the heat and leave to cool. Pour enough of the cooled alcohol into the jars to cover the fruit completely. Seal the jars. Store in a cool dark place for at least 2-3 weeks so that the flavours have time to develop before using.

MAKING RUMTOPF

A rumtopf ("rum pot") is a traditional German method of preserving fruit in alcohol. From summer to autumn, ripened fruits are layered with sugar in stone or glass jars, covered with rum and sealed.

Sprinkle fruits with sugar and let marinate overnight. Layer fruits (here blueberries and sliced strawberries are shown) in a sterilized Kilner jar, covering each layer with rum. Fill to about 2 cm from the top. Seal and leave to mature for at least 1 month.

FRUITS IN ALCOHOL

Fruits preserved in alcohol make delicious instant desserts all year round. Here are some suggestions for fruit and alcohol partnerships, with ideas for serving them. Citrus fruits need to be peeled first, hard fruits like pears need to be peeled and sometimes poached. 

• Cherries with brandy or kirsch. Spoon over vanilla ice cream.

• Grapes with whisky. Fold into whipped cream with crushed meringues.

• Clementines with rum, star anise, cinnamon sticks and cloves. Serve with crème fraîche or warm chocolate sauce.

• Plums with port. Spoon over hazelnut ice cream.

• Mangoes with white rum. Serve with rum and raisin ice cream.

• Pears with vodka. Top with soured cream.

• Summer berries with kirsch. Top with whipped fresh cream.