There is a mysterious beige thing in my kitchen..
Nope. Wrong. I confess, I used it as I wished, what, without it having it come with any instructions or booklet of any type. You would think preserving food would be a pretty straight-forward subject, but it seemed the more I read, the more contradictions I came across. Every site, every book and every person had a different opinion on how bottling (or canning for those in the States), should be done. It was enough to give me a dull thud in the back of my brain.
I have been following the information on the USDA website, which is REALLY informative if you ever decide to take a look. There are a whole heap of detailed instructions for every type of preserve you could imagine. I got excited when I found such a plentiful supply, I printed off 80% of the texts and use them everytime I want to preserve something.
So, back to the Fowlers thingy. Basically, you plug it in, and it heats up. That's it. What's so confusing? Well, to start with, seeing as I was following the USDA directions, which says to process high acid fruit and pickles in a boiling water bath canner, that's what I did. Using my pre-loved biege thing. Yes, you plug it in, it heats up, and then starts to boil - madly! Unstoppably, well until you unplug it of course. So, that's how I've been using my ebay bargain, and of course, it was quite frightening when the thing actually did start doing it's steriod like boil. Steam would escape everywhere, the unit would rattle and shake, the bottles clanking inside and condensation would gather on the inside of the lid, and due to the wacky design, would end up trickling down the outside of the unit, dangerously close to the power outlet. I resorted to draping the huge vessel in tea towels. Many tea towels. The whole thing made me uncomfortable.
And then, what's this? I was in the hardware shop earlier this week and came across this little publication. An actual instruction book for said unit. At last, questions were to be answered. You would think so, wouldn't you?
But in fact, no, just more questions. The instructions say to pack raw fruit into jars, cover with liquid of choice, place in preserver, fill with cold water and turn it on. Leave for an hour and turn off. If it boils before the hour is up, turn it off - don't let it boil for more than 5 minutes. Leave the jars in there for the remainder of the hour and then remove.
But....but, what is this?? No boiling water? No hot packing into hot jars and into hot water? No timing from when water starts to boil?
The other thing.
All that boiling under my mysterious beige thing's belt. Oh well. It still seems to work ok.
So, now I'm intrigued. Preserving food by just heating up to temp (92c) and holding for the rest of the hour? Well, who knew. I guess that would be fine for fruit, when everything is room temp and heating up together, but what about chutneys and hot sauces? And another thing, how do they know my funky, retro ancient unit is efficient enough to heat up to temp within that hour? (especially after all of my USDA induced boiling sessions).
The book had an information number to ring, so that I did. I got a girl who told me that to bottle the chutney, first I had to cool it completely in the pan, pack it into cold jars, then into the unit with cold water to let everything heat up together. What?? That just makes me feel weird - cooling a recipe to only heat it back up again in the bottle. Why not pack it all in hot and then bung it into a hot water bath? Because the unit will boil like it's on steroids and needs to be turned off after 5 minutes. Oh. Right.
I have to give it a go, just to see how the silly thing is meant to work. As it was designed to. If I fail to post for a while, you'll know I got food poisoning from my un-boiled, gently heated bottled fruit, because I was so vigilant in following my newly found directions.