Preserving the bounty of the season

Category: Prahran, South Melbourne

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Plums, peaches, nectarines and apricots piled high; tomatoes, plump and plush, sending their sweet perfume through the market stalls.

It’s late summer and at Essential Ingredient we embrace the sweet fruits of the season so much we also love to preserve and pickle them to have them available through the cooler months.

The act of preserving food goes back to ancient times, when the sun dried seasonal fruits and vegetables and the ice froze fish and meat. In the pursuit of survival, human beings needed to hold what was in bounty of the current season and devised ways to carry them into the following seasons to keep well-fed.

The end of summer sees the desire to keep eating stone fruit, and using tomato passata and when autumn kicks in if we can’t access the fruit in its fresh, fleshy state we can enjoy it year-round, sweetened in jam or pickled in a chutney or relish or pureed into a sauce.

The equipment you need to achieve these results include large pots, different sized jars and funnels, sturdy tea towels, spoons and spatulas, moulis as well as sugars, vinegars and a market right next door – Prahran or at South Melbourne – to buy boxes of fresh stone fruit and lush tomatoes.



Chances are, if you live in Melbourne, you have friends with Italian heritage who still hold a family tomato day, and if you don’t, there’s no better time than this time of year to start your own.

The last month of summer and into autumn, heralds the end of the tomato season and is the right time to make passata – an uncooked tomato puree strained of seeds and skins, that is then sealed into glass bottle to utilise and keep well-fed through the winter.

At Essential Ingredient we have the the equipment you need to set up your tomato day and markets next door to both our shops to buy your boxes of plump tomatoes.


We mentioned the glass bottles but the other key piece of equipment for tomato day is a Mouli – a kitchen utensil for grinding or pureeing food – to separate the tomato juice from the skins and flesh, you need to run the tomatoes through the mouli. To do this, place the tomatoes in the bowl of your mouli then turn the handle to start the process. The turning action will squeeze the ripe tomatoes to extract the juice while separating the liquid from the skins and flesh.

The bowl at the bottom of the Mouli will catch the juice extracted and then it will be time to do the bottling. This is why it’s call a Tomato Day – it takes time and a group of people to get it done.


Vinegar is one of the most important ingredients in successful chutney-making. Like all ingredients, it must be of good quality and have an acetic acid content of at least 5%. Malt, distilled malt vinegar (white) or wine vinegar can be used. If you check on the bottle it will usually tell you the degree of acidity. This can range up to 8%. We have a vast and varied selection of vinegars at Essential Ingredient so come in and ask about what would be best for the chutney or relish you’re planning. Click here for more information on the art of great vinegars and what’s good for what purpose in the kitchen. 

We have all you need at Essential Ingredient to get you started, so pop in soon to get preserving!







Here’s a few fun facts about Stone fruit: 

The botanical name for the stonefruit variety is Prunus.

In Australia, the stonefruit season is from November to March.

The optimum temperature to store ripening fruit is between 15 – 22C

Only store stonefruit in the fridge to extend storage life once soft and juicy, refrigerating before this stage can make the fruit turn brown and lose its flavour

Plums come in a range of colours and generally become dull just before they are ready to eat.

Peaches are members of the same fruit family as almonds.

The sweetest nectarines have small white spots (speckle) on the top half.










A recipe by Caroline Gray.

Makes: 10 x 300ml jars


1.2lt water  or  1.2ltr white wine vinegar

750g   white sugar

2tbs  allspice, whole

2tbs    star anise

6     cinnamon quills

100ml  lemon juice

2        lemons, rind only

2kg     peaches, stone removed, peeled & sliced



  1. Place all ingredients except peaches in a pan & bring to the boil.   Turn the heat down to a rolling boil & cook for 5 minutes to allow the flavours to release.
  2. Add peaches & bring back to the boil, then simmer until peaches soften & still hold their shape.
  3. Jar into sterilised jars, dividing the spices & lemon rind evenly between the jars (remove excess spices if desired).



This recipe can be used as either a sweet preserve which is delicious with vanilla bean ice cream or a pudding or as a savoury preserve to pair with duck, pork or black pudding.















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