Monday, 11 August 2014

Old School

Its that time of year again, when I dust off the Campden Tablets and preserve a few apples, just like my Grandmother used to.

These will keep for a good 6 months and it couldn't be easier, just disolve one Campden Tablet per half pint of water, core and cut the apples and cover with the liquid. Seal well and put them in a cool dark place.

IMPORTANT; they must be well rinsed and cooked before use.

I prefer this method to water baths and all that messing about.

Heres a bit of history if you're interested, from

 Back in the days of World War 1, the Long Ashton Fruit and Cider Research Station near Bristol in the UK started to look at methods of fruit preservation for the then national emergency, and in 1919 they set up an outstation near the plum growing areas in the Vale of Evesham, at Chipping Campden in Gloucestershire. (Ironically, Long Ashton finally closed in 2003 but Campden is still thriving as a food and beverage consultancy having parted company from its parent many years ago).

The scientists at Long Ashton / Chipping Campden had been experimenting with 'cold sterilisation' using various preservative chemicals to avoid the difficult and costly use of heat in conventional fruit canning and bottling. They turned to the use of sulphur dioxide which had long been known to inhibit yeast and mould growth and was commonly used (by burning sulphur candles) to sterilise cider and wine barrels. What they found is that if the fruit were lightly packed into containers and the empty space around it was filled with a sulphite solution of around 1000 ppm in concentration, it would prevent spoilage for many months. Of course you couldn't eat the fruit with all that sulphite in it, and it had to be removed by boiling it away before use, but it was a good way of capturing a glut of fruit quickly and easily instead of it going to waste. The technique was mostly intended for commercial producers but the idea was promoted to domestic users too. To make it practicable for households and small companies to use, the research station started to market a 1000 ppm solution of sulphur dioxide as the "Campden Fruit Preserving Solution" during the 1920's and 30's.

It didn't catch on much though, until war broke out in 1939. There was a glut of fruit in the summer of 1940 and understandably people wanted to preserve it, and they had no sugar due to rationing. All of a sudden Long Ashton and Chipping Campden were inundated with requests for the "Campden Fruit Preserving Solution" and they couldn't cope. They needed an easier method so that people could prepare the solution in their own home. Hence the Campden Fruit Preserving Tablet was born.

The idea was simple. Under the auspices of the Ministry of Food, a formula was circulated to manufacturing chemists and pharmacists all over the country so that defined tablets of sodium or potassium metabisulphite could be prepared and sold to the general public. When each tablet was dissolved in half a pint of water, it gave a 900 - 950 ppm sulphite solution which was sufficient to chemically preserve one pound of fruit.)

I will update the photo as the months go by, so you can see how long they keep.

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