Today’s guest post comes from Heather Francis. For the last six years, she and her partner Steve have been sailing around the world. They document their travels and their edible DIY projects on their blog, Yacht Kate. Enjoy!
I didn’t start canning until I moved into my smallest kitchen ever; the galley on Kate, our Newport 41’ sailboat.
The galley (boat speak for kitchen) is a typical U shape. It would politely be described as compact but I often just say that there is only room for one bum.
When I stand at the stove it feels like I am getting a hug from the countertops. It is designed this way so there are lots of places to hold onto and lean against while we are sailing. The sink, stove, pots, pans, dishes, utensils and ingredients are all within arms-reach, literally. When I cook organization is of the utmost importance and chaos occurs after a few dirty dishes are in the sink.
The first preserve I ever made was Strawberry Jam. Six months after we bought Kate in board in Southern California strawberries went on sale; $10 for 10 pints. The plan was to sail south to Panama and then across the great expanse of the Pacific Ocean to Australia. I knew we wouldn’t be seeing strawberries for a long, long time. I lugged 10 boxes of berries, a bag of sugar and a new case of mason jars across town on the trolley and set to work.
I read a couple recipes, followed the directions loosely (I have a tendency to fiddle with recipes) and in no time had a pot of jam bubbling away on the stovetop. To take my mind off of obsessively checking to see if the jam had set I turned on the oven and made a batch of bread. The cabin became unbearably hot but I didn’t leave the stove. I couldn’t. I was mesmerized by that pot and the sticky, sweetness that filled the air.
By the time I had ladled the jam it into jars and taken the bread out of the oven it was almost dark. I sat in the cockpit with few slices of warm bread and the small bowl of froth I had skimmed off the surface of the jam and watched the sun set.
Before I knew it I had eaten half a loaf of bread and most of the bottle of still warm strawberry jam. It tasted like summer. It tasted like childhood. It tasted just like the jam my Grampy used to make, well almost. That it came out of my little galley was nothing short of amazing.
Since then I have made Lemon Lime Marmalade in Costa Rica, Pineapple Passion Fruit Jam in Bora Bora, Mango Chutney in the Marquesas Islands, Sweet Pepper Jelly in the Kingdom of Tonga and recently Tomato Relish and Sweet Mustard Pickles in Fiji. Whenever there is an excess of fruit and some empty bottles you’ll find me sweating next to my little stove.
Sometimes I have to be creative as the standard canning cookbooks don’t usually have recipes that include passion fruit or mangos. Out of necessity I often have to use what I have on hand or what is available in local shops; substituting a bitter orange for a lemon, or using raw sugar instead of the near impossible to find white sugar (in the South Pacific anyway). The results may not look picture perfect but they are always pretty tasty.
I do a lot of cooking and every piece of equipment in my galley does double duty as space on a boat is at a premium. I use my pressure cooker with a standard glass lid for boiling bottles and a stainless steel or well-loved enamel cast iron pot I bought at Goodwill for cooking the preserves.
I do all the chopping, dicing and grating by hand, no matter how tedious. We depend on solar and wind power so except for a small immersion blender I don’t own any electrical appliances. If I have a really big bunch of fruit to use up I either make several small batches or borrow a large pot from another boat in the anchorage. But no one seems to mind me asking when I offer to repay the favor with a jar of homemade chutney.
I don’t remember what island we were anchored at when I opened the last jar of strawberry jam. Chances are we had been on the move for the last few months and hadn’t seen anything resembling a traditional super market in several weeks. Most likely we were getting bored of eating bananas and pineapples.
I know that it was a Sunday and Steve had made us pancakes as a special treat. And I recall searching deep in the bilge for the jar and feeling like I stuck gold when I found it. We had breakfast in the cockpit and dabbed tiny spoons of strawberry jam onto our pancakes, hoping that the little bottle would last forever. The flavours were bright and sweet and familiar. It tasted like home.
Heather Francis' Festive Mango Chutney
- 1 large onion diced
- 5 garlic cloves minced
- 1 inch fresh ginger grated
- 4 large mangos peeled and diced (about 6 cups)
- 1-1 ½ cups water varies depending on how juicy your fruit is
- ½ cup of granulated sugar
- 6 whole cloves
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 4 cardamom pods
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- chili powder to taste
- 1 cup raisins or dried cranberries
- In a large pan sauté onion in a little oil until translucent. Add garlic and ginger and sauté until fragrant.
- Add the peeled and diced mangoes, sugar and water enough to cover. Stir to dissolve sugar then add whole spices.
- Bring to a boil and turn to low, simmering with the lid on until the fruit is soft (will depend on how ripe the fruit was), about 20-30 minutes.
- Keep an eye on it and add more water if necessary to prevent burning. This should be a thick, spoon-able sauce. If there is too much liquid remove lid and reduce.
- When fruit is soft but not mushy add raisins/cranberries, chilli and lime juice simmer for 5 minutes more.
- Ladle into clean, dry jars, wipe rims, apply lids and rings, and process in a water bath for 10 minutes.
What a beautiful story. I can just feel myself inside this hot kitchen kitchen, the stovetop producing jars of delicious, piping-hot jam, everything around me sweating from the heat. I love the resourcefulness, but also the ability to truly ‘preserve’ memories.
“Everything around me sweating”, now that’s for sure! If living on a small sail boat teaches you only one thing it is definitely how to resourceful. Thanks for the note.
I’m inspired to tackle that fruit and do more with mango! Thanks for sharing! (I feel like they always get the best of me in my prep efforts)
I’m also loving that you’re requiring more of your cookware! One of the reasons that smaller batches are so effective!
Mangoes are tedious for sure, but thankfully these ones go into the pot, so it doesn’t need to look pretty. I find the best way to deal with them is to cut the two side off as close to the pit as possible, then cut each side in two or three pieces (depending on the size of the fruit) and skin them like you would fillet a piece of salmon, peel side down. Then just get as much off the pit as you can or save them to gnaw on later.
Such a tiny cozy kitchen. I thought my old apartment kitchen was small, but it must take some organization and tidiness to can in so small a space. Thanks for sharing your canning adventures.
After a trip to Hawaii with friends last summer, a couple of them are requesting passion fruit jams to relive the vacation. Passion fruit-pineapple sounds like it would be perfect.
Yes, sometimes it is a little frustrating having such a small space, but it is very comfy to cook in underway. Unfortunately I didn’t write my recipe for that one down, but there are lots of ideas online. The one thing I found made a huge difference was grating the pineapple instead of chopping it, the jam has a much smoother texture and cooks quicker. I don’t use pectin (I don’t usually have any) so mine turned out a little loose, which I like. Both are in season again here in Fiji, so I might try something again soon, and this time will post it on the website. Something about passion fruit just screams tropical doesn’t it! (Also makes for a killer margarita)
I can’t wait to give this recipe a go. I love mangoes but finding the correct and ripe ones are tricky. I grew up in Sri Lanka, and we had at least three varieties of mango trees in our yard. We loved them all. I love the combination of spices that goes into this wonderful recipe. Thank you for sharing and happy sailing…
I didn’t like mangoes until I tried one straight from the tree. I can imagine growing up with three in the yard you must have eaten them every which way. I recently tried making Spicy Mango Pickles, recipe from an Indian lady who lives up the road, which might be my new favourite thing to do with them. The mango crop was small in Fiji this year, so not as many in the jar as I would like.
This wonderful article reminded me of my teenage years in the early 1960s, even though no canning was involved. My parents had bought a 45 foot Chris Craft motor yacht. We would go on a month-long cruise in the summer.
One of the places we visited was Fox Island in the North Channel of Lake Huron. We’d cautiously sneak into a beautiful protected natural harbor and tie the boat up to trees growing out of cracks in huge boulders. It was an absolute wilderness.
Wild blueberries grew all over this island. One day we kids were sent out to pick what we could. Returning to the boat, we gave them to my Mom. who, in the cramped and primitive galley, somehow made and baked a pie.
Absolutely the best blueberry pie ever. One of my favorite memories.
I am glad this brought back some nice memories, thanks for sharing. How lucky to spend time on a boat as a child! I haven’t seen a blueberry in years, and oh for a slice of that blueberry pie.
I love everything about this post! <3
Kudos to you Heather! Ten years ago I was a landlubber who married a 1914 still working 60′ seiner boat along with my new husband. My first year of marriage included full conversion on a shoestring budget, learning to cook on a diesal stove, and a kitchen made up of one sloped counter and tiny sink. Like you, everything was done by hand. My first canning project was in August on Vancouver Island on a wood stove (no propane & diesal doesn’t get hot enough). I ran out of room and did the water bath and rings on the bbq outside. I don’t even remember what I made. I do remember stoking up the wood stove until it was 45 degrees celcius inside with the doors open. My husband said I was nuts and left for the day. You didn’t mention the juggling act of squeezing out as much use as possible out of the hot water. We live on a mooring and pack our water. Thanks again for the post and you have a beautiful galley!
A diesel stove, WOW! We use the BBQ a lot as well, most recently when the oven died, but I have never tried to boil a big pot of water on it. hmmmm…..
Good point about the water. Since the pot is full of clean, hot water after canning I use it for clean up too…and probably a little bird bath in the sink as well! We don’t have a water heater on board so a pot full of pipping hot water will not be wasted. Being water conscience is just so second nature now that I hardly think about mentioning it, thanks for the reminder!
I just processed 8 jelly jars of this. I liked the dried cranberries but I also like the dried sweet cherries so I out both in. My Kroger had pineapples for $0.99 last week. Yes, this had pineapple in it. Instead of grating the pineapple, I ran it through the blender
I noticed that the pH seemed not low enough for my tastes. I like things a bit tangier. so I added a little vinegar until it had a bit more tanginess.
The jars are singing as the lids pop.
Thanks for the inspiration, Heather!
Did you actually test the pH? Or are you just using that phrase to express acid?