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.