If I can do it, anyone can.
I’m so glad I put my hands on this little lovely book of “579 recipes for preserving fruits & vegetables and making jams, jellies, chutneys and pickles” by Beryl Wood, published by Square Peg 2011, © Beryl Wood 1970.
It serves people far better in preserving than me, as well as beginners as myself. I loved going through its pages when freshly bought with a gardening magazine earlier this summer, and looked forward to my own jars full of goodness.
I wholeheartedly enjoyed the process so much! Because it is not just you all hot and sweaty in the summer heat, standing there in the kitchen at the cooker, stirring the bubbly sticky sweet mixtures. It truly takes much more.. Mostly joyous activities, smile and wink.
First step – get your fruits (or veggies) – it makes a great family outing opportunity when you decide to go picking your own fruit. This had served us so well few times – taking our children for a lovely afternoon out, picking the berries or apples. Fantastic moments of doing something very worthy – the work is not hard at all thanks to amazing PYO farms in beautiful Kent. Or else, on another occasion it was a lovely meet up with friends over the summer school holidays, picking berries, play and picnic – I mean, who would say no to that? Smile again.
Then there is the photographic and stylistic challenge – fruits and veggies are so photogenic, just calling for all those clicks! You go trying different props, different backgrounds, settings, lighting arrangements, you name it.
Going lighter.. with raspberries. In natural light (see the image above) and in artificial light (see the image below). Using reflectors to enhance their colour or freshly sprinkled drops of water – with fresh fruits & veg always keep your water spray handy, aim well.
Going darker.. with blackberries. Try new lighting or styling scheme. For quite some time I thought the best in food photography is to fill in all the shadows, which of course, is not quite so true. You need shadows, they bring on the texture of the food pictured, and also, have magical powers in creating a certain mood.
Compare the two above images, and you can see what I mean – fresh, bright, energizing raspberries, and on the other hand, darker, almost gloomy blackberries. I chose the styling & lighting according to what each of the berries awoke in me – judged mostly by a couple of factors – their colour, taste, shape and texture, and where they come from, too . Raspberries come from bushes grown in open fields, with lots of sunshine surrounding them – so I allowed more light onto them, with more reflectors, they’re all wrapped in light, they pop out at you in all their colourful beauty.
I picked blackberries on the wood sides, that are a bit darker, and their sweetness when fully ripe is much deeper, and it also takes more time to ripen. I went for darker setting, I let less light in, I blocked the light and directed it the way I wanted. Blocking the available light well is just as demanding as reflections, maybe even more.
All this comes to my mind when I create my images, because since ever I started shooting food, or anything, I always think of a concept, of a story that may be behind each and every picture. And I love that about my work.
After fruits, you go looking for nice jars – you may collect them few months ahead while buying and using shop bought preserves, or go and get brand new ones. I did it both ways, some shop bought preserves are sold in such lovely shaped jars it is hard to resist them – plus, everyone at home is used to the fact there’s something sweet in them. Smile.
When shopping for styling, go definitely for some classic, or typical shapes.
Then there’s the recipes. Of course all my blogger friends already know that testing a recipe takes few turns before it is actually published. If you choose to do something just for the photos’ sake, trying lighting, and still want to enjoy the home making, use recipes by another author, giving credits or information where they originate in your post.
Get your ingredients ready, and experience the joy of preserving a bit of one season for the seasons to come – it really is wonderful to just reach to your shelf and get all the fantastic stuff from under the lid – the picking, the preparing, the cooking.. spread on your toast, or enjoyed with a biscuit and cheese… Like my jams and chutney.
I’ve got two berry jam and apple chutney recipes for you, using the book by Beryl Wood mentioned above.
Raspberry Conserve (or jam):
920g raspberries; 1.1 kg sugar; water
Clean and husk berries; put in pan with very small quantity of water to prevent sticking; bring slowly to boil, stirring gently; add sugar, stirring till dissolved, boil for 3 min; pot and cover.
Blackberry Jam :
910g blackberries, 450g sugar, 2 lemons
Husk and pick over fruit carefully; lay on large dish, cover with sugar and juice of lemons; stand overnight; put into pan on gentle heat, stirring till sugar dissolved, then boil for 45 min, or to set.
For both jams I used preserving sugar.
Apple Chutney :
There are many variations of apple chutney, but the cooking principle is the same and very simple. The apples should be peeled, cored and coarse chopped together with any other fruit or vegetable used, the whole spices tied in a muslin bag; put all ingredients in a pan, simmer gently for about 1 h or until mixture thickens, remove muslin bag, pot and seal.
I used these ingredients (chosen from more options):
450g apples, 450g onions, 340g brown sugar, 500 ml malt vinegar, 15 g each ginger, turmeric and curry powder, salt to taste. I also added fresh ginger to add more heat.
Hope you enjoy many happy moments preserving and shooting!
“And don’t forget,” as the author of the recipe book says, ” do experiment with mixing fruit and vegetables and flavours – the most outstanding things can result quite accidentally.
Mind you, there also can be some horrors, too, but a little practise and even more ingenuity can make you the envy of many an accomplished hostess and ‘your recipe’ will be much sought after.”
I guess some of her advice may very well be applied to photography, too. Practise, or even experiment sometimes with some new settings, styling, and you may come to some new lighting, styling or compositional ideas, or make sure you developed the very special style unique to you which will make your images stand out among others.