Canning Pop Quiz: What are the three easiest ways to preserve food in jars? Sugar, vinegar and alcohol. This week’s new-fashioned preserve uses all three in a fruit-heavy, sweet-and-sour sauce. The French preserve, aigre-doux, makes great use of an entire bottle of table wine, giving a new meaning to the term, “fruit bomb.”
In “The Preservation Kitchen,” author Paul Virant says he loves the traditional preserve’s versatility, serving it as a condiment or reducing it to make a vinaigrette, pan sauce or glaze. Unadulterated, it works on anything from fish or chicken to ice cream or angel food cake. This aigre-doux also works as a drink mixed with sparkling water, Champagne or Crémant (it is French, after all, but Cava, Prosecco or another sparkling wine would work—the recipe can’t see you). Or drink it straight from the jar, enjoying the warm, heady wine flavour without the alcohol-induced headache. But be warned that it will stain your lips and teeth purple, making it perhaps not a good idea for a dinner party menu.
Which Wine? The flavour of your aigre-doux depends greatly on the wine you use; a full-bodied Shiraz or Cabernet blend makes a rich, sometimes peppery fruit bomb of a sauce, while a Pinot Noir or Gamay shows more restraint. Just don’t use a wine you’d be sorry not to drink. A great Amarone or Brunello di Montalcino? Blasphemy.
Learn how to make preserves here is the Recipe for Blueberry Aigre-Doux adapted from “The Preservation Kitchen” by Paul Virant and Kate Leahy Makes: For four 250 mL jars
The point of canning is to be able to use the sauce during the winter when blueberries aren’t in season, but you can also make it à la minute with frozen berries year-round. Just don’t use frozen, unthawed berries in the recipe if you are canning it or the jars may explode from the temperature difference of the berries and boiling water in the canner. Soften them briefly in the simmering wine, then add to the jars first using a slotted spoon.
1 bottle (750 mL) red wine 1/2 - 2/3 cup (125 – 140 g) sugar (to taste) 1/3 cup (85 mL) red wine vinegar 1/2 tsp (2 g), Kosher or non-iodized salt Juice of 1 lemon 4 1/4 cups (680 g) fresh blueberries.
Sterilize 4 jars in a water bath canner or large stockpot so that the jars are covered by at least an inch of boiling water for 10 minutes. Leave in water until ready to use.
Reserve half a glass of wine for the chef (to judge its sweetness so you know how much sugar to add, mostly), then combine remaining wine with sugar, vinegar and salt in a large pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add most of the lemon juice, then taste and adjust sugar, vinegar or lemon if needed. Remove from heat but keep warm.
Soften new lids in hot, non-boiling water for 5 minutes.
Divide the berries among the clean, hot, sterilized jars. Pour the sauce over the berries to within ½-inch of the jar rims, reserving any extra. Remove air bubbles with a chopstick or long, non-metallic utensil and top up jars to ½-inch from the top if necessary. Wipe rims with a clean, wet cloth. Tighten rims to fingertip tight and boil jars for 15 minutes in a hot water canner.
Remove from heat but keep in canner 5 minutes before removing. Cool to room temperature. Store in a dark place for up to a year, but refrigerate after opening. Or skip the hot water canner processing and pour hot jam into clean jars, let cool, and keep in the fridge for up to a month.
Pour on top of grilled chicken, fish, ice cream or cake.