Late autumn preserving

Late autumn preserving

Immature and mature figs – photo by Karen Sutherland

So, the days are getting shorter, the nights are colder, and the sun’s warmth is welcomed rather than being seen as a blowtorch in the sky. Summer kitchen gardens give way to preparation and planting of produce for winter and spring, and there is that age old conundrum of when to remove the tomato plants, if they are still producing. Cherry tomato fruit can be picked as clusters or on long stems, to be hung up under shelter to gradually ripen, and larger tomatoes can be lined up on a sunny windowsill to develop, but there are often surplus unripe tomatoes that are too immature to ripen well. Figs also can have a lot of unripe green fruits at this time of year, that seem like they will never ripen, and if you’re growing them in Tasmania or similar climates, they probably won’t.

Instead of the compost heap, turn green garden fruits into pantry preserve gold, with these two recipes for unripened fruits. You’ll be avoiding waste and value-adding to your garden harvest!

Preserved Baby Green Figs

Preserved green fig – photo by Ann Stevens

Unripe green figs at this time of year can seem like a wasted opportunity, but here’s a way to transform waste into delicious pantry preserves. Originally a recipe from Greece, our family loves figs and has taken to making these. A versatile preserve, these figs are equally delicious served as a savoury with prosciutto or on a cheese platter, or as a dessert with a sharp Greek yoghurt, some tangy gelato, or a drizzle of cream. These keep for a long time in the fridge and make great gifts.


  • 2 lbs / 0.91 kg unripe baby figs (choose figs that are about ? size of the mature fruits for that variety)
  • 3 lbs / 1.36 kg brown sugar
  • Water as needed, and 3 cups water for syrup
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 10-12 cloves
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • Sprinkle of ground cinnamon


  • Rinse figs & poke a hole in the bottom of each one with a Phillips screwdriver ~6mm, similar in size to a pen, remove any stems from fruit.
  • Soak figs in water for a few hours
  • Drain and refresh water then boil for 1 minute
  • Drain and put into cold water to cool and then drain again
  • Boil for another 15 mins in fresh water
  • Drain and refresh water then boil for 1 minute
  • Put into cold water to cool, then drain


  • Boil the sugar and 3 cups water for 5 minutes
  • Add figs to syrup and boil for 15 mins
  • Turn off and leave in syrup for 12 hours
  • Remove figs and boil only the syrup until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, at least as thick as maple syrup, thicker is better.
  • Replace figs into syrup and add lemon juice, cloves, vanilla, and cinnamon.
  • Boil all together for 5 minutes.
  • Pour into clean sterilized jars & store. (suggested jar size is 250-300 ml)


Ettie’s Green Tomato Pickles – from ‘Tomato – Know, Sow, Grow, Feast’

Etties green tomato pickles – photo by Linda Hampton

Makes about 9 small jars

The smell of my Nanna’s pickles cooking always bring back memories of childhood summers. Our family has grown up with these slightly sweet pickles on summer salad plates with corned beef and sliced fresh tomatoes. My cousin took over from his mum, but my mum still makes this lovely pickle for our family and my husband, and I love it for breakfast with our home-grown eggs. You really need to grow your own to make these pickles, as green tomatoes can be hard to source.

Ingredients – stage 1

  • 1.8 kg (4 pounds) green tomatoes
  • 450 gm (1 pound) onions
  • 225 gm (1⁄2 pound) green beans
  • 900 gm (2 pounds) sugar
  • 1⁄2 litre (2 pints) vinegar
  • A sprinkle of white pepper
  • 1 level tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 dessertspoons cloves
  • 1 dessertspoons whole peppercorns

Ingredients – stage 2

  • 3 dessertspoons cornflour
  • 1 dessertspoons turmeric
  • 1 dessertspoons mustard powder
  • Small amount apple cider or
  • White wine vinegar

To prepare ingredients, chop tomatoes into cubes, remove tops from the beans and cut them into 2 cm long pieces. Set aside. Place all ingredients into a large cooking pot and sprinkle with half a handful of salt. Leave the pan overnight with the lid on. In the morning, drain off the liquid and add sugar, vinegar, white pepper, and cayenne pepper. Also add peppercorns and cloves tied up in a muslin or calico spice bag. Place pan over a medium-high heat and bring to a low boil and boil for 1 hour.

After one hour mix the cornflour, turmeric, and mustard power with a small amount of apple cider or white wine vinegar. Gradually add to the cooking pot, stirring well. Boil for approximately another 5 minutes after all combined, stirring continuously during this time.

Remove from heat. Bottle while hot into warm sterilised jars. Leave to cool with a tea towel over the top before putting lids on.

Karen Sutherland

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