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Thursday, November 05, 2015

Sweet Preserving Workshop at Cornersmith Picklery, Marrickville and a Recipe for Preserving Pears


Homemade jams and preserved fruits? Who knew it could be so easy? There's an impressive sense of energy and enthusiasm that radiates from Cornersmith co-owner Alex Elliot-Howery. Her eyes positively sparkle as she explains what to do, and suddenly twelve people are peeling oranges, chopping rhubarb and busily moving about in the back area of Cornersmith Picklery, a few blocks down from Cornersmith.

We enrolled in a recent Sweet Preserving Class on a weekend. We'd be learning how to make an orange and rhubarb jam as well as how to preserve pears in sugar syrup - perfect for upcoming Christmas gifts (recipe for this included at the end of this post).

Workshop set-up for the sweet preserving class

Alex's own forays into pickling began when she started to examine more closely the foods she was eating. She stopped shopping at supermarkets, avoided imported products, focused on seasonal food and scrutinised every member in her supply chain of food. She realised there wasn't much food she was happy to purchase and decided to start creating her own.

Preserving was an artform that she soon realised met all her criteria. It was seasonal, it reduced waste, it provided surety of its contents and it was fun.

Our pot of roughly chopped rhubarb and orange

She's matter-of-fact about the learning curve involved with preserving, confessing that "I've made every mistake there is". It's reassuring to have her close to hand, and armed with recipes, we split up into groups of four and start our orange and rhubarb jam.

Orange and rhubarb jam in the making

Citrus fruits naturally contain a lot of pectin which is perfect for jam-making. Berry fruits don't have a lot of pectin, and even if you add it manually, by the time the fruit reaches a thick consistency, a lot of the flavour has gone. Alex says we need to stop trying to recreate the thickness of commercial jams and appreciate the gentle sloppiness of a homemade fruit conserve.

Our jam combines fruit with water, castor sugar, lemon juice and star anise and left to simmer.

Pears and dried fruits and spices for preserving

While the jam is bubbling, we switch to the second recipe for preserved pears. I love this idea - it's not terribly time consuming or tricky, and makes a great food gift or pantry staple.

Huge jar of dehydrated orange slices for adding to our pears 

Cornersmith co-owner Alex Elliott Howery showing us how to remove air bubbles

The folks at Cornersmith have kindly allowed me to reproduce the recipe for the pears (see the end of this post) but essentially it's a simple case of packing pears into jars, covering them with sugar syrup and then processing them in a pot of boiling water to preserve them.

Adding the cooled sugar syrup to our jars of pears

Removing air pockets and bubbles using a knife

My jar of packed pears with orange, cinnamon, cloves and syrup ready for preserving

Variations aplenty in our workshop class 

 Alex explaining processing

Meanwhile our orange and rhubarb jam continued to simmer...

taking on a deep shade of  vermilion...

until it was deemed thick enough to bottle.

Using special canning funnels to transfer our jam to sterilised jars

Alex leading us in a jam and chutney tasting

In-between jam-making and pear-preserving we were treated to a Cornersmith jam and chutney tasting. This workshop couldn't get any better!

Crusty bread from the Bread and Butter Project, Pepe Saya butter and lashings of Cornersmith jam

Cornersmith preserves

So the Sydney Royal Easter Show competitors might not be expecting an entry from me anytime soon, but this was a rewarding class that helped demystify preserving. I can't wait to crack open my preserved pears with a bowl of vanilla bean ice cream.

Grab Your Fork attended this workshop anonymously and independently. 

The next dates for the Cornersmith Sweet Preserving Workshop ($140) are:
Sunday December 13, 2015, 9am-12pm
Saturday February 13, 2016 10am-1pm

Preserved pears ready for maturing

Preserved Pears
Recipe reproduced with permission from Cornersmith

Makes approx 2 x 750ml jars

1 kg pears
1 lemon
spices of your choice eg. clove, cinnamon, star anise, peppercorns, allspice, vanilla, caradamom, bay leaves etc


Prepare jars
Give jars a good hot soapy wash and rinse well. Put jars (not the lids) in the oven at 110C for 15 min. Leave to cool. The lids are fine to air dry after being washed.

Make the syrup
Light syrup: 1 cup sugar to 4 cups water
Medium syrup: 2 cups sugar to 4 cups water
Heavy syrup: 4 cups sugar to 4 cups water

Honey can be substituted for for sugar or use half honey/half sugar
Juice can be substituted for water
If using alcohol eg brandy, reduce the amount of water by the amount of alcohol added

Preservation method
Fill a large bowl with cold water and add a good squeeze of lemon juice
Prepare your pears as your prefer - peeled or unpeeled, deseeded, and halved or quartered
Place the pears in the lemony water to stop discolouration

Place your choice of spices in the bottom of your sterilised jars
Carefully pack the pears snugly into the jars
Pour over sugar syrup, ensuring there is at least 1cm clearance from the top of the jar
Remove any air bubbles by carefully using a knife to displace the air pockets
Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean cloth and seal

Transfer to a large pot lined with a teatowel (to stop the jars rattling). Cover completely with cold water, slowly bring to the boil and simmer gently for 15 minutes

Remove jars and allow to cool
Allow to mature for at least a month before eating
Store in a cool dark place for up to six months


Cornersmith Picklery
441 Illawarra Road, Marrickville, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 8964 7463

Opening hours:
Monday to Friday 9am-5pm
Saturday 8.30am-3pm

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Cornersmith Cafe, Marrickville
9 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 11/05/2015 02:09:00 am


  • At 11/05/2015 5:13 am, Anonymous Anne said…

    I'm so sorry for randomly commenting about this but you're the only person that has ever made posts about various cream puff sellers >X<" I'm wondering if you know of any other cream puff sellers other than the one in China Town . _ . Beard Papa and Puffy seemed to have all vanished :c the craving for these puffs are real Q^Q sorry again!

  • At 11/05/2015 12:23 pm, Blogger Phuoc'n Delicious said…

    I like preserving things to use up an abundance of fruits. I never would've thought to preserve fruits like this before! Sure you make jams, but whole fruits! This is great! Definitely going to give it a try.

  • At 11/05/2015 3:00 pm, Anonymous Sara | Belly Rumbles said…

    I have been wanting to do one of the courses offered by Cornersmith for a while. Was lovely getting an insight from what you experienced. The pears look rocking, never think to preserve larger pieces of fruit, I should.

  • At 11/06/2015 3:02 pm, Anonymous Bianca@forfoodssake said…

    The workshop looks like loads of fun, I love the Cornersmiths jams. I'd be interested in dabbling in my own one day but more than anything I have an irrational fear of sterilising jars.

  • At 11/06/2015 3:21 pm, Anonymous Hotly Spiced said…

    All the jars look so pretty. My mother used to make her own preserves. It's so good that this forgotten art is coming back into the limelight. I do love the look of all the dehydrated oranges xx

  • At 11/06/2015 4:25 pm, Anonymous Brian Tam Food said…

    Looks like a great class - amazing how simple these things are to do once you learn a bit more about the methods (and pitfalls) and practise doing it once or twice!

  • At 11/07/2015 3:49 pm, Blogger Sarah said…

    You can pickle that! :)

    That looks like a fun class.

  • At 11/11/2015 3:06 pm, Anonymous Hannah said…

    devilfruit everywhere! everywhere!

  • At 11/28/2015 1:13 pm, Anonymous Martine @ Chompchomp said…

    I have always put preserving into the "too hard basket" but it actually looks pretty straight forward. What a great way to learn in a positive friendly environment - thanks!


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