Bottling Tomatoes using the Water Bath Method:
Step-by-Step Tutorial with Images & Recipe
Not so many years ago, and as recently as when my mum and dad were growing up, we were a nation of “bottlers”; we would not think twice about preserving the summer bounty of fruit and vegetables from our gardens, allotments and with all of the produce that neighbours, friends and family might have given us. My parents remember their parents, my grandparents, bottling and preserving every year, and the most popular bottled ingredient was tomatoes. Nowadays we are more likely to reach for a “tin of tomatoes” in the supermarket, but, if you DO have access to home-grown tomatoes, then this is the way to preserve them for the winter, and it’s a really easy method that has served our parents and grandparents before them for years and years. Bottling was not just popular for “country folk” either; my paternal grandmother lived on the outskirts of London and was a keen preserver……my grandfather did have a small garden, but most of the their neighbours had allotments if they didn’t have gardens – so there was always a “glut” of something throughout the year to preserve. Bottling and preserving was very popular (and indeed encouraged) throughout the wartime years too, as people tried to save what they had for the harsh winters ahead.
It doesn’t matter now often you use your tomatoes in cooking and for salads etc, there always seems to be an excess of them, and this simple water bath method of preserving them is a great way to save them for the winter months ahead. Not only that, but if you don’t grow your own, then look out for cheap end of season bargains, where cases of tomatoes can be picked up for not much money, especially at the end of the day at farm shops and markets. I love this water bath method of bottling, and bottle all manner of things this way, such as onions, peppers, cherries, apples, pears, plums and also potted meats and fish – more recipes for those to follow soon, as well as recipes for pates, terrines, rillettes and pie mixes too .
I have had kilos and kilos of tomatoes this year, both from the garden as well as from my neighbour’s allotments and the local farmer’s markets; they have kept on coming and we have eaten them every day, in salads and cooked recipes. But there finally comes a time when you need to think about preserving them, and with a newly acquired toy on the “batterie de cuisine” front, namely an electric steriliser, I decided to bottle (or can, as our North American cousins say) the main glut of our tomatoes. I have always lusted after one of these, as they take so much of the oven and water bath hassle out of safe preserving, and my new steriliser has a nifty little “set temperature” and “set time” function, so you can walk away once the bottles are immersed and cooking. NOTE: You can use this water bath method on the hob top (with a thermometer) and in the oven, as my grandparents used to do when they preserved this way.
I am sharing a simple recipe for Bottled Garden Tomatoes today, but, I will be adding variations on this recipe on Lavender and Lovage over the next few weeks, so you can see what else can be done with the basic bottled tomato recipe. This recipe calls for any glut of garden tomatoes you have available, but I have bottled beefsteak tomatoes, tomatoes en grappes, plum tomatoes and cherry tomatoes very successfully with this method. The main thing to remember when embarking on a project such as this is to be well prepped; you need several jars that have been washed and sterilised, as well as lemon juice, sea salt and sugar to hand. You also need to make sure that you have enough rubber sealing rings, if you are using the Kilner or Le Parfait method of bottling. There are also the jars that have screw top lids with separate seal caps; you must make sure you have enough of the separate seal caps. (This method uses the Familia Wiss Jars) Make sure your work area has bowls to tomato skins, and plenty of chopping boards to cut the tomatoes. I hope that this recipe will prove useful, as a basic method, for those of you whom have a “surfeit of tomatoes”, and if using the oven or water bath method on the stove top, please remember to make sure you have a reliable thermometer handy.
I will share the step-by-step method with images below and then share the printable recipe at the end of the post……so, you can choose how to follow the method. I hope this step-by-step tutorial will help if you embark on a bottling project yourself – when I came to look for recipes for this method on-line recently, I discovered a lack of anything that was helpful……so, I have developed my own recipes and methods, that have been triple tested already! That’s all for today, I will leave you with my bottled tomatoes recipe and method, and see you soon,Karen
Recipe: Bottled Garden Tomatoes
Clean jars with appropriate sealing rings or screw caps
Have a large bowl handy and a kettle for boiling water.
Score the bottoms of the tomatoes with a knife into a cross shape and then in small batches, put the tomatoes into the bowl and pour over boiling water. Allow the tomatoes to sit in the water for 2 minutes, then pour the water away and skin the tomatoes, peeling them where the cross was cut into the base.
Discard the skins and then chop finely, for chopped tomatoes, or cut into quarters. You can also bottle the tomatoes whole if you wish.
Put 2 teaspoons of lemon juice, 2 teaspoons of sea salt and 1 teaspoon of caster sugar in the bottom of a 0.5 litre jar. (Use less lemon juice, salt and sugar if using smaller jars, or more for larger jars)
Pack the tomatoes in tightly, leaving a 2.5cm (1”) gap at the top, so the tomatoes and juice does not seep out during preserving.
If your tomatoes are not very red, you can mix a tablespoon of tomato purée with boiling water and pour some into the packed jars.
Seal the jars and clip them down, if using the rubber sealing method, and place them into the steriliser.
Fill the steriliser with water (to the correct level), turn it on and set the temperature for 100C (200F) and the processing time for 45 minutes. Process for the correct time and leave to cool in the water until the water is cold. Check the seals to make sure they have formed a vacuum; if any jars are not sealed, process again.
Please note, if using a large saucepan or the oven bath method for this recipe, the same time and temperature applies.
Tomatoes preserved this way will keep for up to 2 years or more, in a cool, dark and dry place.
Variations: Herbs and Spices can bee added before processing: