Well, I took the plunge yesterday and made some bottled / canned tomatoes. Actually, it wasn’t that difficult it was just that there were so many different stages and it was the first time. I wanted to fill the bottles with whole, peeled tomatoes and have these in a sauce, not unlike a tins of toms that you buy. So that meant skinning a load of toms of course and making the sauce. Plus all the bottles had to be sterilised not to mention getting the food mill out – the kitchen looked a real mess.
In fact buying the glass jars was the first challenge. We’ve only been able to get 750ml sized ones, and these are a touch too big, half litre would’ve been better. And the spare rubber rings (which apparently should be changed every time) don’t seem to be for sale… one of the reasons for bottling was to be able to reuse all the jars again so I do hope we can find the rings somewhere.
Back to the bottling: eventually all the whole toms had been peeled and ready for the jars, but I realised that I hadn’t got enough for the sauce. Next time I’ll have a load of sauce all ready made in advance, and then that just needs to be heated and poured in. So one jar was filled with tom sauce, one half and half sauce and water, and the third only water (which is apparently normal to use).
The huge pan I had ready for the bottling, my jam-making pan, turned out not to be quite big enough. The jars, once filled, need to be closed and completely submerged in water. There was perhaps only 2 cm of water above the jars so that had to be regularly filled up. Then the water needs to brought to a simmer and maintained at 88C for 40 minutes. 40 minutes of checking the water level and checking the temperature… it was great though to see the steam coming out of the jars which hopefully meant they were going to be sealed ok.
This morning, the jars having been left to cool in the water, I gingerly took them out. Looked ok. And then the seal test – the clips were undone and hurrah! it wasn’t possible to open the lids so sealed tight. Job done. I’ll have another go now if I can find some spare rubber rings, I’m rather reluctant to buy more jars if they can’t be used again. It’s good to have another way of preserving up our sleeves though, much cheaper to put up more pantry shelves than buy another freezer!