The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

First tentative steps with hot water bath processing


Photo: Vast pot

Photo: Vast pot

I woke up a few nights ago and realised that we had a water bath for processing our garden bounty hanging in the Bee Shed. This is a vast laundry pan with a double base.

I have been boning up on hot water bath canning/bottling. I just wanted to process fruit and tomatoes for the winter. Other vegetables are being pickled, frozen or will be when the Food Dehydrator
eventually arrives from Germany.

Danny was suspicious.
“If you put glass jars with lids on into boiling water they will explode. And you will break your precious Kilner jars.”
“You don’t do the tops up tight so that air can escape.”

What he didn’t know was that was not going to use my precious Kilner/Le Parfait jars. I had done some reading and spotted that the Pear Butter that Suzanne and Georgia made in Chickens in the road was put into jam jars before being water processed (not pressure canned). Also I’d read Rhonda’s (Down to Earth) article on frugal hot water bath canning. She uses jam jars too.

Later on D pushed open the kitchen door to see me filling jam jars with peeled baby plum tomatoes, hot tomato juice and a good dash of lemon juice in each – the latter advised by Jackie.
His eyes swept over the jars.
“You can’t do that! They’ll explode!”
“But I’ve seen jam jars being used on the Internet.”
He looked quite white.
“They’re good sites. Not bomb making ones. You put the lids on but not very tight so air can escape. Anyway the pan has a lid if they do explode.”
I was attaching my jam thermometer to the side of the bubbling abyss so as to check that I had the right temperature.
“Well I’m staying upstairs until they’re done.”
Quite a canny ruse as this meant they I had to make supper.

Danny refused to enter the kitchen and chilled beers had to be passed over the threshold into the safety of the sitting room. My 500ml and 250ml jars of tomatoes were submerged in the water bath for an hour. By the end even I was getting a bit jumpy and keeping my distance from the cauldron. Finally the timer trilled and I was able to lift the jars out onto a towel to cool. The jars hissed like mad as I lifted them with my nifty tool. Once the jars were out and resting, I tightened the lids firmly.

As we ate our supper we were entertained by a chorus of pops as the seals compressed down.

If you are going to try hot water bath processing make sure that you bone up on it very well before hand. Vegetables, other than tomatoes or pickles and chutneys, need to be pressure canned as they can be prone to developing the spores that cause botulism if not canned/bottled correctly. Meat and fish also require pressure canning. Pressure canning takes far less time and uses less energy. You can buy pressure canners in the UK for around £100.  
Useful links:
Down to Earth canning instructions detailed canning intructions inluding tables for weights and temperaures

Pick your own  masses of information and canning suppliers

  Leave a reply


  1. mauramac

    Thanks for reply – think I may have confused the question by mentioning the lack of a lid on the water bath so sorry for that. I only use new jam jar lids but have discovered that sometimes it is very difficult to get a good fit on to the jars when both the lid and the jar is so hot. On this occasion I put the lids on the jars but only tightened them slightly to allow air to escape when processing them in the water bath. When I went to fully tighten them after the processing they just turned and turned and had no grip so I had to replace them with clean sterilised lids. I have only made 3 jars and will keep them for our own use so I can see how they keep (or not). I buy the lids from a factory who only produce glass jars and lids so I assume they are of good quality so can only assume it was the heating of the lids which effected the grip.

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