The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Home bottled tomatoes and passata. Plan in spring for your autumn harvest.


Photo: September tomatoes

Photo: September tomatoes

Back in September Danny thought that I was crazy when I started to bottle (can) our tomatoes.
“Tinned tomatoes are so cheap to buy from the supermarket.”
“But I’m trying to avoid being dependant on the supermarkets. And anyway our tomatoes are organic and will taste much better.”

I used the oven method, having invested in some Kilner jars from Lakeland. I also hot water bathed tomatoes and homemade passata in screw top jars. But I was concerned with the expensive energy output of both these methods. This year I’m planning to invest in a steamer for bottling/canning as this makes the process much quicker so is far cheaper on the energy front. If you have a steam canner you can also bottle a whole range of vegetables that are not safe using the hot water bath method. I have even investigated importing one from America (the postage is the same as the canning steamer so it comes in at in at well over £100). Then I spotted this 15 l Multi-purpose Panon the Westfalia site. It’s definately a hot water bath but I’m not sure whether it’s a steam canner though – what do you think?

When we forgot to buy tomato juice for the occasional weekend brunch Bloody Mary we turned in desperation to the jars of homemade passata. This was an amazing discovery – the homemade passata was so much better than the tomato juice and we used up our entire winter supply in a matter of weeks. Danny now has plans for growing a tomato forest this year. And is now very keen on all homemade bottled tomato products. Obviously his favourite is homemade passata.

The bottled tomatoes also taste so much better than the cheap cans from the supermarket. So if you can squeeze a few more tomato plants this spring it will be well worth the investment. Your autumn harvest will be a joy rather than a glut. Tomatoes can be safely bottled using the hot water bath method.

At the moment our home grown tomato plant count is 79. But I am planning to sell some tomato plants on the gate side stand. We are still at odds over how many plants to keep. Watch this space.

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  1. Domestic Executive

    Tomatoes have been the flop crop this season in New Zealand although the sunshine this autumn has finally ripened some of mine. I’m up for next year’s crop already!

  2. Eleanor the Great

    Hello! Delurking momentarily for this one. 🙂

    Roslyn mentions that water bath canning is not the best method for with tomatoes, but as long as you are adding acid (as Linda mentions) such as lemon juice, you should be alright. Older books of water bath canning recipes for tomatoes often don’t have enough acidity, but you can usually remedy it with lemon juice or vinegar. Acidity is key in water bath canning! That’s why you can process pickles in a water bath canner, but not beans or anything with low acidity. For those you need a pressure canner! (not to be confused with a pressure cooker…)

    Linda also mentions that the USDA doesn’t approve of steam canning, which is probably true, but they don’t really approve of the type of jelly or jam preserving that doesn’t heat up your jars for a certain amount of time, or oven preserving, and both of those are not particularly dangerous. I prefer the reliability of water bath canning with two piece lids, but that is how I was raised, and a lot of people still just put wax on top of their jellies.

    On a personal note, my mother has been canning for most of her life, and was given a steam canner by someone. She has had little to no luck. It seems to work on the things that some would say don’t even need processing (such as jams and jellies), but it doesn’t have the same reliability of a water bath canner on other things, such as large chunks of fruits in syrup or other such things that don’t heat up as much during cooking. The steam canners just don’t seem to get hot enough for reliable canning.

    I’ve seen electric canners that are basically water bath canners that have an internal element, and also wood-burning water bath canners. I would really like to someday have a pressure canner myself, as they are much more versatile and the only really reliable type for less acidic things! (I think that this is what Patricia Ellingford is referring to above when she is talking about “canners,” although it is much more common to call them pressure canners here in the US, and waterbath canners are called canners more generally, as they are much more common.)

  3. Just a thought how does the dehydrator work with tomato? And then stored in olive oil, with herbs perhaps… cottage take on sundried tomatoes?? Would it work? Have you tried?

  4. Yum! Just be sure to spread the plants out (and to prune some of the leaves) so that there’s plenty of air getting to them all. I made the mistake last year of over-crowding the green house and it resulted in early rampant blight. I got ruthless promptly and managed to save many plants long enough for a half decent hoard though.

  5. Hi Fiona,

    I had a look at the Westfalia pot and it’s definitely not a pressure canner or pressure cooker as in the description – that’s a mistranslation. What they meant is a steamer. It’s mainly a juice extractor working with steam – quite a popular piece of kit in rural Germany.

    hope you find a decent pressure canner.


  6. Jenny Debeaux

    Why don’t you investigate pressure cookers in the UK? I’ve just been on an American website and read the horror stories about canning/bottling with just steam or boiling water – and then read the bit about using a pressure cooker. There are plenty to choose from here and perhaps the bigger ones are for industrial use as opposed to the smaller ones for family meals. I do have a pressure cooker but was thinking of using it for dyeing silk; I may now use it for bottling etc. Roll on the summer and a tomato glut!!!!

  7. Jean Damgaard

    Hi Fiona,
    I’ve been eyeing that steam juicer from Westfalia, however I don’t think I would use it as a steam canner. I do think we could lobby Lakeland as Patricia mentioned. A French site has pressure canners, look under Cuisson pression,vapeur, page 5/6/, they cost an arm and a leg. Look under the le parfait website and see if they have any leads to a steam canner

    I know I will eventually buy an AA canner from the States, they have less spare parts to replace.

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