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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. Jane Greppi

    I have a pressure canner which I got from American ebay and it is MUCH hotter than the steam canner. It is also HUGE – 20 quarts – so an ideal place for recalcitrant children (when they were younger – too big now). What we did was that Zaz had a client in America who wanted some Star Wars clips (don’t ask, suffice it to say that every Jedi needs one of these to attach his/her light sabre to his belt – well, I DID tell you not to ask) and we did a swap. He ordered the pressure canner and had it delivered to his home, then removed all the packaging and sent it to me as a “second-hand” canner so I wouldn’t get clobbered for duty, and Zaz sent him an equivalent value of Star Wars clips for his devoted customers. Ah, bartering, the way forward for us all!

    I have planted a mere two dozen tomato plants and was going to distribute them among colleagues at work (always try to get people growing things), but you have made me feel sadly inferior so I will plant some more. I am hoping that my Amish paste tomatoes (which I haven’t sown yet) will be less of a disaster this year – apparently, they make a very fine passata if you can get them to ripen before they get hit by blight…

    I sing the praises of this little site as an “idiot’s guide” to preserving tomatoes. They, too, always add a bit of lemon juice to up the acid content, I notice. I can’t remember if it’s on this site, but there is a great tip on one of these places which is to put your tomatoes straight in the freezer as they ripen – just as they are. When you have enough ripe tomatoes for a bulk canning session, you take ’em out of the freezer and will find that the skins have split, meaning that it is the work of a moment to take the skins off once they defrost without all the hassle of boiling water etc.

    I have also bought a passata machine thingy from Lakeland in the sale last winter which I’m hoping to press into service this year. If I remember it at the appropriate time, I will let you know what it was like!

  2. Fiona
    I couldn’t open the link to the steam canner but from my canning book which is the official USDA guidelines, steam canners are not deemed safe as far as botulism goes. Yes, they do use less energy (and water) and I am intrigued with them myself but they are not recommended for use in home canning at this time. Water bath method is safe for many tomato products but these have added acids (vinegar or bottled lemon juice) since not all tomatoes have the same amount of acidity. The rest are pressure canned. Depends on the recipe.

  3. I canned tomato sauce last year with a water bath canner, but added a tablespoon of lemon juice and a teaspoon of salt to each pint, just in case. Half-way through the summer I purchased a 21 quart pressure canner, which is the only way to go to my way of thinking, because you can absolutely can anything with them- even meat and low acid veg.

    I gave the water bath canner to my husband, who uses it for boiling beer wort.

  4. We’re hoping for a glut too! My Mum has started 4 moneymaker and four cherry tomato plants off in her greenhouse for me. The other week I put up 16 cabbage seedlings for offer on Freecycle and the person who took them kindly gave me 6 sweet cherry tomato plants in return!

    We found that slow roasting the cherry tomatoes and then making them into passata made for a lovely base for pasta sauces, and also for soups. The difference in taste from ordinary tomatoes made for a lot of culinary experiments!

    Did you see Raymond Blanc on his BBC Kitchen Secrets series? The last one (still on iPlayer) he made tomato essence out of it… we’ve decided if we get THAT desperate from a tomato glut this year we’ll have a go at it!

  5. patricia ellingford

    I like the gadget but it definitely is not a canner as a canner is a piece of equipment that works on high pressures and temperatures very quickly, extracting air whereas the water bath method which this gadget appears to be doesn’t.

    A canner is also not what we know as a pressure cooker in this country.

    When processing fruits also need to add a squeeze of lemon juice because of low acidity in some fruits when using water bath methods as otherwise botulism can occur if the product is not processed safely. That is why it is not advised to bottle vegetables by the water bath method in this country although a lot of old cookery books give details for this because it was beleived safe at the time.

    If you want to do loads of vegetables and meats, stews etc. Your really ought to invest in a canner. I regularly keep plaguing companies like Lakeland with emails to do this, so if you want something like this maybe the only way we will get this is by bulk emails via their comments queries section on their website/catalogue site. They seem to think that there is not much demand for canners in this country!

    If you want a larger hot water bath processer there is one on the Vigo site, (wine presses and such like) which also offers a fruit juicer attachment. The body can also be used for heating up water as in a tea urn and for water bath processing bottles of prepared fruit in bulk. It is a stand alone electric appliance. This is in excess of £100 though, but if doing bulk processing would pay for itself in a short while. The more bottling as we call it in this country you do the more addictive it gets. There are various pieces of equipment out there but its about finding equipment that suits your use and purpose.

    I hope this helps.

    With kind regards

    Tricia (aka pattypan)

  6. It was your blog on passata that decided me that we had to have as many tomato plants as possible and we will have the space soon to grow them in our big polytunnel. (If I keep saying that maybe the polytunnel will get finished). Not sure how many plants I will have in the end but since we are using the Real Seed Catalogue that you also told us about then at least next year we can grow even more plants 🙂

  7. I have cannedfor 35 years. When you talk about canning tomatoes in a hot-water bath it scares me, the old fashioned tomatoes had a much higher acid content and wewre safe to just use the hot water bath. Now we can’t be sure of the acidity so MUST use the pressure canner to prevent food borne illnesses. The Multi pot has a space for questions on the website. I use a Mejha Steam juicer for my fruit and vewgetable juice. Regards, Roz

  8. Only used the last of 2009 tomatoes in March. They were faboulous and well worth the effort of growing our own. I’m not very confident with canning (more practice required!) so I slow roasted much of mine in the oven and then froze them. Not quite as good as fresh, but 100 times better then a supermarket pasta sauce.

  9. brightsprite

    We discovered homemade passata last year, Fiona, and as you say, it is definitely a whole lot better than anything you can buy.
    The recipe I followed also had a little branch of basil dropped in each jar as it was bottled – mmm, memories of Mediterranean holidays …..

  10. Sarah Gant

    Glad I’m not the only one who plants tomatoes in bulk! I pricked out 70-odd this weekend and I’ve got another 30 or 40 seedlings which are a week or so behind. I’ve not bought a tin of tomatoes since last autumn and I agree with you the home-grown version is massively better on every count.

    Last year I froze my stewed tomatoes but I’ve since learnt how to can, having found a very old canning thing (like a small dustbin) in the cellar anmogst all the other debris from the last century’s work of previous inhabitants! This allows me to process up to a dozen jars at the same time on a gas tripod. That sounds reasonably energy-efficient to me, but maybe I should investigate steam-canning, so thanks for the link.

    I must try your passata this autumn too. Home-grown bloody Marys at Christmas sound fantastic!

    As I grow just about all my tomatoes outside, fingers crossed I can keep the blight at bay.

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