The Cottage Smallholder

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How to hot water bath tomatoes: canning/bottling


Photo: Hot water bath and equipment

Photo: Hot water bath and equipment

I’ve been bottling tomatoes like a woman possessed. This might seem strange as tinned tomatoes can be so cheap if you know where to go. But these are our own organic tomatoes, they are sweeter than the tinned ones and once made they sit in the barn waiting to be added to dishes until our first tomatoes ripen the next summer.

Last year I bottled whole tomatoes and passata. Once we discovered that Bloody Marys made with homemade passata were to die for, we used up our winter supply within a couple of months. Danny was dead keen for me to grow masses of tomatoes this year for extra supplies of passata.

This year I just filled the slow cooker with chopped tomatoes (it hold 3 kilos) added a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar and 5 peeled garlic cloves per kilo and switched to auto for about four hours until the garlic cloves had softened. The long slow cooking really brings out the flavour of the tomatoes. I then passed the tomatoes through the mouli (food mill) – there is a similar one to mine here. I used the medium sieve and created a thickish tomato puree. The mouli strains out the pips and skin which negates the need for skinning and seed removal prior to cooking.

The puree can be turned into soup, reduced a bit more for passata or pizza topping or just added to dishes that need tomatoes. If your slow cooker doesn’t have an auto setting, switch to high for an hour or so until the tomatoes are bubbling and then switch to low for another three hours. The tomatoes could also be simmered in a large heavy bottomed saucepan on the stove top (lid on) and if you don’t have a mouli they could be passed through a sieve or just bottled as is.

Home bottling is pretty straightforward. The only bit of specialist equipment that is a must is the jar holder or canning tongs – as you will be placing hot jars in hot water and lifting them out at the end of the process. I bought my canning set from Lakeland. I use old (sterilised) jam jars and new plastic lined metal lids.

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. The saucepan has to give 2”/5cm headroom over the tops of the jars. Put a cake rack at the bottom (or an old tea towel) to keep the jars above the base of the pan.

Pour the hot tomato puree into hot sterilised jars and add I teaspoon of cooking salt and 1.5 teaspoons of lemon juice into each jar and stir well with a plastic spoon. This will also get rid of any air bubbles. Put on the screw top lids and twist to finger tight. Lower the jars gently into the water (my pan will hold 4 jars) put a piece of rolled up cloth between the jars to stop them knocking together and breaking. Put on the lid and continue to simmer hard for 35 mins. Remove the jars to a wooden board and check that the lids are screwed on tight. Allow to cool, after a while the lids will pop to indicate that you have a good seal and the circle in the centre will be sucked down. Label and store in a dry, dark place.
N.B. If the circle in the centre of the lids does not go down you have not achieved a good seal and the puree will need to be used immediately or frozen.

3 kilos of tomatoes generates just over 8 300-400ml jars.

  Leave a reply


  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Judy

    Thanks for the link. Much appreciated.

    Hello Jenny

    That’s great! Thank you.

    Hi Gillian

    It’s not a real concern in the UK. As long as you add the lemon juice and salt you are safe. We are still eating bottled toms from 2009 and are alive and kicking!

  2. I wonder if the toms in the UK are generally higher in acid? As someone else mentioned, all the recommendations I’ve seen with canning tomatoes say you must do it in a pressure canner which has sort of freaked me out. I don’t have a deep freeze (yet) so I dried most of my extras this year. But I want to make homemade sauce (I did try some passata near the end of the season and that was winner! More next year) Anyone know if that is a real concern or just one of those American fear things?

  3. Jenny Debeaux

    I thought I’d seen one in Lakeland but I was wrong, so I went for an internet trawl. This place sells a manual one:–Tomato-Press-Crusher–610068.html
    Delivery is £4.50 for the mainland.

    There may well be other places that do them in the UK, too.

  4. Lehmans ships internationally. Here’s their web site just for canning and preserving:

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Suky

    What a shame that Lakeland has sold out ?

    I bought my big stock pot from Ikea ages ago for about ten quid.

    Some one gave me a big carrier bag of the pop up lids and I™ve nearly used them all up. I have reused pop up lids in the past and they work just as well.

    The Amish Paste tomatoes are great. Only two plants survived and were coddled like mad. Lovely big tasty fruit. I™m saving seed to grow them next year in the solar tunnel. How did your toms turn out “ all our outdoor Red Brandywine tomatoes got blight but the ones in the greenhouse escaped.

    Hello Tamar

    It™s a matter of freezer room for me too. Also I™m keen to have food to hand that once bottled doesn™t need electricity to keep it. I dehydrate a lot of food too. I have frozen green tomatoes this year too.

    Next year we are definitely going to buy a steam canner “ quicker and more efficient and I can store food such as pasta sauces, stews etc.

    I do enjoy looking at the rows of jars too!

    The BMs were out of this world¦

    Hi Judy

    That sounds like a very nifty machine. Nothing like that over here yet. I love the idea of a non electric catalogue!

    Hi Suky

    Yep, same here!

    Hi Roz

    In Canada and America you are far more careful when it comes to canning than we are in the UK. I wouldn™t hot water bath can any veg apart from tomatoes but adding the salt and lemon juice is essential for safety.

  6. Roz Graham

    Just a warning, with some of the lower acid tomatoes now it is recommended that a pressure canner be used.(Canada)

  7. I know what you mean, Tamar. I just love that pop. For me the canning rather than freezing is about space. I have frozen loads of cherry tomatoes for my Mum to add to her casseroles and some diced for cooking for me but most of the space is taken up with frozen beans, fruit and meals for my Mum so the only other option is bottled. That and I love the look of shelves full of preserves 🙂
    Judy, I love the sound of that gadget, nothing like it available over here 🙁

  8. Over on this side of the ocean there is a device for removing seeds and skin before cooking. Mine is a Victorio.

    Clamp to table edge. Fit large, coarse screw into funnel-like screen and attach at the side.Spatter shield fits over screw & screen. Hopper on top. Handle at edge opposite screen & screw.

    Rinse tomatoes. Cut off stem end and if large, cut in half. Drop in hopper and turn, turn, turn handle. Smooth puree comes out front, seeds and skin out the side. It is easy (both amount of effort & process itself) to process a peck of tomatoes in minutes.

    There are other screens for processing blackberries & raspberries – remove seeds, and another to puree cooked squash.

    I bought mine many years ago from Lehman’s Non-electric Kitchen catalog. They have many Amish customers. Warehouse is in Kidron, Ohio.

  9. Tamar@StarvingofftheLand

    Okay, this post raises a question I have about canning. I find I have a bit of a canning addiction — I just love the sound of the pop and the rows of beautiful little jars. But is there an advantage to canning tomatoes, rather than freezing them? Frozen Ziploc bags full of tomatoes are WAY uglier, but I think just as functional, and easier to prep.

    Unrelatedly, Bloody Marys with passata is genius.

  10. Sadly the bottling set is sold out and I have yet to find a big enough pot in budget 🙁 I would love a pressure canner but again out of budget. So I use the oven method. Not ideal but we are all still alive.
    I turned my tomatoes into pasta sauce this year by roasting them with garlic, onion, peppers and chilli in varying proportions depending on what I had in the garden. I then put it through the mouli, reheated and bottled it.
    Do you know if ‘pop button’ lids are available to buy as Lakelands are just plain flat lids?
    How did the Amish Paste tomatoes do this summer?

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