Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Bottled Tomatoes - Another Way to Preserve

Last year when I had an abundance of tomatoes, I discovered how to bottle tomatos. This meant I wasn't taking up precious freezer space and I wasn't having to use all the tomatoes only in relish and chutney.

This year I have started to bottle the tomatoes again but I plan on doing a whole lot more than I did last, as it's so handy for pasta sauce and soups later when there are no lovely tomatoes around.

I have three varieties of tomato in my garden this year, all of which I have used for this sauce.

Traditional passata is made of tomatoes only, seeded, skinned and boiled for 6 or more hours. I don't do that as I don't like to waste the seeds or skins so what I do is, chop and core the tomatoes, bring them to a boil on the stovetop for approx 20 minutes, add a few handfuls of basil and then put them into old pasta bottles which have the "pop top" lids to seal them. The only thing I add to the tomato mix is a 1/4 tsp of Citric Acid (per bottle) which helps preserve the tomatoes and keep the acid levels safe. If I feel like it, I might also blend the tomatoes with my bar mix stick but this is not essential, just personal preference.

To seal the lids, place the bottles of tomatoes into a water bath on the stove top. Trying to keep space between each bottle (otherwise they tend to clash against each other and this risks breakage) and bring the water to the boil. You need to keep the water boiling until the bottled tomatoes are hot right through which is probably about 20 - 30 minutes. The lids only need to be loosely screwed on during this process but when you turn the heat off the stove, you need to tighten the lids as tight as you can manage. Be careful at this point as you will be working with extremely hot glass bottles. Use a good tea towel to protect your hands.

I leave the bottles of tomatoes in the water bath whilst it cools. As the heat reduces, your "pop top" lids should seal by "popping" inwards (the lid will indent inwards and you often literally hear a pop noise as it does this). If one of your jars doesn't seal then repeat the above process with the water bath. I had one not seal until my third attempt this batch but it gets there eventually!

I can not tell you how much I enjoy a good pasta and even more so when it's made from my own organic, sweet tasting tomatoes and this is a seriously good way of ensuring that you have those tomatoes all year round. Discovering how to preserve this way has probably been the most valuable preserving method I have discovered in the last few years and it's super easy. Well worth it in my book any way!

Note: some of the pulp might separate from the liquid in your jars over time during the year. This doesn't mean there anything wrong with your bottled tomatoes and when you use the jar it all mixes back together any way.

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