Preserve the harvest: how to Bottle Tomatoes
Traditional recipe for how to bottle tomatoes. Use this method to preserve homegrown tomatoes or buy them in-season from the farmers market
I bottled and processed over a dozen pint and quart jars last week and have another dozen to go. The process is simple and easy and a great way to preserve a glut of tomatoes or crates of them bought in bulk. It involves a few steps including skinning the tomatoes, cutting them up, packing them in, and processing them.
Although tinned tomatoes are inexpensive there’s something special about preserving your own harvest. Imagine your homegrown tomatoes lining the pantry shelves long after they were growing on the vine. Just taking one down to use for dinner can bring you back to summer. On a more practical note, you can also guarantee that your bottled tomatoes are organically grown if that’s important to you.
Ball Blue Book Guide
There aren’t as many people in the UK who bottle their own food so finding a modern method for preserving the tomatoes involved looking to some American sources – namely the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving. If you have it at home I used the recipe and instructions given for processing tomatoes in their own juice on page 22. My own notes are below.
Recipe for How to Bottle Tomatoes
- 2.5-3.5 lbs tomatoes per Quart ~ 1.25-1.75 lbs per Pint
- Bottled Lemon Juice
- Salt (optional) – I used Sea Salt
- Mason jars, lids and screw bands
- A jar lifter
Step 1: Cleaning & Sterilizing
Inspect your jars looking for cracks or splits then wash them with soapy water and rinse well. Place all of your jars in the oven and turn the temperature up to about 180F / 82C and leave them in the heat until you’re ready to use them. This ensures that when you place the jars in the hot water bath that they won’t crack or shatter. While those are in the oven, place your lids and screw bands in a bowl and pour hot water over them, making sure not to exceed 180F/82C.
Step 2: Skin the tomatoes
Skin your tomatoes by simmering them in hot water until their skins begin to split then immediately plunging them into a basin filled with cold water. When they’re cool to the touch you can easily slip their skins off with your fingers. You can compost the skins or do as I did and set them aside for drying into tomato powder.
Step 3: Coring and cutting
Remove the cores from the skinned tomatoes and then slice them up or leave them whole depending on your preference. When slicing, you can choose to halve, quarter, on chop them however you prefer. When they’re all prepared then you can begin taking individual jars out of the oven.
Step 4: Packing the tomatoes
Add 1 Tbsp of lemon juice to the bottoms of the pint jars and doubling that amount for quarts. Pack the tomatoes and their juices into the jars leaving 1/2″ headroom. Add 1/2 tsp salt onto the top for each pint jar (1 tsp for Quarts) then place the lid on the jar and twist the screw-band on fairly tight.
Step 5: Processing
Process the jars in a hot water bath as is detailed in the below image. I felt that the 1 hour and 25 minutes processing time was a bit excessive so after looking into similar recipes I opted to go with 40 minutes at my sea-level altitude.
Step 6: Cooling the jars
Remove the jars from the pan and set them on a towel lined counter to cool. After that I labelled the jars and put them in the pantry.
Top tip for the leftover tomato skins
I found that if you dry the tomato skins out completely and then pulse them they make a delicious tomato powder. It’s similar in taste to sun-dried tomatoes and I’ve already used it in one pasta dish with plans on adding it to Goulash and other rich flavoured tomato-based recipes.