A special post for those of you who have asked how I bottle my gluts of tomatoes, peppers, chillis etc. Now don't expect exact amounts and measurements, I don't cook that way, unless I'm baking which is much more of a science, I work to what I have, the frugal way. Use the best of what you have, in the combinations you enjoy and it can't really go wrong......well that wrong anyway!!
Gather together whatever it is you want to bottle.
Chop things into similar sizes ad place in a roasting tin, use your hands to mix them all together
Add some flavourings, here I've used Basil and Tomato puree, it's always worth adding some tomato puree to your tinned or homegrown tomatoes, it intensifies the flavour, if you don't have any....don't worry, just cook the tray for longer that will do the trick too!
Think about adding depth of flavour, chilli flakes, extra garlic, garlic flakes, black pepper, a dash of Worcester or Mushroom Sauce and herbs, lots of herbs, don't be afraid to experiment, really look through your spice rack, your herb pots, even dried herbs add wonderful taste combinations.
A good splash of olive oil over the veggies will make them taste yummy and stop them from charring, pop them in a hot oven (or you can do this on the stove top) and then reduce the heat after about 20 minutes. I use the Aga, moving them from the top oven to the bottom oven after the twenty minutes or so are up. And leave the tray to cook for as long as you can. Obviously I am lucky at the moment and the Aga is on all the time, so I'm not using extra fuel by this long slow cooking. That's why it can be done on the stove top, on the barest heat for a few hours, or alternatively plan to make a huge batch of this when you are having a baking day. Use the oven to the temperature it needs for your cakes or bread and cover the tray with foil if you need the heat high for a while. But always uncover for the last hour or so of cooking so that any juices can evaporate and the flavours can intensify.
Here's some peppers I did last year, good bits for us, trimmings for the chickens.
And this is what they looked like later - gorgeous colour, we're still eating these jars.
Label carefully, if you whizz things up they can tend to look alike.
Sterilise your bottles and jars by washing them in your normal way (if you have a dishwasher I think you can just give them a very hot wash and they are sterile, sorry I've never had one, but this is what I've heard), and then popping them into the oven for about 10 minutes to get completely dry and hot.
If you want to make a chunky sauce you can just bottle your veggies the way they are or you can puree them to a slightly lumpy or completely smooth sauce.
Then while the mix is still hot pop it into your sterile jars and put the tops on. If you use re-cycled jars try to use some with the little dimple in the middle that pops up when you first open it, then you will hear the pop, pop, pop as the lids are sucked down by the contents cooling and forming a vacuum.
Wait until the contents have cooled down before you pop on the labels, otherwise your stickers won't stick.
So there you have it, the simple way to bottle.
Choose your main ingredients.
Add your flavourings and pour over some oil.
Cook high briefly and then long and slow.
Puree if you want to.
Sterilise your jars.
Pour ingredients whilst still hot into hot jars and seal.
Let cool and label.
Pop in the larder, stand back and admire.
The mixes of veggies and flavourings I do vary every time.
Lovely Hubby takes chunky mixes to work on a bed of cous cous.
We use them as a pizza topping sprinkled with grated cheese.
Of course it's delicious with pasta and a sprinkle of Parmesan.
So the main thing is to relax, if you are wary of bottling, virtually any mix you do will freeze beautifully. I use re-cycled takeway tubs and margarine containers, if I run out of containers I will pop a freezer bag in a container and fill it, when the contents are frozen enough to keep their shape pull the bag out of the container and repeat over and over.
We are still eating jars from last year and indeed also the year before, the odd one will go off if the seal has been damaged, but this is very rare.
I hope this helps, if you have any questions ask them in the form of a comment (or drop me an email if you struggle to leave comments) and I'll see if I can clarify things a bit more.