Monday 5 September 2011

Preserving the Gluts

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.

Sue xx


  1. But DO remember to label once hjars have cooled. Husband tried to put some 'dark marmalade' on his croissant this morning- I only JUST stopped him opening one of the new jars of Friday's spiced chutney!
    blessings x

  2. YUMMY !

    RE last comment & labelling - Jess is incharge of provisioning for the crossing she & hubby will be doing. They have to write in indelible ink what's on the tins as sometimes the labels get damp & soak off so you end up opening a tin of apricots when you want tomatoes !

  3. PS: I read a lovely thing the other day ( you may know it ) " Be careful what you do and say when in the country... as potatoes have eyes & corn has ears " !

  4. Thank you so much for sharing this. I have picked the tomatoes and chillies, the onions are in stock, and there are plenty of courgettes waiting, so I think I will be doing this very soon! Just have to chuck some garlic into the mix and we'll be off.

  5. I love your delicious sauce!

    Wish you lived nearer so I could buy it!

    Sft x

  6. I did this last year and it was good. One thing I do, is pop the tomatoes in the freezer until I have enough to make a batch of sauce.

    Homemade sauce tastes so good.

    Gill in Canada

  7. Thank you for this post. I'll be giving this a go. I was surprised that you don't have to process the jars further in a water bath of some sort but I'm happy to leave out that stage because I find it a bit tedious with bottling the apple :)

    Your sauces look a lovely colour.

    For the first time this weekend I had jam (yellow plum) that didn't set and I had to reboil it on Monday evening. I lost about a third of the jam through doing this. And it HAD wrinkled in the saucer when I tested it so I'm not feeling well disposed towards that batch of jam.

  8. Jo - That's really interesting, as it was my yellow plum jam that didn't set properly, even when I did a batch with Damson (which have very high pectin).

    No, I never bother with the water bath stage and I can honestly say that out of maybe 50 or so jars made, I have only ever had one that went off in the jar. And that's usually down to a faulty lid, rather than the process.

    Sue xx


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