Friday, 14 June 2013

Yesterdays Questions on Bottling


There were quite a few questions asked in the comments and on direct emails about yesterdays post about my bottling method, so I though I'd better devote todays post to them.   I hope this helps.

How do I know a vacuum has been created?
The indentation in the lid gets sucked in with an audible 'pop', you can hear it happening from the next room.  This is why I always use a few lids with this indentation (I have used some of these lids over and over with absolutely no ill effects).
How  can you tell it has popped?
You can hear it (see above), if you go out and miss hearing it you will be able to tell because when you go to press it down there is nothing to press down!! (Try a couple of bought jars of sauces out of your cupboards and you will see what I mean.)
How long do they keep with a vacuum?
I have kept and eaten things that I bottled three years ago and they were absolutely fine.  You have to use your common sense, if in any doubt about a foodstuff don't risk it.

How long do they keep without a vacuum?
Any jars that don't 'pop' I store in the fridge and use first, they have kept well for a couple of weeks, again your senses should come into play, does it look right, does it smell right and if the answers to those questions are yes have a taste, and decided does it taste right, if in doubt throw it out.
How do I sterilise my jars?
I put them in a medium oven stood on a baking tray for about 10 minutes, and add the lids loose to the tray for the last couple of minutes (or you can just put the lids in a jug of boiling water).  While I am bottling, the jars are too hot to hold with my bare hands and I use a tea towel or oven gloves to move them into position.  So the main thing is to put piping hot sauce into piping hot jars and put the lids on as soon as you have filled your jars.
Don't you have to pressure can?
I have never pressure canned, ever.  This method has always been good enough for me. I would love a pressure canner though, maybe Santa will bring me one soon, then I could go wild canning all sorts of things.
How long is it before you can use them?
You can eat them immediately or save them. 
As they are in a vacuum the flavours do not develop, ie. they do not get a more intense or better flavour because you have saved them for a while.   When you open them they taste exactly the same two years after bottling as they did on the day you did it.
Have any sauces gone off or mouldy?
Yes, out of perhaps a couple of hundred jars that I have done this way I guess I have lost about 3 or 4.  These would have been jars that have not had a good seal or have lost their vacuum in storage (they might have been knocked or something).  So I simply threw the contents away when I found them.
Have we ever had food poisoning?
Oh yee of little faith ....... NO never :-)
These eleven jars cost me approx. £7 to make out of the ingredients you see in the top picture (and a quarter of a jar of Lazy Garlic which I forgot to photograph).  I costed out using mysupermarket.c*m that to buy the ingredients I used (ie not having your own Chilli plant or herbs) it would cost you £8.56 from A*da, £8.98 from T*sco and £12.18 from Sainsb*rys.  Or using basic ranges £5.87, £6.91 and £6.55.
I also compared which sauce I though they tasted most like and I think they would be nearest in flavour to  Lloyd Grossman's Tomato and Roasted Garlic Sauce, although his are in a smaller jar. These are currently on special offer at £1 in Sainsb*ry and Asda but normal price £2 in T*sco.  So there is still a good saving to be made.

Why do you make your own when pasta sauce is so cheap to buy?
Well there is the cost factor, see above, but the main reason is that I like to know exactly what is in our food. 
Although a lot of the better sauces have only 'real' ingredients these are usually the more expensive ones  to buy, the cheaper ones are padded out with other things (sorry I have none to look at the labels of in my cupboard, I've just checked).  Once we have our own tomatoes growing the cost of producing my own sauces will plummet as a large part of my cost were the six cans of tomatoes, but I made these with tinned tomatoes because we had them in the storecuboard and we are eating our way through the cupboards at the moment as part of the £2 House Keeping Challenge.
I think that's it, I hope I've not missed anything out.
Sue xx


  1. I must admit I am not convinced enough that the sauce is acidic enough to keep, without additional hot water bottling (not pressure canning) so when I do this I do the extra hot water stage after with the full jars.

    Chutneys are acidic enough to do it this way because of the vinegar; jams because of the sugar.

    Just my view, though - obviously you are doing something right, because you are both still here and fine ;-)

    1. Your readers might be interested to read the useful stuf on this website :-)

      You might be, too ;-) I find it very interesting :-)

  2. Once there's a vacuum, there's a vacuum, no matter what else you do you can't have a double vacuum, so I see no need to boil away for the sake of it!!

    1. We shall have to agree to disagree on this one I think :-)

      Am making a batch of soup with similar ingredients, tonight. House will smell lovely - I love the smell of onions and garlic and herbs :-)

  3. Really helpful post- thanks Sue. I loved the typo - the thought of you 'going wild, caning things' is quite mind-boggling!!!!!![but you whip cream and beat batter, why shouldn't you cane sauce?]

    blessings xx

  4. There was an article in a (German) cooking magazine I get last year with a recipe for a similar tomato sauce and the recommendation to put it hot into hot sterilised jars. They did say it would only keep for about six months and I found that to be fairly accurate. I used most of it well within that time but the two I didn't had definitely started to go a bit funny at around the seven month mark (one other jar lost its seal and although it looked okay when I opened it the smell nearly knocked me over so that went straight out after only a couple of months).

  5. Thanks for answering my costing question with so much detail Sue x

  6. Looks great. Note to self - make some chilli jam. Homemade tastes so much better. I must have a go at your sauce too.

  7. Thanks Sue! I am going to give this a go to preserve my hopefully huge tomato crop this year; some hope! I'd rather have a load of pasta sauce than have to make twenty tons of green tomato chutney that will be given away because we barely eat it. I will make some chutney and will give some away but sauce is better. I can then use it in blognaise, chilli and curry so it makes my £2.50 investment into tomato plants well worthwhile.

  8. Now sue

    Would you like to enter one of the categories for our craft and flower show this year?

  9. Your sauce looks lovely, find your method of preserving works very well for me too. Pam

  10. Thank you for answering these questions. We had a bucket-full of tomatoes given to us and I wanted to make sauce with them, but the freezer was full, so time to learn to can! I had to call my mum and ask what to do :) You have a similar method, so its good to confirm the details. I'll be trying your recipe next.

  11. oh you didn't share your recipe! So I guess there is just one thing missing....

    1. The recipe is in the post.

      Basically you just put ALL your ingredients into a big pan and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and leave it all to simmer away for at least an hour. Put your jars in the oven to sterilise them and then put the hot sauce into the hot jars and pop on the lids. Label when cold.

      Hope this helps.


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