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Home Preserving with Fowlers

Home preserving with Fowlers


This is what you want to make, right? You want your shelves to be filled with colourful and delicious fruits, vegetables and preserves that you have lovingly created yourself...well the good news is, YOU CAN! And it's not even that hard...

Every year our family preserves 80kg of tomatoes; this is enough to see us through a whole year without ever buying tinned tomatoes. It does take an entire day and a bit to process them all, but I can't tell you how wonderful it is to be able to simply grab a jar off the shelf, knowing exactly what is in it and knowing that the taste is just sensational. That day and a bit of work is just so worth it!

Here's how: Home preserving with a Fowlers Preserving Kit

1. Source bulk tomatoes.

Your local fruit & veg shop is a good starting point; simply ask them for 2nd's bottling tomatoes. I use Roma tomatoes because they are nice and fleshy, which you want when bottling so there is lots of pulp (you don't want tomatoes that are mainly juice). If you know a farmer you could try to source from them. Whoever you source them from will probably need a few days notice to get them in for you (they don't usually keep 2nds in the shop).

Bulk tomatoes for preserving

2. Set out all your equipment.

For me, this includes:

- a couple of drainers (to put washed tomatoes into)

- a couple of chopping boards with sharp knives (to chop tomatoes)

- a kitchen blender (for blending my pasta sauce)

- 2 x large cookpots with lids ready to go on the stove (for cooking pasta sauce)

- lots of herbs, onion, garlic, salt and lemon juice (fresh or from a bottle)

- my electric Fowlers preserving kit (this needs to be positioned near a sink)

- plus a huge stack of already clean bottles, lids, ring and clips.

3. Get the pasta sauce started and cooking.

I usually preserve half my tomatoes as pasta sauce, and the other half plain. Anything you preserve needs to start off in the bottles I always get my pasta sauce started first, so that it has time to cook and then cool down, before I put it in bottles for preserving.

To make my pasta sauce, I simply wash a box of tomatoes, chop roughly in quarters (I don't bother cutting out the stem but you might want to) and then blend in the kitchen blender, and tip into a large cookpot with a solid bottom. I then throw a couple of onions and some garlic cloves (to taste) into the blender, and add them to the pot along with salt, pepper, and any herbs I want (celery, oregano etc). I cook this mix just until it boils and then turn off to cool down prior to bottling. It's going to be cooked when I process it in the preserving kit anyway, so mainly this quick cook is to get rid of the air bubbles that have been created by blending the tomatoes.

(NB: you may have noticed, I'm a lazy cook, so I use the simplest and quickest methods I can - for example, I don't ever peel or core my tomatoes. There are many ways to preserve your tomatoes - so if you find my methods barbaric, feel perfectly free to follow your own method!)

4. Set up bottles ready to be filled, by putting a ring around the top of each one.

(here is a great little youtube clip showing how to do this). This is a really important job to get right, because without a good seal, your bottles will not become airtight and will not be able to be stored.

Fowlers bottle wth ring

5. Start processing the tomatoes you will be bottling plain (eg not as pasta sauce).

- Wash a box of tomatoes, and then cut into rough cubes.

- Fill each of your jars, making sure to wipe off any tomato residue from around the ring.

- Make sure the tomatoes are nicely filling the jar. Add water to just cover the top of the tomatoes, about two centimeters below the rim of the jar.

- Add a teaspoon of salt and some sort of acid to the top of each jar - this can be vinegar, citric acid or lemon juice. Here's an article explaining why you need to add lemon juice - it is to make sure the acid content is high enough to prevent botulism! Here's another good reference talking about the different options you have to add vinegar. Personally, I use a squirt or lemon juice in the top of each jar.

Fill your bottles with tomatoes

- Place a lid on top, and a clip to hold down the lid.

- Place your bottles into your preserving kit, fill it with COLD water, switch it on and turn on a timer for 1hr.

Fowlers preserving kit

- After 1 hour, remove your bottles from the preserving unit using bottle tongs and place them somewhere to cool - leave the clips attached. If your unit starts boiling before one hour is up, simply turn the unit off but leave the bottles inside it until 1 hour is up, then remove.

- Leave your bottles to cool overnight, then remove the clips. Gently test the seal on each bottle by raising each bottle gently off the table by holding onto the lid - if the bottle can be raised by the lid, you have a good airtight seal and your bottle can be stored for later use. If the lid comes off, you did not achieve a seal on that bottle and the contents must be used straight away.

Processed tomatoes

6. Keep processing until you are done!

Once the pasta sauce is cool, you simply pour it into bottles, add salt and lemon juice (as per with plain tomatoes), and process the same way.

Handy tips:

Over the years I've worked out some things that make my job are some of my handy tips.

Have two preserving units on the go at the same time! I have my own, plus I borrow another friends unit for my session. I can keep both units full and processing on my own; if I only had one I'd end up with a serious backlog of bottles ready to be cooked.

It is REALLY worth while having proper bottle tongs to pull your bottles out of the hot water with. It will save you a world of mess and splashed boiling water trying to do it without.

When you have finished a round of cooking, you have to let the boiling water out and start again with cold water. A huge waste of water I know. We have our water diverted as grey water to our orchard; I do have to make sure I have some cold water running into the sink along with the boiling water or I would end up cooking all the pipes and the garden.

Thanks for reading my short and sweet guide to home preserving! Do you have any handy tips to share with us? 

Happy home preserving everyone, Lucinda

Written by Lucinda Flynn from Going Green Solutions

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