An absolutely must-have store cupboard staple, in my mind, are preserved tomatoes. They’re the base for so many meals, and when summer throws you a glut of tomatoes, I can think of few better ways to preserve them. In this instance, the tomatoes are preserved in a glass jar designed especially for a DIY version of pressure cooking, also known as bottling. My granny always preserved her tomatoes this way. It seems to have gone out of fashion a bit, but it’s a technique well worth reviving as it’s a brilliant way to preserve with minimal sugar and salt.
- 1kg cherry tomatoes like San Marzano
- 1½ teaspoons sea salt
- 1½ tablespoons cider vinegar a few sprigs of fresh thyme or bay leaves
Sterilise 3 screw-band preserving jars or clip-top jars with rubber seals
Bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Make a small cross-shaped cut on the top of each tomato about 5mm deep with a very sharp knife. Add the tomatoes to the boiling water for 30 seconds, drain and plunge into very cold water to prevent further cooking. Drain again and peel the skins from the tomatoes starting at the top where you made the small cuts.
Add ½ teaspoon sea salt and ½ tablespoon cider vinegar to each jar. Gently nestle the tomatoes into the jars, being careful not to crush them. Tuck a few sprigs of thyme of a bay leaf into each jar. Pour enough boiling water over the tomatoes to fully cover, leaving a 1.5cm space.
Gently jostle the jars or use the handle of a spoon to release any air bubbles. Wipe the rims clean. Place the lids on top. Give each jar a sharp knock with a wooden spoon handle to remove any trapped air before screwing the lid on tightly, then loosen lid by half a turn.
Bottle process the jars* simmering for 40 minutes. Once you’re happy they’re sealed properly, store in a cool, dry place for up to 1 year.
(*) How to bottle process for preserving: To bottle process pickles or other preserves, gently sit the jars in a tea-towel-lined stockpot or in a saucepan large enough to fully cover with water. Ensure the jars are not touching and are secure so they don’t rattle in the pan – use wadded up cloth or extra newspaper between them to protect them. Pour in enough warm water (38°C) to cover the jars by 2-3cm. Let the water reach 88°C, then cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
If you don’t have a large enough pan, you can bottle process in an oven. Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/Gas mark 2. Line a deep roasting tray with a folded tea towel, stand the jars 5cm apart on top and fill the tray 3cm deep with water. Heat in the oven for 1 hour. Take off the heat, or remove from the oven, and leave the jars in the water for 15 minutes. Carefully remove the jars and use a tea towel to fully fasten the lids. Leave undisturbed for 24 hours until completely cool. Check the seal by removing the screw-bands and carefully lifting the jar up by the lid. If it’s sealed well the lid will remain firmly on. Re-fasten the screw band and store, or if it comes away either reprocess and retest once fully cool, or eat straight away. Store in a cool, dry place for up to 1 year. Refrigerate once opened and use within 6 weeks. Recipe © Rachel de Thample / Photography: Ali Allen CNM recommends the use of organic ingredients