Canning at home is a great way to preserve fruit (including tomatoes) in times of plenty. Their are several methods you can use to can fruit at home. The most common are cold water bath, the oven and hot water bath methods.
Here we’ll talk about the hot water bath method of home canning. This method requires no special skills and certainly no special equipment. If you are new to home canning this is definitely the way to start!
Vegetables are low in acid and difficult to sterilize so they are best preserved cooked (such as in chutneys) or pickled in alcohol, salt or vinegar (such as dill pickles). Fruit, however has a much higher acidity and is therefore easy to can at home safely. In the UK we call canning, bottling so I will use the terms interchangeably here.
How to Can Fruit at Home?
Prepare your firm, ripe fruit. Make sure it is clean, peeled and pitted if desired, and that any blemishes have been removed. Seriously over-ripe or damaged fruits should not be bottled at home as they will not store well and may spoil the rest of the batch.
Now pack your prepared fruit into warm, sterilized jars. Pack the jars as tightly as possible and leave 1cm of space between the contents and the top of the jar.
Top up the jar with a little lemon juice (1/2 tbsp for each liter of fruit) and a warm sugar syrup.
Prepare a large saucepan by putting a clean cloth or block of wood in its base and filling with warm water.
Put the lids on loosely and pack the jars into your prepared pan of warm water. If you’re worried about the jars jostling about and banging each other, wrap each one in a little newspaper or cloth.
The water in the saucepan should reach nearly to the lid of each jar.
Slowly bring the pan to the boil.
Simmer for the required length of time, then remove the jars and tighten their lids.
The bottled fruit will store well for up to a year in the dark.
How to Can Tomatoes at Home?
Tomatoes are perhaps the most useful fruit to home can because they can be used in so many ways, from pasta sauces to stews and soups. To bottle tomatoes at home simply follow the procedure above, adding a pinch of salt and warm water to the jars rather than sugar syrup.
How Long to Simmer Fruit When Home Canning?
Tomatoes need around 40 minutes.
Soft fruit and apple slices need around 2 minutes.
Stone and citrus fruit need to simmer for around 10 minutes.
Simmering fruit when home bottling is the action that sterilizes the fruit, helping it stay in good condition over time.
Simmering for too long will, in effect ‘cook’ the fruit for maybe longer than ideal but will not affect its storing capacity.
Simmering for too short a time is more problematic as you may not sterilize the fruit sufficiently and it may spoil. So, if in doubt simmer for a longer, not shorter time.
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Photo. Cara Shelton