How to Bottle Vegetables
If you grow your own vegetables, it is almost inevitable that you will have a glut of produce at some point. If you have already made enough chutney to last several years and your freezer is full to overflowing, it is time to start thinking about preserving some of your vegetable bounty in canning jars ready for the long winter months ahead.
Using preserving jars to bottle food
Vegetables have a much lower acid content than most fruits and therefore require a little more effort to bottle successfully. Whilst you can bottle fruits by immersing the filled canning jars in boiling water and simmering for a specified time, this process is not suitable for vegetables; instead, a pressure canner is needed to ensure that all the bacteria is killed during the canning process.
Kilner jars, or similar, are ideal for bottling vegetables, as they form an airtight seal when used correctly to prevent any bacteria entering the jar and spoiling the contents.
Filling the preserving jars
Some vegetables work better when bottled than others and it pays to experiment with small batches to find what works best. Some good candidates for bottling include broad beans, runner beans and French beans, peas, tomatoes, peppers and asparagus.
Vegetables should be preserved in a brine solution, which can be made by adding 150gm salt to one litre of water. All canning jars should be cleaned and then sterilised in boiling water for 10 minutes before use. Make sure that you only use the best quality vegetables and discard any with blemishes or other damage. Cut the vegetables into suitably-sized pieces and blanch them in boiling water. With the preserving jars still hot, pack the vegetables in, cover with the boiling brine solution and put the lids loosely onto the jars.
Following the instructions for your particular pressure canner, place the jars into the canner and add water. Put the lid on the pressure canner, with the steam vent open. When steam has been coming out of the vent consistently for several minutes, set the pressure and keep on the heat for the required time. The manual for your own particular pressure cooker will tell you the length of time you need; however, as a general guideline, here are some times for commonly canned vegetables:
Asparagus: 35 minutes.
Peas: 45 minutes.
Peppers: 40 minutes.
Tomatoes: 20 minutes.
After pressure cooking, remove from the heat and allow to cool completely until the pressure dial is showing zero. Remove the jars and check that a vacuum seal has formed on each jar. Store the finished product in a cool cupboard.