Bottling Fruit and Vegetables


The principle of preserving fruit by bottling depends firstly upon the destruction by heat of all the moulds and bacteria in the air, fruit, or water in the bottles; and secondly, on the exclusion of air during sterilization and the complete sealing of the bottles by vacuum afterwards. Acid in the fruit maintains sterilization and consequently acid fruits are the most satisfactory to bottle.

For the same reason when vegetables are being bottled a solution of lemon juice, salt and water is used. This also destroys any soil bacteria when a pressure cooker is not available.

Equipment is simple and may be used year after year with only small replacements.

Two or three firms specialize in bottling apparatus, bottles, sterilizers and so on, and though makeshifts can be used, a more reliable and better result is obtained from using the proper equipment. Sterilizing outfits are available, complete with bottles, rings, clips, thermometer, etc., in varying sizes. These simplify the process for those who have had little experience in bottling. The number of jars can be added to from time to time according to the amount of bottling done.

There are two main types of jar or bottle—those with a glass lid and metal screw-cap, and those with a metal lid and clip. Both types have rubber rings and are made in different sizes. The advantage of the latter type is that the neck of the jar also varies in size, which makes for ease and speed in packing. For example, a small-sized jar can have a wide neck so that the hand may be inserted.

All sterilizers should have a false bottom so that bottles do not come into contact with the direct heat, and a slot at the side or in the lid for the thermometer. If a proper sterilizer is not available, a bread bin or flour bin with a doubled piece of wire netting placed in the bottom may be used.

One essential is that the water must come up to the neck of the bottles and therefore, if fair-sized bottles are used, the pan must be deep. For small-sized jars a fish kettle is useful.


A sterilizer complete with false bottom, lid and thermometer.

Bottles or jars. The number and size of these will vary with the size of household and the amount and kind of fruit you wish to preserve. As a general rule, keep the smaller jars for soft fruit, such as raspberries or strawberries, and the bigger ones for pears, plums, apples, etc.

Bottle tongs. These are of great help in lifting out the jars from the sterilizer.

The grips are covered with rubber and hold the bottle firmly.

Packing spoon. This is a long-handled, small-bowled spoon and is invaluable for packing in the fruit, vegetables, etc.

Serrated-edged knife, made of stainless steel—invaluable for cutting tomatoes, plums, apricots, etc.

Butter muslin for blanching.


There are two main methods of sterilizing or bottling fruit, the hot-water bath method and the oven method. Whichever method is chosen, the following rules must be observed:

1.    Choose fruit that is perfectly sound, firm, barely ripe and without blemish. Grade, so that all the fruit in one bottle is approximately the same size.

2.    Pack firmly into thoroughly clean jars that have been rinsed in cold water and left wet inside. Avoid crushing the fruit in any way. Fill to within 1/2 in. of the top, using a wooden packing spoon or the handle of a wooden spoon.

3.    Fill with water or syrup—which may be cold or boiling, according to the method used. Both colour and flavour are improved if syrup is used. The syrup may vary in strength, according to the acidity of the fruit, from 1 lb. To 1 qt. of water to 1-½ to 2 lb. to 1 qt. of water. Too heavy a syrup may make some fruit rise in the bottles and in the case of gooseberries will toughen the skins.

Prepare the syrup by dissolving the sugar in the water over gentle heat and then bring to the boil. Boil for 2 to ten minutes, then strain through muslin into the jars.

Make sure that all air bubbles disappear before you put on the lid. This can be helped by gently tapping the jar on the table or patting the top of the liquid with the spoon.

4.    Soak rubber rings in cold water before use and renew every year. Discard any jar with a chip on rim or lid as it will never seal.

5.    After sterilizing, do not remove clips or screw bands for 48 hours; after this time, test for sealing before storing. The lids should be firm on the bottles. Replace screw bands, smearing lightly with a little salad oil. Do not screw down too tightly.

6.    Store the bottles in a cool, dry cupboard away from the light if the colour is to be preserved.


Here a special sterilizer and thermometer simplifies the operation and makes for better results.

1.    Pack the jars with the chosen fruit.

2.    Fill to the brim with cold syrup or water; seal firmly with the rubber rings and caps. If screw bands are used do not tighten.

3.    Stand jars in sterilizer or in a deep pan or container with a piece of wood or wire netting laid in the bottom. A bread or flour-bin answers well in an emergency.

4.    Fill with cold water up to the neck of the jars.

5.    Put in thermometer and heat slowly to correct temperature, which varies according to the kind of fruit. Allow 1-½ hours for this.

6.    If no thermometer is available, bring water in pan to simmering point only, taking 1-½ hours to do so. Maintain at that temperature 6 to 15 minutes for soft fruit, 20 minutes for pears, and 30 minutes for tomatoes.

7.    Lift jars out on to a wooden board or table and allow to cool; tighten screws slightly.

8.    Test for sealing after 48 hours, by re-moving screw band or clip. The lids should be fast on the bottles.

This method gives the best results for colour, texture and flavour. Always use a thermometer if possible, otherwise the fruit is inclined to crack and rise unduly in the jar and the appearance is spoilt.

For a quicker version of this method:

1.    Fill the jars, after packing them with the fruit, with boiling syrup or water; screw down lids or clip on the caps.

2.    Set jars in sterilizer or pan and pour in enough boiling water to cover the jars completely. Leave on the boil from 5 to 20 minutes.

This method is not to be recommended if the fruit is required whole and of good appearance, but the flavour is excellent.


1.    Use special bottling jars with rubbers rings, clips or screw tops.

2.    Pack fruit in and fill to within 1/2 in. of the brim with cold syrup or water.

3.    Put rings on with the lids, but do not clip or screw right down.

4.    Stand jars in cool oven on a piece of thin wood or thick cardboard, taking care that they do not touch one another or the oven wall.

5.    Oven temperature must be between 280 and 340° F. (138 and 171° C), Reg. 1/4 and 3 to 4. Start at the lower temperature and raise to the higher if necessary (pears, apples, etc.).

6.    Keep in oven 1-1/2 to 3 hours, again ac-cording to the variety of fruit. When shrinkage occurs and there is a slight space at the bottom of the jars and bubbles appear on the fruit, the jars are ready to be lifted from the oven.

7.    Take out one at a time and clip or screw down firmly.

8.    To get a good result, heating must be slow and gradual.


1.    Any large jam jars or bottles can be used.

2.    Pack with fruit as before, and cover the jars with a saucer or lid of some kind.

3.    Heat in oven as before, very gradually, at temperature of 250° F. (121° C).

4.    After about an hour or less, when the fruit has shrunk slightly, remove jars from oven one at a time.

5.    If fruit has shrunk well the jar may be filled up with fruit from another jar. Pour on boiling syrup or water at once to cover.

6.    Immediately put on rings and lids (snap closure type) and clip down, or tie down securely with parchment or skin (Porosan).


Tomatoes may be bottled in various forms: in their own juice; whole in brine; as a thin puree; as juice.

Solid pack, or tomatoes in their own juice

1.    Blanch the tomatoes by dipping into boiling water for 10 seconds, and then plunging into cold water before removing their skins. Pack the fruit into the jars very tightly, leaving no air spaces, halving or quartering the fruit if large, and adding 1/4 oz. salt and 1 teaspoonful sugar to each 2 lb. tomatoes.

2.    Fix the rubber bands, put on lids, bands or clips and place in the sterilizer. Take 1-1/2 hours to reach simmering point and maintain this temperature for a further 1/2 hour.

Whole tomatoes in brine

1.    Skin the tomatoes in the usual way and preserve, using either the water-bath or the oven method. In each case the liquid used is a brine solution made from 1 oz. salt to 1 qt. of water.

Tomato puree

1.    Wash the tomatoes, cut in half and cook gently in a covered pan until soft.

2.    Rub through a hair or nylon sieve, reheat, adding sugar and salt to taste, bring to the boil and pour into hot, clean preserving jars and seal immediately.

3.    Place the jars in a pan of hot water, bring slowly to boiling point and continue boiling for 10 minutes.

Tomato juice

1.    Prepare the tomatoes in the same way as for the puree and add to each quart of sieved tomato pulp 1/2 pint water, 1 oz. sugar, 1 teaspoonful salt and freshly ground black pepper.

2.    Reheat, pot and sterilize in the same way as the puree.


Vegetables must be bottled in a different way from fruits (this also applies to canning), because being low in acidity they need a greater temperature than that of boiling water to sterilize them effectively (I.e. the temperature obtained in a pressure cooker). Alternatively, an acid-brine solution, sometimes known as the lemon-juice method, may be used; this obviates the use of the pressure cooker. Vegetables insufficiently sterilized can be dangerous and the use of a pressure cooker is preferable. The acid-brine method and the water-bath method are, however, satisfactory, provided every detail is carried out correctly and with care.

The most popular vegetables for home bottling are peas and broad and french beans. These should be freshly picked from the garden and bottled the same day. This is most important as bacteria are more difficult to kill on stale vegetables. All vegetables must first be blanched as a preliminary sterilization. This process must not be omitted. It also “brings up” the colour and makes the vegetables easier to pack.


1.    Have ready a pan of sufficient boiling water to cover the vegetables.

2.    Put the prepared vegetables into a piece of muslin or salad basket.

3.    Plunge the muslin bag or salad basket into the boiling water and leave for 3 minutes for peas and broad beans, and 5 minutes for french beans.

4.    Drain and pack at once into hot jars. Do not pack down tightly. Leave a space of about 3/4 to 1 in. from the top of the jar. Pour on the boiling liquid required in the method being followed, and put on the lids. If screw-top jars are being used, leave bands half unscrewed but clip down the lids.

5.    Sterilize at once, preferably in a pressure cooker. The temperature should reach 240° F. (116° C). This temperature is indicated on the pressure gauge, i.e. 10 to 15 lb., and should be kept there for 35 to 40 minutes to ensure complete sterilization. The cooker is then allowed to cool down completely before the lid is removed.


Vegetables preserved by this method, a much longer one, have not the flavour of those sterilized by pressure cooker.

1.    Blanch vegetables. Have ready the hot, scrupulously clean jars and fill with the vegetables, leaving a ½ in. gap at the top.

2.    Fill with boiling blanching water, adding ½ teaspoon salt to each 1 lb. jar, and making up with fresh boiling water if necessary.

3.    Seal down at once and put into sterilizer, cover with hot water, making sure that the water comes at least 3 to 4 in. over the tops of the jars.

4.    Bring to the boil and boil hard for 3 hours, counting the time from when the water boils.

Note: When you are bottling vegetables, choose small jars to ensure that the heat will penetrate to the centre of the jar.


1.    Here great care must be taken to see that the bottles or jars are scrupulously clean. Choose small jars and new rubber rings. Heat jars.

2.    Pick over and wash vegetables carefully.

3.    Prepare acid-brine solution with: 4 pints water: 1 level tablespoon salt: 1 pint strained lemon juice: for peas, take 1 pint lemon juice, the same proportions of water and salt, and 1 tablespoon sugar.

4.    Dissolve salt in the water and add lemon juice.

5.    Put the vegetables into a pan, cover well with the solution, bring to the boil and boil 6 to 10 minutes. Then pack hot into the hot jars, not too tightly, and fill with the boiling solution to the brim. Seal at once.

6.    Put the jars at once into a sterilizer of boiling water, making sure that the tops are covered with at least 2 in. of water.

7.    Boil hard for 1-1/2 hours for 1 lb. jars and 2 hours for 2 lb. jars.

8.    Screw tops down securely. The liquid in the jars should cover the vegetables. If any are uncovered, open and use straight away. Do not attempt to fill up and re-sterilize.

9.    To use — turn out contents of bottle with the liquid into a pan; if there is not enough liquid to cover, add water. Boil hard for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then drain, add butter and serve.

A pinch of bicarbonate of soda may be added to the boiling water to counteract the acid flavour.

10.  If any bottles or jars have an unpleasant smell and have gone bad, do not taste the contents, but bury or burn them.

25. March 2013 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Bottling and Canning | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on Bottling Fruit and Vegetables


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