Friday, June 15, 2012

Home Preserving with Fowlers-Vacola

I've been living here for almost two years now, and have had two excellent go-'rounds with the garden. The best thing that ever happened to me was those allotments, I think. 

Well, as I did last year, I had managed to grow and obscene amount of tomatoes. Unfortunately, our summer was a little strange, and a many of the last ones did get to ripen, so I had a ton of green tomatoes. Well, I still had green tomato chutney from LAST year, so I wasn't too crazy to make more of it. I had enough red fruit left, however, to make spaghetti sauce (mm, sauce). 

So I just threw all the tomatoes (red, green, the whole lot) into the stock pot, and cooked them down. They were sieved, and the pulpy juice was strained again for extra smoothness, and I cooked up some onions, garlic, and home grown herbs, and added the sauce back in. It bubbled away, infusing happily, and when I finally got around to bottling it, I used those stainless steel lids the MIL had gifted me with at Christmas.

Delicious red sauce. Mm, so fragrant.
There's the pot! And I raise thee six jars, lids, rings and clips to store it all in:

The stainless stock pot, six rubber rings, six preserving clips, six stainless steel lids, and six washed No. 14 Fowlers jars, being kept hot with boiling water.
Last year I only had enough sauce to fill four of the small jars, so I washed sure how many I'd fill this time. I had extras ready just in case. Turns out, I'd guessed perfectly. I almost thought I wouldn't have the room, but I squeaked by with the bare minimum of head space for each jar, as you'll observe in the next picture:

Filled jars with seals in place
Now, I grew up knowing the Ball canning method, but instead of a flat metal lid with sealant and a metal ring, you have a rubber seal ring, a metal lid, and a clip the hold the lot together when you go to process them.

After you understand the process is pretty much the same as far as sealing goes, it's a breeze, as you can see in the following photos:

Stainless steel lids, because you need them for very acidic things like tomato sauce.

Lids have been firmly secured with the clips.

Close up of the lid and clip. It just snaps right onto the lip of the jar, no hassles.

To process the jars you just place them in a pan (I use a metal roasting pan, and place a folded paper towel in the bottom), place the jars in the tray, fill with hot water, and place in an oven about 170C. Let it run for an hour, shut the lot down and let it cool. Then remove and label. 

Jars placed in the pan, waiting for hot water and the oven.
Ready for processing!
Now, this processing method is okay when you have no other choice. The jars seal, I've experienced no incidents with failure or breakage (yet), and my own real cautionary statement is beware: the stainless steel lids I have are quite sharp around the edges, and I managed to slice my finger on it. Other than that, they're fine. However, the Fowlers-Vacola system has an expensive start up cost, unless you can find a lot of cast off jars, lids and other supplies in the city missions, as I have managed (for some, at least). I also cannot vouch for them when it comes to pressure canning, when you are wanting to bottle low acid foods. Other than that, it seems to work well enough for the time being. And I now have sauce!

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