- At this time of the year, if you’ve been feeding and watering your beans and tomatoes well, you’ll have an abundance – often more than you can eat. If that’s the case at your place, take some time out at the weekend, enlist the support of the whole family, and have some fun preserving!
- To successfully freeze beans, we need to blanch them first. Blanching stops the action of enzymes, which naturally occur in vegetables helping them grow and ripen. Enzymes continue to act after harvest and will cause colour, flavour, texture and nutrient losses unless you blanch your veges.
- Wash the beans well and take the tops and tails off. Cut them into 2 or 3 pieces.
- While you’re preparing the beans, put a large pot of water on to boil, and prepare a bowl of water with lots of ice in it.
- Pour beans into boiling water and leave for 3 minutes. It’s important to follow blanching directions precisely. Over-blanching will cause vegetables to start cooking and quality will be lost. Under-blanching can sometimes stimulate enzyme activity and can be worse than no blanching at all.
- As soon as the pot comes off the stove, use a slotted spoon to transfer the beans into the ice water. Leave them here for around 5 minutes.
- Use the slotted spoon to transfer beans onto a tea towel to dry them off.
- When dried off, put portions into ziplock plastic bags. Make the portions the amount you think you’ll use at any one time.
- It’s important to get as much air as you can out of the plastic bags, so zip them almost up, then suck the rest out, and quickly zip up fully.
- Place bags in the freezer immediately.
- Heat oven to 90-100 degrees Celsius. Wash jars with warm soapy water, rinse and leave to dry upside down on a tea towel. Place jars up the right way, not touching each other, into the heated oven for at least 20 minutes to sterilise them. Put the lids in a pan of boiling water for around 5 minutes to sterilise them.
- Next, with a sharp knife, put a good-sized cross in each tomato at the stem end. At the same time put a large pot of water on to boil, and prepare a bowl of water with a good lot of ice in it.
- Place the tomatoes in the boiling water for around 30 seconds, then using your slotted spoon, scoop them out of the boiling water and straight into the iced water.
- As soon as they’re cool enough to handle, starting at the bottom of the tomato (opposite to where the cross is), peel off the skins. They should release very easily, although you’ll always find the odd stubborn one.
- Once peeled, chop tomatoes back into a large pan. As you chop, it’s worth trying to get some of the seeds out, although you don’t want to waste the fruit.
- You don’t need to add any water or any seasonings or onion or garlic at this stage. This can all happen when you use them in your cooking.
- Lastly add the juice of a lemon to increase acidity. When foods are bottled, the safety of the food depends primarily on the amount of acid in the jars. The amount of acid in tomatoes is highest in unripe fruit and reaches the lowest point as the fruit reaches maturity. Research now tells us that tomatoes are not consistently high in acid and it’s recommended that acid be added to all bottled tomatoes.
- Boil for 5 minutes. In the meantime heat up your water bath to 100 degrees or lay a tea towel in a large preserving pot and get water boiling in it.
- Fill sterilised jars with tomatoes using a funnel up to 1 cm from the top to allow for expansion in the water bath. If you get tomatoes on the rim of the jar, wipe it dry with a paper towel, otherwise it may not seal properly.
- Pop sterilised lids on as you go.
- Then transfer the jars to the water bath, making sure they’re fully submerged in the water, put the lid on the water bath and leave for 20 minutes.
- When you bring the jars out, you’ll notice within around 20 minutes that the lids all suck down. This is the sign that you’ve successfully preserved your tomatoes. If they don’t suck down, you should use the tomatoes in your cooking this week.
Drying fruit and veges
- You can dry fruit and veges in the sun or the oven, but a quick and reliable way is to invest in a dryer. You can dry all your fruit and many vegetables, tomatoes being one of the best, this way. Rob soaks his apple slices in lemon and water before laying them out to reduce the amount of discolouration.
- These can be put in ziplock bags, air sucked out, and frozen too.
Camera: Hugh Williams
Editor: Thomas Asche