Jump to Recipe

What to do when you have a surfeit of tomatoes? Channel your inner southern European and bottle them, of course! It’s remarkably simple to do.

Many years ago when our first son Sam was just a baby we lived in a seaside town about 200km south of Perth, in south-western Australia. Busselton and its surrounds was a beautiful place - long calm white beaches, dripping inland forests and rugged coastal scenery. Described like this you would wonder why we ever left, but it was a bit of a professional backwater and early in my career.

bt1 Cut a small cross in the end of each tomato and blanch in boiling water for 3 minutes.

I created a vegetable garden along the side of our house and planted an assortment of vegetables. This included what turned out to be way too many cherry tomato bushes as they were notably more succesful than expected, leading to us having more cherry tomatoes than we knew what to do with, even with Sam’s assistance. He was just crawling at the time and loved cherry tomatoes, so if he went missing there was a fair chance of finding him sitting out in the garden picking and eating tomatoes, having slithered out through the dog door to get there.

Caroline and Andrew were new to Busselton and were introduced to us by a mutual friend - they had a baby girl that Ms Onion used to look after from time to time. Caroline’s family were from the former Yugoslavia and with that background she had the solution to our tomato issue - bottle them. They keep for ages without refrigeration (up to three years was her claim although ours have never lasted long enough to test that) and we used the jars we had made in place of pasta sauce for a long time.

bt2 Peel the tomatoes, using the cross as a starting point.

Making bottled tomatoes

The first thing to be done, as with any preserving task, is to sterilise the jars. For most people these days the simplest way is just to put them and their lids in the dishwasher on a hot cycle, but another simple way is to use the microwave. Wash the jars in warm soapy water, rinse them and leave them wet, then microwave them on high for 60 seconds. If you have metal lids boil them in a saucepan of water for about 10 minutes.

bt3 Chop up the tomatoes.

Now blanch and peel the tomatoes. Cut a small cross in the base of each tomato (ignore this step if using cherry tomatoes as there is no need to peel them), place them in a large heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water for three minutes. Drain and peel, using the small cross as a starting point to peel them.

bt4 Stuff the chopped tomatoes into jars with basil and parsley and seal well.

Cut up the tomatoes to preferred size and remove the core (once again you can ignore this for cherry tomatoes), and stuff them into jars, adding some whole basil, with flowers and stems is fine, and parsley for flavouring. Pour any juice you have accumulated into the jars as well.

bt5 Arrange jars in a pot and cover with water. What doesn’t come out in this picture is my annoyance at finding I had eight jars and my pot only held seven!

Arrange the jars in a deep pot and cover them with water, then bring to the boil and boil them for 20 minutes. Remove them from the water and let them cool naturally. Olga is a Greek former work friend of Ms Onion’s and Olga’s Mum says it’s very important to cool them upside down resting on their lids, so do as Olga’s Mum says! As they cool they will seal - if you have any lids with the pop-up safety buttons you will find that these go down as they cool indicating you have a tight seal. They will of course then satisfyingly pop up when you open the jar.

Store the jars for up to three years!

Quantities are anything you want them to be here but as a guide four kilograms (approximately 30) tomatoes will make about 7-8 400g jars.

You can leave comments or questions below if you like. I’ve also got pages on social media and you can join us over there:


Caroline’s bottled tomatoes

Serves: Makes about two jars per kilo of tomatoes

  • Jars (enough to fit tomatoes)
  • Tomatoes
  • Fresh basil
  • Fresh parsley
  • Sterilise jars according to preferred method (see above).
  • Cut a small cross in the end of each tomato. Boil kettle and blanch tomatoes in boiling water in a large bowl for three minutes. Peel, core and chop tomatoes.
  • Put straight into jars, adding fresh basil (flowers and stems are OK) and some parsley.
  • Seal jars tightly, immerse in a large pot of boiling water for 20 minutes.
  • Remove jars from water and turn upside down onto their lids until completely cooled and sealed.
  • Store and use as you would tinned tomatoes.