Bottling is one of the most economical and easiest ways to preserve excess home produce. It is a traditional method for preserving excess amounts of home grown produce for use throughout the year. Jams, sauces, pickles, syrups, relishes, all fall under the category of preserves.  For beginners that are new to preserving this can all be a bit much, I would suggest that you get started with a tomato relish or marmalade to gain confidence.

The preferred preserves are strawberries, cherries, melons, apricots, plums, peaches and berries.

Usually jams and preserves are confused with one another. But, there is a difference between the two; jam is prepared by fine slicing or mashing the fruits, whereas preserves are made of whole or large pieces of fruits cooked in thick sugar syrup.


Bottling or preserving equipments are also known as home canning equipments. Cooking pan, long handled wooden spoon, slotted spoon, jars and bottles lids, water bath canner, pressure canner and jar lifter are the commonly used equipments.

Glass jars are most preferred for the purpose of preserving since they can be reused; however, cans or metal containers can also be used. The major drawback of cans or metal container is that they are expensive and may require some special sealing equipment.

Fowlers Vacola is well-known for producing home-bottling kits. These kits usually comprise of a sterilizer, bottles, lids, rings and a thermometer. Simple Natural Preserving Kit and Professional Stainless Steel Preserving Kit are two main kits sold under the brand name Fowlers Vacola. The Simple Natural Preserving Kit costs around $165. It is fully automatic and doesn’t require temperature monitoring. The Professional Stainless Steel Preserving Kit costs around $695; its Stainless Steel Preserver is a thermostatically controlled unit, which can also be used as an electric Urn.

Preserving for Beginners tip:  use your existing equipment and just have a go at a marmalade or relish.

Making Preserves:

This is a general guide to the process, but please read through a recipe carefully before starting as it may have additional important steps.  Sterilising your jars is really important – as a spot of bacteria can quickly spoil your jar and is potentially very dangerous (food poisoning).

1. Sterilizing jars

  • Step 1: Wash the jars and lids in hot soapy water and rinse well, this can also be done in the dishwasher.  Preheat the oven to 150ºC.
  • Step 2: Place the jars and lids into a deep saucepan and cover with cold water, bring to the boil then reduce the heat to medium and place the lid on and leave to gently boil to 10 minutes.
  • Step 3: Using tongs, remove from the water and place upside down on a tray lined with a clean tea towel or silicone mat.  Place in teh oven and heat for 15 minutes.


  • Use a steam steriliser (for baby bottles) instead of boiling the jars, they will still need to be dried out in a hot oven

2. Preparing fruits & vegetables

Remove stem and brown bits of fruits and vegetables to be used and place a bowl filled with cold water, and then put them into a colander to drain.

3. Cooking

Add sugar and other ingredients with fruits and vegetables prepared in a large pot and boil at medium heat. Add fruit pectin if required. Stir constantly for 15-20 minutes until the syrup thickens.

4. Transferring preserves:

Using a canning funnel and a ladle transfer the hot thick syrup into the jar. Fill the jar leaving ½ inch head space. Wipe jar rims with a clean damp paper towel and tighten the lid on the jar. Invert the jars for 5 minutes and then turn them upright.

5. Cooling and storing

After transferring the hot syrupy liquid, place the jar on a cooling rack. Upon cooling store it in a cool dark place or a fridge.

If stored properly home-made preserves usually last for months or a year in few cases.

Safety Tips:

Use a thick tea towel, or a silicone mat to place the hot jars onto when pouring in the jam, make sure they are stable before starting

Add the hot jam to a hot jar, do not add hot jam to a cold jar as it may crack and break.  Similarly, don’t add cold food to a hot jar.

    3 replies to "Preserving for beginners"

    • Jennifer

      Just thought that the way the jam was made was too easy. When making jam I usually do a large amount and find that it is not a good idea to cook on a medium type heat but a very low one. I then leave the preserving pan on low heat over night till it starts to thicken. I stir it occassionaly and if it needs to be thickened I give it a squeeze of a lemon.Also it should be noted that cheap or plain label sugars are not suitable to use for jam as they burn easily

    • Ruth Searle

      I have just made some lemon relish, the recipe says to bottle it cold. How can this keep? Should I do something to help preserve the relish?

    • Anne Quaine

      Can you please advise if I can preserve relish made and cold from the fridge into cooled sterilized jars?
      Or do they need to be hot to create a vacuum seal with the cellophane?
      Thank you

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