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Tomato, Tomato. How Do I Keep Thee? Let Me Count The Ways!


I had not planned to write anything else on tomatoes this season, but after reading the Organic Gardening newsletter this morning I feel compelled to write again about tomatoes. They are after all the vegetable (fruit) that Americans eat more than any other.

There are so many ways to use fresh tomatoes and so many ways to keep them for winter meals that I’m sure one could write volumes on the subject.

You can tell by the title of this post that I am going to talk about keeping and enjoying them for the winter.

Different strokes for different folks.
There are many variables in any individual’s life that leads them to choose their method for tomato preservation.

#1 Canning
When I was a girl I thought the only way to preserve tomatoes was canning. (Put them up in glass jars with the help of a pressure cooker.)

Some folks put up 4 or 5 whole tomatoes per jar, cover with water and process.  Others pack the jar with just cut up tomatoes and then process.  If I were going to “can” this is how I would do it.

Others can salsa, a delicious combination of tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, lime and spices.  (For various reasons I don’t, but if I knew a good cook who did, I would want to try to purchase a few jars if he or she had extra.)

Great Salsa recipe finds:
I came across (online) what seemed to me 2 terrific recipes for Salsa and how to can it.

  • This  one is my preferred choice.  The fellow uses lime.  He says when you use vinegar, it’s not salsa any more – but something else.  Here’s the link http://seasonalontariofood.blogspot.com/2007/09/canning-salsa.html.
  • The second recipe is good, it just uses vinegar instead of lime.  There are times when you would not have lime on hand, so I’m mentioning this recipe as an option. Here’s the link http://belleadorn.blogspot.com/2008/08/best-salsa-recipe.html

Others can tomato paste and/or sauce in one or more of the many variations.

#2 Freezing

And – if you don’t want to can – you can use my preferred method of preservation – freezing – for all:  whole tomatoes, cut up tomatoes, slasa, tomato paste, tomatoe sauce (And remember to freeze some tomato sherbet to keep on hand for that extra special meal.)

#3 Drying for use whole or pulverized.

Drying tomatoes, pulverizing the results in the blender, and storing in an air tight container really appeals to me. I am seriously considering this as one of my future methods of tomato preservation.

This method would be a tremendous space saver especially in years of profuse bounty.  I only have room in my freezer for about 40 quarts of tomato essence. (I’ll get to that in a soon.) I’m betting this concentrated tomato powder would give me great tomato flavor just as well as the my frozen tomato essence. Who knows, if it works as well as I think it might, I may not freeze quite as much as usual.

Whether you can or freeze whole tomatoes, cut up tomatoes, salsa, paste or sauce there are numerous ways to prepare each.   Some add a sprig of an herb, chopped spices, oils and on the list goes.

A note about safety especially with canning.  Most recipes – take for example the first salsa recipe above – give specific amounts which have been already tested and proven to maintain safe levels of acidity. If you’re not already an old hand at this, you’ll want to stick to those specifics unless you really know what you are doing. If you are in doubt about a recipe don’t use it.


 

OG’s Tomato puree recipe?

I had already seen the tomato puree recipe that Organic Gardening newsletter gave this morning. The oven roasting is what makes it appealing.  I think the flavor would be great!  Only one thing — I don’t  want to leave my oven on for 3 or 4 hours to dehydrate the tomatoes.  I would definitely consider this recipe if I were fixing other things that could share the oven at the same temperature or if I could fix about 6 times this many tomatoes at once.

You can find the recipe at OrganicGardening.com, but just to recap for you – they place 6 pounds of clean tomatoes in a baking dish or pan; drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper; toss; roast until size is reduced by 1/3.  Cool, puree in food mill to remove skin and seeds. Bag and freeze.

The Easy Way to Save Lots of Tomatoes – Tomato Essence

I have found this to be a simple and quick way to preserve my huge harvest of tomatoes for winter use for more than 30 years. I call it tomato essence since I’ve never known exactly what to call it.  Essence is a good description since it is the essence of tomato.

(Update: August 14, 2013 — I don’t preserve tomatoes this way anymore because I found an easier and better tasting way to make sauce. See my post http://tendingmygarden.com/tomatoes-roasted-for-the-easiest-most-delicious-tomato-sauce/)

When my basket is filled with ripe tomatoes (below) I know its time to begin preserving.

  • Fill a quart pan 3/4 full with water and bring to a boil.
  • With slotted spoon add tomatoes to capacity.
  • Boil for a minute.
  • Remove with slotted spoon and place in colandar to cool.
  • Repeat until you have enough tomatoes to fill a large soup pot. (I use an 8 quart pan.)
  • Core cooled tomatoes and remove skins.
  • Place rough cut (whole will work if you’re in a hurry) tomatoes in pot.
  • Heat contents until it starts to bubble.  Reduce heat.
  • Simmer with top ajar for several hours or until content is reduced by 1/3 to 1/2.
  • Cool.
  • Ladle into quart freezer bags, label and freeze. (I find that a quart is about perfect to make a pan/pot of sauce in the winter.)

You can keep it simple as I do or you can make a complete sauce by adding spices, other vegetables, and/or oil to the reduced tomatoes. You can put the end result through the blender/food mill or keep it as is.  You are only limited by your imagination. I’ll let you count the ways.

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2 comments to Tomato, Tomato. How Do I Keep Thee? Let Me Count The Ways!

  • Pat

    Theresa, I am certain that you address this question in one of your posts, but I couldn’t find it. How many tomato plants do you put out each year?

    We are a family of three adults. It has been a few years since we have had a good tomato harvest, giving us enough for our favorite end product: vegetable juice (tomatoes and hot peppers)! I am hoping we will do better this year.

    I did winter sow tomatoes (a bit late) and I now have 48 seedlings in varying stages. Some are ready to transplant, but some are still getting their first true leaves. I expect to lose some in the transplant process. I still think there will be more than we need. So how many do I give away??
    🙂

  • Theresa

    Pat, I’ve grown 40 or so tomatoes plants many a year. But mainly, when I grow that many, I’m trying new varieties and trying to make sure that I don’t come up short if some varieties don’t do well.

    I can’t readily find my notes, but I think I grew 24 plants last year. About 10 varieties were duds. That left about 14 and several of those were late determinate varieties that came in very late. So the bulk of my tomatoes to eat and make roasted sauce to carry me through the winter probably came from about 12 plants.

    If you have room, it’s always nicer to have more rather than less. You can always pull up the plants if you don’t need them or dig in the excess fruit.

    The main thing is to have enough dependable varieties that will give you what you need. Just takes doing it to make that educated guess about how many you need.
    Hope this helps.
    Theresa

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