Last week I shared my simple salsa recipe as a way to use up some of that end of summer tomato glut. Well, we’re still deep in the red around here, as I went up to the CSA this weekend and picked another 50+ pounds. Here are the ways we are putting away the toms for use over the winter.
We mainly picked Roma tomatoes. But Rick wanted a few sweet slicers to save. Since slicing tomatoes don’t hold up as well to other preservation methods, and since it’s the easiest method to do, I put up those first…
This is the simplest thing. If you have the space, you might even be tempted to use this as your only tomato preservation method (we did for the last two years). First, wash and dry the tomatoes. Next, label your gallon size freezer bags. Finally, place as many tomatoes in the bag as it will hold, zip it up, and put it in the freezer. Done.
The tomatoes should not stick together, so you can take them out one or two or three at a time and set them in a bowl on your counter to defrost. As they warm up, the skins will just slip off. They will make great sauce or soup, and be as sweet as the summer time. They will be soft, so I usually dice them when they are still half-frozen and toss them straight into my pan to finish defrosting as they cook. Yum.
This is the main method we are using this year. Most of those Romas are getting diced and put into jars. There are lots and lots of posts out there talking about canned tomatoes and how the process works, so I’m not going to retype that here. Instead, here is a link to a great tutorial. The only thing I do differently is I chop those suckers up so I don’t have to do it on the cooking end when I open the cans. -Note that I’m experimenting right now with whether or not it’s worth it to dice them, or if it just as good crushing the tomatoes. I’ll let you know. – And please, please ignore anyone who tells you to seed your tomatoes. WHY? Seriously. If you don’t like tomato seeds, you probably don’t like tomatoes, so why are you even bothering. These are the same people who always peel their potatoes. To me, this is a total waste of time and energy. But whatever. Maybe I’m just lazy. ;)
No matter the recipe you use, make sure to adjust processing time for altitude if you live here in Denver. Last week I put up just over ten quarts of canned tomatoes (some diced and some crushed). Looking to get another 15-20 quarts out of these.
Mmmmm… sun-dried tomatoes. But without the sun. I totally use the dehydrator. It’s faster and I have two little boys in the yard, not to mention the chickens. All of them, tomato hounds and dirt-flingers to boot. Dehydrator is much safer – I might actually get dirt-free, uneaten tomatoes this way.
I picked through my boxes of Romas to find the small and the weird. These tomatoes tend to be labor intensive to peel, which is awful for canning, but makes them perfect candidates for drying. You don’t peel your dried tomatoes, and you can just cut out the really weird spots.
So wash them, slice them, arrange them, season them and you are good to go.
Some of the bigger weirdos had to be sliced long-ways into thirds to fit in my dehydrator trays. I sprinkle mine with salt and thyme. I don’t seed these tomatoes either. That might make the drying time faster, or possibly make the trays easier to clean afterwards, but I don’t care. I just want to get the tomatoes off the counter and into the pantry as quickly as possible.
My dehydrator will take 12 hours on 135° to dry them all out. For those that will tell me to use my oven, sorry, that’s a no go. I run my dehydrator outside so I don’t have to heat up my kitchen. We have no a/c around here and I can actually fit more into the dehydrator anyway. If you don’t have a dehydrator though, that is a viable option.
There you have it. What are your favorite ways to save summer’s favorite fruit for the dark days of winter?