How to Preserve Tomatoes: From Aspic to Salsa

You can easily learn how to preserve tomatoes in new and flavorful ways. Try making a Spicy Tomato Aspic or a My-Way Marinara.
By Sherri Brooks Vinton
May 8, 2013
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“Put ’Em Up” by Sherri Brooks Vinton will have the most timid beginners filling their pantries and freezers with the preserved goodness of summer in no time.
Cover Courtesy Storey Publishing
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Preserving is back, and it’s better than ever. The step-by-step instructions in Put ’Em Up (Storey Publishing, 2010) by Sherri Brooks Vinton will have the most timid beginners filling their pantries and freezers with the preserved goodness of summer in no time. Nothing beats fresh-picked ripe heirloom tomatoes, but with some preserving knowledge and a few seasonings you can enjoy these beauties well into the winter months. In this excerpt from the tomato chapter, Vinton shows how to preserve tomatoes by making Spicy Tomato Aspic, My-Way Marinara, Canned Whole Tomatoes, and Heirloom Tomato Salsa.

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Put ’Em Up.

Locally grown tomatoes taste different from those found in the supermarket. Unlike the fruits in the mega-mart, which are picked while they’re still unripe and hard enough to withstand shipping, fresh-grown tomatoes ripen on the vine, so they’re full of flavor. Many independent farmers grow heirloom tomato varieties, which can be traced back for generations. Yellow, orange, purple, black, green, and, of course, red heirlooms come in a wide range of shades and varieties. These tomatoes have more complex flavors and are often less acidic than commercially grown tomatoes. Whichever kind of tomatoes you get, their peak season is short, so get them while the getting’s good.

Fresh storage recommendation: Never refrigerate tomatoes — it zaps them of their flavor and texture. Store them on the counter, stem-side down, and enjoy them before they go soft.

The boiling-water method is the standard technique to safely preserve tomatoes and other acidic foods such as salsas, chutneys, relishes, jams, jellies, pickles, and many fruits.

Spicy Tomato Aspic Recipe

Makes about 2 cups

Tomato aspic: I know, I know, “aspic” is so 1950s housewife. Let’s call it “heirloom tomato gelée” — now we’re hip and modern. Either way, this tomato preserve is really tasty on a turkey sandwich or served with some creamy goat cheese or queso fresco.

Ingredients

2 pounds ripe tomatoes, cored and chopped
1–2 jalapeño peppers, stems and ribs removed, sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh cilantro stems (optional)
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons Pomona’s Universal Pectin
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
2 teaspoons calcium water (included in the Pomona box)

Prepare

1. Bring the tomatoes, jalapeños, and salt to a boil in a large nonreactive saucepan. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, stirring and gently crushing the tomatoes with a potato masher until they release all their juices, about 10 minutes. In the last 5 minutes, add the cilantro, if using. Cool slightly.

2. Transfer the mixture to a jelly bag or a colander lined with cheesecloth and hang, refrigerated, overnight. Do not press on the solids.  

3. Combine the sugar and pectin in a small bowl and set aside.

4. Measure 2 cups of the tomato juice into a medium nonreactive saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir in the sugar-pectin mixture and return to a boil. Combine the vinegar and calcium water and stir into the boiling mixture. Remove from the heat and stir for 2 to 3 minutes to release air bubbles. Skim off any foam.

Preserve

Refrigerate: Ladle into bowls or jars. Cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks. 

Can: Use the boiling-water method. Ladle into clean, hot 4-ounce canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace between top of aspic and lid. Release trapped air. Wipe the rims clean; center lids on the jars and screw on jar bands. Process for 10 minutes. Turn off heat, remove canner lid, and let jars rest in the water for 5 minutes. Remove jars and set aside for 24 hours. Check seals, then store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.

My-Way Marinara Recipe

Makes about 7 quarts

I call this My-Way Marinara because the basic recipe gives me the flexibility to adjust the sauce to fit my needs as I use it. In the middle of winter, when I’m hitting my stash of this canned sauce, I can stir in some of the mushrooms or peppers that I’ve put by, add dried herbs if that’s my mood, or chop in some root-cellared carrots or parsnips. So, you see, it’s my way, whatever way that might be.

Ingredients

25 pounds plum tomatoes, cut in half
1 pound onions, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
3 tablespoons bottled lemon juice per quart (about 1 1/4 cups total)
1 teaspoon salt per quart (about 7 teaspoons total)

Prepare

1. Put 5 pounds of the tomatoes in a large nonreactive saucepan with a splash of water. Cover and bring to a low boil over medium heat, crushing and stirring the tomatoes with a potato masher occasionally to release their juices.

2. Add an additional 5 pounds of tomatoes and repeat, continuing to crush and stir as you go. Repeat with the remaining tomatoes until all are crushed and boiling.

3. Reduce the heat and simmer the tomatoes for 15 minutes. Let cool slightly, and then run the tomatoes through a food mill to remove skins and seeds.

4. Return the tomato purée to the pot. Add the onions and garlic and bring to a simmer. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick, 1{1/2} to 2 hours.  

5. Transfer the sauce to quart containers and add 3 tablespoons of lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of salt to each quart.

Preserve

Refrigerate: Cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Freeze: Freeze for up to 6 months. 

Can: Use the boiling-water method. Ladle the sauce (adding the 3 tablespoons of lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of salt to each container) into clean, hot quart jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Release trapped air. Wipe the rims clean; center lids on the jars and screw on jar bands. Process for 45 minutes. Turn off heat, remove canner lid, and let jars rest in the water for 5 minutes. Remove jars and set aside for 24 hours. Check seals, then store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.

Canned Whole Tomatoes Recipe

Canning whole tomatoes is a simple and rewarding way to preserve tomatoes, and it’s made even more so by good company. The steps involved make for great assembly-line work, so get your friends together, and put ’em up!

Ingredients

For each quart of tomatoes:

3 pounds plum tomatoes (such as Amish paste or Juliet)
2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice or 1/2 teaspoon citric acid
1 teaspoon salt (optional)

Prepare

1. Fill a clean cooler halfway with heavily iced water and bring a large pot of water to a boil. Drop the tomatoes into the boiling water, no more than 6 tomatoes at a time, and return to a boil. Blanch until the skins begin to loosen, 30 to 60 seconds.

2. Scoop the tomatoes out of the water with a spider or slotted spoon and plunge them into the ice water. Continue blanching the tomatoes in batches. Remove from the ice bath and drain. Core the tomatoes, and then peel away the skins with a small paring knife.

3. Put the lemon juice or citric acid and the salt, if using, into clean, hot quart jars. Pack the tomatoes into the jars one at a time, pressing firmly enough to compress the hollow core and release enough juice to cover the tomato but not so hard that the fruit is crushed. Continue packing tomatoes in this manner, being careful to press out any air pockets. Tomatoes should be covered by 1/2 inch with their liquid. Leave 1/2 inch of headspace between the top of the liquid and the lid. Top with a little boiling water, if necessary, to achieve the proper headspace.

Preserve

Can: Use the boiling-water method. Release trapped air. Wipe the rims clean; center lids on the jars and screw on jar bands. Process for 85 minutes. Turn off heat, remove canner lid, and let jars rest in the water for 5 minutes. Remove jars and set aside for 24 hours. Check seals, then store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.

Heirloom Tomato Salsa Recipe

Makes about 7 cups

Use any variety of heirloom tomato — or a combination to preserve tomatoes in this vinegary salsa. The different colors available make for a gorgeous result.

Ingredients

1 cup distilled white vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon salt
3 pounds heirloom tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/2 pound onions, diced
1–2 jalapeño peppers, finely diced
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Prepare

Bring the vinegar, sugar, and salt to a boil in a large nonreactive saucepan. Add the tomatoes, onions, and jalapenos, and return to a boil for 5 minutes. Add the cilantro and remove from the heat.

Preserve

Refrigerate: Ladle into bowls or jars. Cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 5 days.

Can: Use the boiling-water method. Ladle into clean, hot half-pint canning jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Release trapped air. Wipe the rims clean; center lids on the jars and screw on jar bands. Process for 15 minutes. Turn off heat, remove canner lid, and let jars rest in the water for 5 minutes. Remove jars and set aside for 24 hours. Check seals, then store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.


This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from Put 'Em Up! by Sherri Brooks Vinton, published by Storey Publishing, 2010. Buy this book from our store: Put 'Em Up.


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