Preserving the Tomato Harvest

Reader Contribution by Melodie Metje

It is peak tomato season! There are so many recipes that fresh tomatoes can be used in-salsa, salads, bruschetta, cucumber/tomato/onion salad, on burgers, on sandwiches, on pasta, the list goes on. So, what to do when you are eating tomatoes at every meal and still have them coming? It is time to preserve them!

I freeze, dry and can my excess tomatoes. Be sure to put the date and description on each freezer bag and quart jar. Use the oldest first and all within a year.

Right now, I prefer to freeze them because it is so hot that I don’t want to turn on any heat generators inside the house. For cherry type tomatoes, I just half them and throw them in a quart freezer bag and put in the freezer. For larger tomatoes, I slice then put them in freezer bags. They thaw much quicker this way. They will have a fresh taste when thawed and used for salsa, sauces, or chili.

When it cools, I start drying and canning. I just love “sun-dried” tomatoes right out of my own dehydrator. You can also dry on a cookie sheet at low temperatures in the oven.  You store your dried tomatoes in a quart jar to use until next year.

Only a water bath is needed for canning tomatoes because they are acidic. I use Weck’s canning jars. They are all glass so no worries about what is lining the lid. And they are a really pretty shape.  Make sure you follow a sauce recipe exactly as it is critical for keeping to the right acid level.

I throw the entire tomato (de-stemmed) into the food processor. Most recipes say to remove the peel and seeds so you don’t have a bitter taste, but I have not noticed any issue with bitterness.

Tomato Paste Recipe

Here is the recipe from Ball’s Complete Book of Home Preserving for tomato paste:

9 cups pureed tomatoes
1½ cups chopped sweet bell peppers
2 bay leaves
1 tsp salt
1 clove of garlic

I put it all into a large pot and let simmer until it is the consistency and taste I like, about 2.5 hours. Remove the bay leaves and garlic. Boil the jars, lids, and seals as the sauce is close to done. Add 3 tsp of lemon juice to each hot pint jar, fill with the hot tomato sauce to within ½ inch of the top, and seal the lid, following the instructions for the type of jar you are using. Place all the filled jars in a large pot, insuring they are fully covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 45 minutes. Remove from canner. Let cool. Test the seal after the jar is completely cool. It should not lift off. That’s it!

Other high-acid foods you can using a water bath are jams, jellies, condiments, salsas, pickles, and relishes. Consult with a canning book for more tips.

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