Terrific Tomatoes for Spectacular Sauces and Creative Canning

A tomato connoisseur and organic gardening recommends his favorite cultivars based on flavor, reliability, and years of experience.

| February/March 2017


Find the best tomatoes for your sauce and canning recipes.

Photo by Dreamstime/picalotta

The basis of great home-preserved tomato products is, of course, great tomatoes. When preserving ketchup, tomato paste, or other dishes that require an extended amount of reduction, save time by choosing fleshy tomatoes that aren’t too watery or full of seeds. Good picks include paste and plum tomatoes along with heart-shaped and beefsteak types. Though shape or size may tell you something about the suitability of a cultivar for preservation, color should never be a factor.

Tomatoes can easily be frozen whole in freezer bags with no preparation aside from a rinse to remove any dirt and a quick check to avoid rotting areas. Skinning tomatoes before canning them is a matter of personal preference, but by eliminating this somewhat labor-intensive step, the whole process should be more accessible to beginners.

Decoding Tomato Language

D: Determinate. All of these will grow in a 5-gallon or larger container supported by 4-foot stakes or short cages.

I: Indeterminate. These are the tomato family monsters, reaching heights of 8 feet or more by the end of the season, with their spread determined by how you prune and support them. Tie them to tall stakes with twine, or surround them with 6-foot-tall, 3-foot-wide cages made of wire mesh.

H: Heirloom. All tomatoes listed are open-pollinated, and many are heirlooms with special stories and long histories.

Classic Pear, Plum, or Long-Shaped Cultivars

These are the workhorses of any sauce, paste, and canning garden. Very meaty, occasionally dry, and with few seeds, the flesh cooks down quickly into a thick product. Some are satisfying when eaten fresh, while others need to be cooked or roasted to bring out their flavor.

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