Four Ways to Preserve Tomatoes for Wintertime Meals

Reader Contribution by Sheryl Campbell
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Heirloom Tomatoes, photo by Sheryl Campbell

The amazing variety of tomato varieties fill our summer meals with complex tastes from smoky to fruity, tart to sweet, citrusy to mild. But what a shame if it ended in the fall. There are so many ways to preserve tomatoes that you can enjoy their delicious flavors all year ‘round.

Let’s look at each of the ways that I preserve tomatoes and some of the ways I use them throughout the year, especially winter and spring when I crave fresh tomato taste. Tomatoes preserve well in jam (really!), dehydrated, roasted and frozen, and canned (alone or with other vegetables).

Tomato Jam

In Cooking with Heirloom Tomatoes I showed you how to make Tomato Jam and use it on pizza. It also brings a deep flavor to appetizers when spread on goat cheese over cracked pepper crackers. Try it on grilled cheese sandwiches for a surprising taste twist!

 

Cooking with dehydrated tomatoes, photo by Sheryl Campbell

Dehydrated Tomatoes

For years I took hours and hours cooking tomato sauce and paste to can for the winter. No longer since I discovered how easy it is to use dehydrated tomatoes.

Simply cut sheets of parchment paper to fit your dehydrator (it works best in temperature controlled square or rectangular dehydrators). Cut ¼ inch slices of tomato, put them on the trays, and run the dehydrator at a medium temperature until the tomatoes are dried but still slightly pliable. Store in freezer bags and just pull out what you want as needed. I break them up a little bit before storing them so they don’t take up as much room.

Wintertime Spaghetti Sauce

  • 2 cups dehydrated tomatoes, crumbled slightly
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 sweet pepper, chopped
  • ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • Several shakes hot red pepper flakes
  • 1 lb. country sausage, browned in olive oil

Put tomatoes in a covered bowl, pour boiling water into bowl and cover securely for 2 hours. Add rest of ingredients (except for sausage) and run in food processor until pureed and smooth. Pour over browned sausage and stir to mix well. Serve.

Wintertime Tomato Sauce

  • 2 cups dehydrated tomatoes, crumbled slightly
  • For Sauce: 2 cups boiling water

Pour boiling water over tomatoes and let rest in covered bowl for 2 hours.  Blend in food processor.

Wintertime Tomato Paste

  • 2 cups dehydrated tomatoes, crumbled slightly
  • ¾ cups boiling water

This time, place the tomatoes in the food processor and pulse to reduce them to powder. Place the powder in a bowl, pour in boiling water, and let sit (covered tightly) for an hour.

Roasted and Frozen Tomatoes

 

Roasted cherry tomatoes, photo by Sheryl Campbell

Wintertime Cherry Tomatoes for Tarts, Pizzas, and Pasta Dishes

  • Lots of mixed cherry tomatoes
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 T. Kosher salt

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Halve cherry tomatoes and place, cut side up, on the paper. Sprinkle with olive oil and kosher salt. Bake in preheated 200 degree oven for 2-3 hours until tomatoes have shrunken but are still slightly moist. Store in airtight freezer containers for use in recipes throughout the year.  Toss into pasta dishes, or top pizzas and tarts for an amazing burst of tomato flavor in the dead of winter!

Wintertime Roasted Opalka Tomatoes

  • 5 Opalka tomatoes (these are huge!), halved length-wise
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 T. Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. course ground black pepper

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Place halved tomatoes cut side up on sheet. Sprinkle with olive oil and salt. Roast at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes. Cool slightly, and scoop meat out of the skins to use in recipes calling for tomato paste. Put in ice cube trays to freeze in 1-2 tablespoon servings.

 

Summer Salsa and Canned Tomatoes, photo by Sheryl Campbell

Canned Tomatoes

There are so many ways to can tomatoes for off season use. For simple whole, halved, or diced tomatoes canned for use in winter, read How to Can Tomatoes at Home Safely. Or go to Canning Tomato and Hot Pepper Salsa for the more adventurous.  Every year we can:

  • Tomato Basil Soup
  • Tomato/Peach/Pear Salsa
  • Bruschetta (see my last blog post for this recipe)
  • Tomato Jam
  • And loads of diced tomatoes

Tomato Basil Soup

  • 8 medium onions, cut in chunks
  • 1 ½ bunches celery, chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • ½ cup water

Cook together until vegetables are tender. Run through a food mill (I use a Roma mill). Pour into a really large stainless steel kettle.

  • ½ bushel (25-30 pounds) tomatoes, cut in chunks

Run through Roma mill, twice, and pour into the same kettle. Add:

  • 1 ¾ cups sugar
  • 4 T. canning salt
  • 2 tsp. black pepper
  • 4 T. butter
  • 1 heaping T. dried basil

Stir into tomato/vegetable juice mix until dissolve.

  • 1 cup Clearjel (regular)
  • 1 cup water

Dissolve Clearjel in water and stir into the kettle. Cook over medium heat stirring until thickened slightly.

Put ½ tsp. citric acid in 14 quart canning jars. Fill quart jars with soup, leaving 1 inch headspace. Tighten lids and process in boiling water bath for 45 minutes. Store for up to one year in dark, cool area.

Ready, Set, Go!

Summer’s tomato season is in full swing. While you are enjoying them fresh out of the garden, don’t forget to preserve some to delight your palate this winter.

Sheryl Campbell is an heirloom gardener, shepherd, and edible flower educator who owns Bouquet Banquet in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Read Sheryl’s previous blogging with Mother Earth GardenerandGrit and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWSposts here.


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