Tomato Preservation – Make it Easy
Right when our fresh tomatoes are ripening by the arm loads, we’re in mid-season, busy as ever growing and selling. How do we have any time to preserve food? It’s actually such a high priority for our family, we make the time.
Preserving tomatoes is a staple for our kitchen. They are at the top of the list of any preserving we accomplish over the growing season.
Why go through the trouble? One word: FLAVOR! Preserved tomatoes are so delicious over the cold winter months for soups, sauce, chili or just a bowl of warm, stewed tomatoes. It warms a belly on a cold day. And, we know we’re eating the most nutritious, harvested at the peak of ripeness, fruit. That incredible summer sweetness is infused in every dish we make. It makes a world of difference.
You can preserve tomatoes, too, and you don’t need to take on canning or invest hours of your time. Canning is our preferred method but not our only one. Sometimes, when we’re out of time but still have fruit to save, we freeze raw or stewed fruit. Nothing could be easier.
Here are a few tips to help you preserve fresh summer tomatoes so you can enjoy their sweet flavor during the cold winter months. Just remember, you don’t have to feed an army. Even a few quarts put in the freezer or canned is better than none!
Method 1: Freeze Raw Fruit
Level of Difficulty: You can do this with your eyes closed.
All you need are sturdy freezer bags or containers. Glass mason jars can be used to freeze if you have the freezer space to prevent jars from clinking together. Be sure and leave enough space for the tomatoes to expand if you are using glass or plastic containers.
Tomatoes should be clean, cored and sliced in halves or quarters. Place fruit in the bag, close and label. Keep in mind you will have the skins and seeds with the tomatoes when you first cook them. We don’t mind this but if you don’t want skins or seeds, tomatoes will need to go through a sieve or food mill to remove them once you thaw and prepare to cook. OR, check out our recipe for Whole Tomato Pasta Sauce where seeds and skins mostly disappear with the use of stick blender.
Cherry Tomatoes can be frozen whole. They work great in a winter soup especially a white bean soup where we’re always looking for a little acidity to lighten the flavor. Just add a few frozen cherry tomatoes straight from the bag. They warm and burst open giving your soup a wonderful flavor addition.
Method 2: Freeze Stewed Fruit
Level of Difficulty: You can do this with one eye closed.
Same idea as the first method except the tomatoes are stewed before freezing. Again, we are using whole tomatoes with skins and seeds. If you want to remove the skins, bring a large pot of water to a simmer and gently lower a few whole tomatoes into the water. After a couple minutes, remove the fruit and skins will slide right off. Continue with coring and slicing.
Place sliced tomatoes in a pot and cook until tomatoes begin to break down and are heated through. Now you have stewed tomatoes. Cool completely! Use sturdy freezer bags or containers to freeze.
Method 3: Water Bath Canning – Stewed Tomatoes
Level of Difficulty: You need both eyes wide open.
If you are ready to take on canning, you need to start with some information. We love the very affordable paperback Ball Book of Canning and Preserving. This book thoroughly explains equipment and the method for Water Bath Canning giving step-by-step instructions. Small investment for a lot of information.
You will be stewing the tomatoes, with or without skins as you prefer, just like in Method 2. Canning is a more time consuming preservation method but canning does produce a very tasty product.
At the time of this posting, canning supplies is becoming limited, especially canning lids and rings. Even so, please stick with name brand canning lids when you are purchasing supplies. Off brand lids are not guaranteed to seal properly and we experienced faulty lids this year. Brands like Kerr and Ball are reliable. You don’t want to put in all the work and prep to discover your lids are not working in your final step.
You can use water bath canning for many other tomato recipes like sauce and salsa. Or, you can keep it simple, preserve the tomatoes and make more exciting tomato recipes over the winter when you want the heat and humidity from cooking in your home. The only other tomato product we can is salsa. All sauce is made on demand during the winter with frozen or canned stewed tomatoes. Our recipe for Whole Tomato Pasta Sauce will have sauce on your table in 30 minutes.