We had our first frost a week ago, which means that our garden came to a screeching halt! All the produce came into the house… now how to preserve all those fresh tomatoes??
What varieties did I have in the garden?
This year I planted 3 separate beds of tomatoes. We don’t like a ton of tomatoes fresh, but we do like all the things you can make with Summer tomatoes! We love to make marinara sauce, pizza sauce, salsa, BBQ sauce, and especially our homemade ketchup.
The varieties of fresh tomatoes I planted this year are:
- Cor di Bue
- cherry tomatoes
- black cherry tomatoes
- Roma tomatoes
- Heidi tomatoes
With this many different varieties I am able to make many different tomato products. Tomato season was coming to an abrupt end, so I needed to find different ways to put these tomatoes up. Last year I used two of the methods, but this was my first year doing one of them. The good news is with each of these methods you can pick which one fits your schedule.
What do I need to process fresh tomatoes?
The three methods I am using to process my Summer tomatoes do use some equipment. Luckily for tomatoes you do not need to use a pressure canner, however there is other added equipment you will need.
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The 3 easy ways I preserve tomatoes are freeze them, dehydrate them, and can them.
The first method, freezing the tomatoes, the only thing you need is a knife, cutting board, cookie sheet, and freezer bag. You can even freeze whole tomatoes and not use a knife and cutting board at all.
I like to cut mine, but once they are flash frozen they go into a freezer bag nicely and they do not stick together.
You will also need a dehydrator and blender for the second method. I love using my Excalibur Dehydrator and my Vitamix Blender for this process, however you can use any brand of dehydrator and blender.
The easiest way to preserve garden fresh tomatoes.
We are going to start with the easiest preservation method for your fresh tomatoes and progressively get to the more time consuming method. Tomatoes are so good in so many things and sometimes you just don’t have time to make all those things right away. That’s why this method is the fastest and easiest!
#1 Freezing your Tomatoes.
The quickest way to preserve your tomatoes is to freeze them. This is great because it literally can take minutes when you have lots of helpers. We usually sit around the table, everyone with a cutting board, and get to slicing tomatoes.
You can use any variety of tomatoes but our favorite is cherry tomatoes. Cherry tomato plants produce so many tomatoes. This is a perfect way to preserve them and use them for later.
Know that when you freeze tomatoes they are no longer good fresh. You will need to use them in some form of a sauce because they do get mushy.
Steps to freezing tomatoes:
- Wash tomatoes completely to remove any dirt.
- Cut tomatoes in half or quarters depending on how large your tomatoes are.
- Put on a baking sheet in a single layer and freeze for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- Once tomatoes are completely frozen you can place in a Ziploc bag and label it with the year. Whenever you are ready to make a sauce, ketchup, homemade tomato soup or BBQ sauce simply pull out the amount of tomatoes you need and make what you need!
Another simple method but takes a bit more time.
This next method is just as simple as freezing tomatoes, but it takes a bit more time. Dehydrated tomatoes are super simple and once you have your tomato powder you can use it to add flavor to dishes, like my Spanish rice recipe, or add some water to it and make tomato paste. You’ll want to store your tomato powder in an airtight container to keep it fresh all year long as you use it.
#2 Dehydrating your Tomatoes.
Using a food dehydrator, like this Excalibur Dehydrator, is a perfect way to put up tomatoes with minimal effort. You can simply put your sliced tomatoes on your wire rack in your dehydrator, set the temp and let it go. These dehydrated tomatoes gives the best flavor when using raw tomatoes.
Steps to dehydrating tomatoes:
- Slice all your tomatoes into 1/2″ slices. That is the size that fits in my dehydrator. You can change the size depending on your personal dehydrator. Just try and make the sizes uniform so the dehydration time is equal.
- Set your dehydrator to 125 degrees. Let your tomatoes dehydrate until completely dry and they snap when broken in half.
- Place tomatoes in a blender and blend into a powder.
- Store in an airtight container on your pantry shelf until ready to use it.
My absolute favorite way but takes longer.
Water bath canning my tomatoes is my favorite way to put up tomatoes. Whether that be in a condiment, in pizza sauce, in salsa, or in tomato sauce. This is my all time favorite way to use my fresh tomatoes.
#3 Water Bath Canning Roasted Marinara Sauce
Canning this delicious roasted marinara sauce is the perfect way to preserve your tomatoes and have it on your shelf ready to use in any recipe. I have not bought spaghetti sauce from the store in years, this sauce is just too good! The best thing about canning is you do not have to use up freezer space to put your tomatoes up. Once they are properly canned, they can go right on your shelf!
There is nothing better then pulling a jar off your shelf, of something you preserved from the garden, to make a delicious meal in the middle of winter.
Steps to water bath canning roasted marinara sauce:
- Start with 20lbs tomatoes. I like to use my Cor di Bue variety because they have lots of meat in them.
- Wash and slice all your tomatoes in half or quarters depending on the size. Lay them in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake in the oven at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes or until soft and golden brown.
- While tomatoes are baking, chop 1.5 cups of onion. Place 1 TBSP of avocado oil or olive oil in a large pot and add in onions. Cook the onions until they are caramelized.
- Once tomatoes are done, working in batches run all the tomatoes through a food mill to remove all the skins and seeds. You should be left with the tomato juice and pulp. Add that to your pot with your onions.
- Stir in 1 cup red or white dry wine, 1 TBSP salt, 1 TBSP dried oregano, 2 tsp ground pepper, 6 cloves of minced garlic, and 2 bay leaves to your pot.
- Bring everything to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and let simmer for 20 minutes to an hour or until your sauce has thickened to your desired texture.
- While sauce is cooking down, fill your canner and place it on the stove. Turn it on and let the water start to heat up. Wash all your jars, lids, and rings and place your jars in the canner to stay warm.
- Once your sauce is to your desired thickness, turn your sauce off, remove the bay leaves, and add in 2 tsp of citric acid or 1/2 cup bottle lemon juice.
- Take your jars out of the canner, using a wide mouth funnel fill each jar with the hot sauce leaving a 1/2″ headspace.
- Stick the back of a wooden spoon in each jar to release any air bubbles.
- Wipe rims of jars with a clean wet dish towel. Place a lid and ring on each jar screwing down finger tip tight.
- Place jars in the canner and make sure there is at least 1″ of water over the jars.
- Bring the heat up to a rolling boil. Process the jars in a boiling water bath for 40 minutes. Adjust for your elevation.
- After the processing time is completed, turn off the heat.
- Take the lid of the canner and let them sit for 5 minutes.
- Gently remove each jar using a jar lifter and place on a clean dish towel on your counter. Let them sit undisturbed for 12+ hours or until jars are completely cool.
After jars are completely cooled:
- After the jars have cooled completely, check each jar to see if they sealed. You do this by touching the top of each lid, if the center of the lid doesn’t “pop” back it has sealed.
- Remove the rings of each jar and wipe your jars clean.
- Label each clean jar with the year and contents.
- Store your canned sauce out of direct sunlight.
Roasted Marinara Sauce- with canning instructions
- 1 Food Mill
- 1 Water bath canner and basic canning supplies
- 5 Quart Jars
- 20 lbs tomatoes
- 1 1/2 cup chopped onions
- 1 cup red or white dry wine
- 1 TBSP salt
- 1 TBSP dried oregano
- 2 tsp ground pepper
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 cup bottled lemon juice or 2 tsp citric acid
- Fill you canner with water and put on stove on low to start heating up. Wash your jars, lids, and rings in warm soapy water. Place your jars in the canner to stay warm.
- Slice all your tomatoes in quarters or half (depending on the size of the tomatoes) and lay in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in a 375° oven for 45 minutes or until they are juicy and slightly golden brown.
- While tomatoes are baking, chop up onions. Place onions in a TBSP of avocado oil in a large pot. Cook until caramelized.
- Once tomatoes are done, work in batches to run all the tomatoes through a food mill. Discard all the seeds and skins and place the remaining pulp into your pot with your onions.
- Add all other ingredients, except the lemon juice/citric acid. Bring the sauce up to a boil, then reduce the heat. Simmer the sauce for 20 minutes to an hour or until you have reached the desired thickness.
- Remove pot from heat, remove the bay leaves and stir in the citric acid or lemon juice.
- Carefully remove all your jars and using a wide mouth funnel fill each jars with the hot sauce. Leave a 1/2" headspace in each jar.
- Using the back of a wooden spoon remove any air bubbles from each jar.
- Wipe the jars clean with a clean wet dish towel. Place your lids and rings on, screwing down until finger tip tight.
- Place all the jars back into the canner and make sure there is at least 1" of water over each jar.
- Place your canner lid on and bring water up to a rolling boil. Once at a rolling boil start your timer for your processing time.
- Process jars for 40 minutes, adjust for your elevation.
- After the timer goes off, turn your stove off and remove the lid of the canner. Let jars sit for 5 minutes.
- Gently remove each jar from the canner and place on a clean dish towel on the counter. Let sit there undisturbed for 12-24 hours or until the jars are completely cooled.
- Once cooled, gently touch the top of each of the jars to make sure they sealed. Remove the rings, wipe jars clean, and label with the contents and year.
- Store on your shelf out of direct sunlight.
What do you do with all those green tomatoes?
We have talked about what to do with all your ripe tomatoes, but what about all the green tomatoes? The simplest way to handle green tomatoes is to bring them inside and let them ripen in a warm window. I have a large bowl full of green tomatoes right turning red as we speak!
I have also taken my green tomatoes, made salsa verde out of them, and then canned the salsa verde for my shelf. The only problem with that is not everyone likes salsa verde in my family. I really only like to can things that everyone will eat. I want to get as much out of my efforts as possible!
The wonderful thing about growing an abundance of tomatoes is they can make so many different things. So in your next vegetable garden make sure to plant a wide variety of tomatoes so you can preserve them and enjoy fresh tomatoes all winter!