My absolute favorite thing to grow is tomatoes. I love that there are literally thousands of varieties to try. I love the flavor of homegrown tomatoes – store bought tomatoes just cannot compare. I even love the smell of tomato plants – which don’t really smell very good, but I love them anyway. So, for canning tomatoes I use a no-waste approach.
I know most people will blanch tomatoes before canning them to remove the skins and they’ll remove most of the seeds. And that fine, that’s the “proper” way of canning tomatoes. For the most part, I’m anti-blanching and anti-peeling, because it takes so much longer and I don’t think the benefit is worth the effort. If you do, then by all means, blanch and peel.
When I first started canning tomatoes I blanched and removed seeds and it was fine until I had a big bowl full of “waste” at the end of the day. I decided then that I wasn’t growing tomatoes to use as compost or to feed the chickens, they were for my family.
The next year I tried to get away without peeling the tomatoes at all and just diced the tomatoes before canning them. That didn’t go over so well, and all year I heard complaints about the tomato skins. Tomato skins can be tough and a bit bitter, so while you don’t have to remove the skins before canning tomatoes. I suggest you do.
And I have super simple way of removing tomato skins and using them that doesn’t involve blanching.
How to Easily Remove Tomato Skins
When we bring our tomatoes inside, the first thing we do is cut the “belly button” off (most people call this the stem) and any bad parts and then cut the tomato in half if it’s large, if it’s a smaller paste tomato we leave it whole. We put the tomatoes in plastic gallon size ice cream pails or zip lock bags and put them in the freezer.
I do this for two reasons, the first is that it’s not always convenient to process the tomatoes when we get our biggest harvests, in fact, it is almost never convenient to process them at the height of harvest season. The second reason is that they are so much easier to peel once they have been frozen.
I take tomatoes out of the freezer the night before I’m going to can them. I put them in large bowls and pans and let them thaw out. The next morning I take the ones that are the most thawed and dump them out of the zip lock bags into a large roaster pan (I use this because my strainer is oblong and it fits into the lid of the roaster pan.)
The tomato peels come right off the thawed out tomato.
In the middle are the thawed tomatoes. I put the peels in a bowl (see photo below), the pulp in the strainer and I pour all the juice into a big pot.
I can the tomato juice separately to use in rice or soups. I like doing it this way so that I don’t have to let my spaghetti sauce or salsa cook down for hours. I have a friend who cooks down the juice all day to make it more concentrated. You can do whatever works best for you.
Eventually the peels go into the blender with a little of the juice and get turned into “sauce”. I add this to the spaghetti sauce or salsa that I’m making that day to help thicken it up a little.
You can also dehydrate the tomato peels and then blend them up into a powder; I do this with cherry tomatoes to get used in soups or rice, it’s super good.
The Ultimate Guide to Preserving Vegetables
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So there you have it, a way to use every bit of the summer goodness of tomatoes. How do you preserve summer goodness?