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Preserving the Harvest…Tomatoes

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There is so much you can do with your tomato harvest. Learn how to can, freeze, dehydrate and ferment tomatoes for now and later.

Preserving tomatoes is a summer tradition in many homes. But preserving tomatoes can be more than spaghetti sauce and salsa. 

There are so many ways of preserving tomatoes and really, you need to do what is best for your family. Because I’m pretty simple, I mainly can tomatoes with onions and garlic and dehydrate tomatoes to make tomato powder. But I have some pretty amazing friends who do much more with their tomatoes and I’ll be sharing links to their goodness too. 

That way, if your goal is just to get the tomatoes preserved in a way that your family can use all year you’ll have the resources to do that. But if you want to branch out and try a few more fun things with your tomatoes you’ll have the resources to do that too.

I have a set of worksheets I print each year to keep track of what I’ve preserved. You can get the worksheets emailed to you by filling out the form below. 

There is so much you can do with your tomato harvest. Learn how to can, freeze, dehydrate and ferment tomatoes for now and later.

Freezing

Freezing tomatoes is super easy, just cut the stem out and put in a freezer bag. Nope, you don’t have to peel them first. The reason is that when the tomatoes thaw out, the skin will slip right off. Because of this, I actually freeze all the tomatoes that I’m going to can. This also allows me to can them in the fall when it’s cooler. 

If you are limited on freezer space or are going to freeze the tomatoes long term, you might think about chopping or slicing them first. This will allow the bags to lay flat and make the skins not so noticeable if you choose to not peel them. 

There is so much you can do with your tomato harvest. Learn how to can, freeze, dehydrate and ferment tomatoes for now and later.

Canning

Canning tomatoes is usually the most common way to preserve them. You will probably want to take the skin off the tomatoes first and you can do this by either blanching them or freezing them and then thawing them out. 

My favorite way to can tomatoes is to can them with onions and garlic because that is how I use them. This way I can make spaghetti sauce or salsa very quickly or I can add the tomatoes to soup. 

I have a little system of making the most of my tomatoes when I can them, nothing goes to waste. First I freeze them. When it’s time to can them and I thaw them out I pull the skins off and then I put the tomatoes in colanders to strain off the water. I either dehydrate the skin or blend it up in the blender to make a paste. I can the tomatoes and I also can the tomato water I strained off. You can see the full process here

Until this year I’ve always water bath canned my tomatoes, even when I made spaghetti sauce or salsa. I don’t add sugar to my spaghetti sauce or vinegar to my salsa and apparently that is a no-no. If you put anything other than tomatoes in the jar with the tomatoes you are supposed to pressure can it. 

All that to say, I pressure canned my tomatoes, onions and garlic this year. My stove top is kind of small and it’s always a pain to get the big water bath canner on it and then take enough water out after sterilizing the jars (I don’t have a dishwasher) so that I can get my full jars in the canner without displacing all the water. This is especially irritating when I have multiple batches to do. When you use a pressure canner you don’t have to sterilize the jars, they just need to be clean and hot.

It wasn’t any faster but it was less frustrating and using the pressure canner didn’t heat up my house as much. 

After the extra water was strained off the tomatoes I put them in a large pot (20qts) with 8 large onions that we chopped. We peeled 8 heads of garlic and put them in a bowl with some of the tomatoes and I used an immersion blender to blend the garlic with the tomatoes. Then I added that to the big pot of tomatoes and used the immersion blender some more. I bought the tomatoes to a boil. 

I filled a cooler with hot water and put my jars in there to keep them hot. If you have a dishwasher you won’t need to do this just heat them in the dishwasher. I filled the jars and left a 1″ headspace and then pressure canned them at 10lbs for 25 minutes. For the tomato water I did 10lbs for 10 minutes. I got these numbers from the Ball Blue Book. Make sure and check your canning book or the instruction book that came with your canner, especially if you live at a high altitude. 

If you are nervous about using a pressure canner, At Home Canning for Beginner’s and Beyond dvd is a wonderful resource. Use promo code LEARN2CAN to get a $5 discount. 

Recipes: 

Roasted Tomato Soup from Homespun Seasonal Living

Gingerly Green Tomato and Vanilla Apple Jam from Homespun Seasonal Living

Homemade Ketchup from Urban Overalls

Spaghetti Sauce from Common Sense Homesteading

Salsa from Common Sense Homesteading

Chow Chow from Attainable-Sustainable

There is so much you can do with your tomato harvest. Learn how to can, freeze, dehydrate and ferment tomatoes for now and later.
Dehydrating

I mentioned earlier that I dehydrate tomatoes to make tomato powder. We usually only plant 2-3 cherry type tomato plants but they are always so prolific! We eat a few handfuls each day for snacking and salads but we always have too many.

So we cut them in half and put them in the dehydrator skin side down. In a few hours they are dried out and we put them in a mason jar for storage. If I’m feeling really industrious I’ll go ahead and grind them up before putting them in the jar. I use an inexpensive coffee grinder that I don’t use for coffee to grind the tomatoes. 

Storing Dehydrated Tomatoes in Oil from An Oregon Cottage

There is so much you can do with your tomato harvest. Learn how to can, freeze, dehydrate and ferment tomatoes for now and later.

{Photo Credit: Little Big Harvest}

Fermenting 

To ferment tomatoes you’ll want to use not quite ripe tomatoes. Fully ripe tomatoes will get mushy and ferment really fast.

Most of the recipes I’ve seen are for cherry tomatoes, green tomatoes or ketchup. I guess that you would want firm tomatoes to ferment. 

Here’s a fermented ketchup from Common Sense Homesteading and there is a fermented cherry tomato recipe and a fermented green salsa recipe in my book.

image of The Ultimate Guide to Preserving Vegetables and jars of home preserved vegetables

The Ultimate Guide to Preserving Vegetables

If you you’re looking for more preserving inspiration, I know you’ll love The Ultimate Guide to Preserving Vegetables. In this book I share how to can, dehydrate, freeze and ferment almost every vegetable. I also share 100 favorite recipes for preserving the vegetables in fun way that will save you time and money later. Get your copy here. Get your copy here.

There is so much you can do with your tomato harvest. Learn how to can, freeze, dehydrate and ferment tomatoes for now and later.

How do you preserve your tomatoes? Please leave your ideas or even links to tomato preservation recipes in the comments. 

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