Saturday, July 28, 2012
Four Ways to Preserve Tomatoes
It's tomato time.
I get enough tomatoes from my garden to eat and sometimes even to roast, but today I went to my friend's super-duper-survive-Armageddon garden and picked many many pounds of gorgeous (how are they possibly that pretty?) tomatoes. And, you know, I like tomato sandwiches and all, but still...
Basically, there are 4 ways to preserve tomatoes. None are too crazy hard and some are downright easy. Here they are in order of laziness.
1. Roast. I love this method. It is super flavorful. It requires no special equipment. The end product tastes like Eden itself. And it's very versatile. You can just eat the roasted tomatoes, or add them to pasta or rice (or add them to a burger sometime; you'll be the burger gourmet among all your friends). Or use them for the base of a soup or sauce. You can puree them (which is my family's thing--the kids and Kip don't do "chunkies" alas) and use them to make incredible tomato soup or tomato sauce. You can also add onions, garlic, or whatever the heck you want when roasting. Once you've got your tomatoes or puree, you're going to put it in jars or Tupperware and freeze it. Often I use old yogurt containers for this purpose (just remember to label them, eh). I like a slow roast at 350-375. It'll take a couple of hours for a full pan and less time if you're pan isn't packed.
2. Dry. This is easiest if you have a dehydrator. It's also easiest with Roma tomatoes or some sort of small variety, like Sweet 100's. You cut and seed your tomatoes, add some salt, and dry away. However, this is also a really good method for oven drying. They don't come out quite as dried, but are wicked good. Also, I tend to freeze my dried tomatoes. I'm always paranoid that I didn't get them quite dry enough and that I'll find them moldy halfway through winter. They don't take much space so I throw them in a Ziploc bag and put them in the freezer.
3. Freeze. With this method you're going to pretend you're canning your tomatoes. You'll boil them for about 30 seconds, then plunge them into ice water to get the skins off. You'll mash or cut them. You can salt them if you wish. But then, instead of putting them in jars to process them, you'll put them in Ziploc bags or plastic containers and freeze them. It's a little easier and less kitchen-steaming than canning. Also, you don't need as much specialized equipment as you do with canning.
4. Can. Canning has a bad reputation for being a pain in the bruhahee. And it is a couple hours of juicy work. However, it's really not that bad. Especially if you're just canning a few jars for winter delight and not canning so that you can survive the winter. I usually just do a batch or two--a batch being the 5 or 6 jars that my big pot can hold. Which brings me to another topic. Canning does require a bit of knowledge and some equipment. You'll need a big old pot and something with which to pull the jars out. You'll need Mason jars, fresh lids with seals and the screwy lid things. Also, you're going to steam up your house a bit. Is it worth it? Yes. I hadn't had home canned tomatoes for years. And then, 2 years ago, we canned some at a friend's house. Oh my. They were so so much better than store bought diced that I really couldn't believe it. Here's a good site on canning (although I also add 1 tsp salt to my quart jars for flavor, and I don't wait for my tomatoes to cool off--I plunge them into ice water).