Preserving the Harvest – Tomatoes

There is nothing better than a perfectly ripe off the vine tomato from the home garden. Kissed in sunshine and wonderfully sweet, don’t we all wish that we can have this delicacy year round? The Spring & Summer garden season is sometimes overwhelming and exhausting but if we plan ahead there are things that we can do to make sure that we have tomato products preserved for the off seasons. Will it taste as wonderful as that vine ripe tomato? Nope. But it will keep you from buying the bland, tasteless, wax covered faux-matos from the dreaded grocery store. 

You can Can!

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So first and easiest is canning salsa, tomato paste, enchilada sauces and marinara. Tomatoes can be water bath canned most of the time, making them the perfect product for beginners. I prefer to use cherry tomatoes for canning just because I dont even peel or cut them!  Here’s a super easy caning recipe to start with! Prick whole cherry tomatoes with a pin or toothpick and use a plain pickling recipe. These are fabulous and probably as close to a fresh tomato taste in mid winter as you are going to get. Here is a simple recipe, I would omit the sugar, of course. Snack on them whole, top a salad or blend up for a “fresh” salsa.

So first and easiest is canning salsa, tomato paste, enchilada sauces and marinara. Tomatoes can be water bath canned most of the time, making them the perfect product for beginners. I prefer to use cherry tomatoes for canning just because I dont even peel or cut them!  Here’s a super easy caning recipe to start with! Prick whole cherry tomatoes with a pin or toothpick and use a plain pickling recipe. These are fabulous and probably as close to a fresh tomato taste in mid winter as you are going to get. Here is a simple recipe, I would omit the sugar, of course. Snack on them whole, top a salad or blend up for a “fresh” salsa.

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Red and green tomato salsas are the best thing to start with. We use green salsa for chicken enchiladas and my kids prefer as a dip, over the red.  Marinara is an easy second to salsa and after trying many, many recipes, I will never use another after trying this one,  thickened with carrots and super easy (think crock pot)! Next comes enchilada sauce and BBQ sauce! We use apples or pears in our BBQ sauce- No Sugar! Don’t forget your tomato soup & my personal favorite, bloody mary mix, strain the juice for your mix and can the pulp for tomato paste!

Finding or making time to can is always the tough part but in the end well worth it to have those cupboards stocked for winter. One thing we do is freeze them until we have down time to batch can. 

For more of my favorite canning recipes follow my canning board on Pinterest!

Freeze

Next up is –  Freeze the tomatoes whole in zip lock bags if you have the freezer space. Even temporarily. This frees up time for gardening and you can get to those tomatoes at a more convenient time or a rainy day. The other great trick with this is that you can throw those tomatoes in warm water and they peel easy…super easy. I never feel the need to peel, I usually leave peels on for most recipes, unless….

WHICH brings me to one of my favorite tips……

Dehydrate

Dehydrate those peels! Did you know the trick to many Mexican food restaurant salsas is tomato powder? Tomato powder is the secret to fresh tomato taste, year round. Dehydrate your peels, throw them in a bag and freeze (this step is important for a fine powder). Then pop them in an herb (or coffee) grinder to create a fine dust of deliciousness!  Add this to dips, soups, salsa, home made salad dressings, everything!

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While we are talking about dehydrating, don’t forget your overabundance of cherry tomatoes! Split those bad boys in half and dehydrate those with a pinch of sea salt or basil for a cheater version of sun dried tomatoes. Store in a jar dry, or soaked in olive oil. I throw these in everything from eggs to stews until tomato season rolls back around. 

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So, I hope this brought you a few new ideas on different ways to preserve this very important harvest.

Tomatoes have huge health benefits if your are not nightshade intolerant, and are easy to grow.

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So take advantage of every way to preserve them as you can. If you don’t grow them, contact your local farmer to reap the benefits of vine ripe, beyond organic, produce.  Follow Bad Baxter Farm for more healthy holistic homesteading recipes and ideas. 

So what is your favorite tomato preservation tip, trick or recipe? Do share!


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