August is always tomato harvest time in Maryland, and even if you have just a few plants, you are inundated with a flood of vine ripened monsters with no room to put them! I think that Maryland is the perfect climate for growing the best tomatoes, hot and humid, plus a long growing season.There is nothing like the taste of a sliced tomato fresh from the garden on a sandwich! But once you have used tomatoes on sandwiches or stir fried them into vegetable dishes and made spaghetti sauce, I want to preserve them for winter eating.
I have frozen tomatoes in the past because it is easier, but don’t like the texture or the condition of the finished product. Canned tomatoes are much preferable to use in the winter months rather than the frozen product. So I learned how to can some years ago and have canned sauce, chopped tomatoes, whole tomatoes, and salsa.
When I mention canning to people, the most common response is that it is too much work. But if you are used to freezing tomatoes, canning just needs one more step - processing in a hot water bath or pressurized canner. For the improvement in taste and texture, I think it is worth it. A hot water canner is very inexpensive and will last forever. Botulism is also a concern for many, but if you follow the proper canning procedure and add lemon juice to increase the acidity, you will be fine.
On the other end of the spectrum of preserving tomatoes is drying, and I love sun-dried tomatoes! And they are quite expensive, so it is worth while and incredibly simple. I bought a simple food dryer at Cabela’s and it is easy and efficient to use, and I usually have it on for several weeks during August drying all my Roma tomatoes. Roma tomatoes work better than regular heirloom or beefsteak tomatoes because the water content is much lower. Once the tomatoes are dried, I place them in Tupperware containers in the freezer. I tried storing them in olive oil in jars in the frig one year but they got moldy. When I need some dried tomatoes for cooking, I grab a handful out of the freezer and place them in a bowl of water in the microwave and heat them up. They will reconstitute very quickly in the hot water and are ready to use in recipes.
Here are simple instructions for canning your harvest:
Sterilize your jars in the dish washer at the highest heat along with the rings. Or if you prefer, put the jars in the hot water canner and boil them. You have to boil this water anyway to can the tomatoes, so this might be the easiest and most efficient way. Place the lids and rings in a small saucepan of boiling water. Keep the jars and lids in the water until ready to use.
In a saucepan, boil some water to fill the jars of tomatoes to the top.
- Weigh tomatoes
- Wash tomatoes
- Cut an X on the bottom for easy removal of skins
- Place the tomatoes in a large pot of boiling water for 2 minutes
- Dip the tomatoes out into ice water to stop cooking
- Drain tomatoes and remove the skin
- In the empty sterilized jars, place 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice
- Fill the sterilized jars with tomatoes. Make sure that you fill them completely. I press down lightly so as not to crush the tomatoes, but you want to fill them as completely as possible. Use a wooden skewer to get rid of air bubbles and gaps.
- Fill the jars of tomatoes with the boiling water until the jars are full with a 1/2 inch head space. Use the wooden skewer to get rid of any air bubbles.
- Screw on the jar lids with rings, making sure that the rims are clean and the rings are ‘finger tight’.
- Place into the water bath canner
- Process for 45 minutes. That means wait until you get a full boil and then start timing for a full 45 minutes.
- Lift the jars out and let cool. The jars should seal with a ‘pop’! A vacuum is formed when the jars are processed. If you can press down on the lid and there is movement, the jar has not sealed. Let the jar sit for 12 to 24 hours and if it doesn’t seal, you must use it immediately or store in the refrigerator until use.
Drying is my next favorite way to preserve the harvest. Once I have a good quantity of Roma paste tomatoes, I slice the top off and start slicing the tomato lengthwise. One tomato will produce 3 to 4 slices to dry. Place into a tray of a food dehydrator and plug it in. The slices will dry in about 12 to 15 hours. Make sure that they are completely dry and kind of crispy before storing into a Tupperware container. Place in the freezer until ready to use.
- How to Peel, Seed and Dice a Tomato (williams-sonoma.com)
- Weekend Project: Simplest Tomato Sauce (williams-sonoma.com)
- Canning! What To Do With All Those Tomatoes! (farmfoodieandfitness.com)
- The Prudent Pantry: How to Peel and Seed a Tomato (savings.com)
- Hot Water Bath Canning Tutorial: How to Can Tomatoes (faithfulprovisions.com)
- Home Canning Tomatoes (gardensandgarlic.wordpress.com)
- Pasta Pomodoro (juliegilley.typepad.com)
- Sauteed Shrimp and Tomatoes Over Pasta (luckymom2009.wordpress.com)