By Kim Robson:
This is the time of year when our backyard tomato plants are heavy with ripe fruit. Every day brings a few more and they start to pile up. I can use only so many. But I don’t want to give them away, either. How to best preserve the season’s bounty?
My favorite standby method is this great recipe for delicious salsa. All you need is a blender or food processer and canning jars. Trust me on this one – this stuff is GOOD.
Got big tomatoes with blemishes? Are they getting overripe and mealy? Perfect! Time to make grated tomato sauce. It’s simple and quick, and all you need is a box grater. And it freezes brilliantly in gallon Ziploc bags.
Grated Tomato Sauce
Freeze Those Puppies for Later
Green Mom founder Fredrica Syren saves tomatoes the “lazy” way: by freezing them whole on a baking sheet and storing them in a bag in the freezer. That way she always has tomatoes forstews and soups. Cherry tomatoes also freeze brilliantly – you don’t even need to bother coring or skinning them. For larger tomatoes, you may (or may not) want to skin, core, or seed them first, depending on what you plan to use them for later. To skin them, score an X on the bottom of each tomato and place in a pot of boiling water. When the skin starts to peel away from the X, remove them to a bowl of ice water. The skins should peel off easily.
Tomato paste is easy to make and can be frozen for up to six months. Peel tomatoes and remove seeds. Chop into small pieces so they’ll break down easier. Cook tomatoes over medium–low heat, adding a half teaspoon of salt for every 5 or so tomatoes. Continue cooking until you get a pasty consistency. Cool the paste, then spoon into ice cube trays for freezing (spray with a bit of oil first). Store frozen paste cubes in a freezer bag.
Meatier tomatoes like Roma or Beefsteak are best for dehydrating. Remove cores, slice in half lengthwise, then cut into 1-inch-thick wedges. Place in a dehydrator, skin side down, with plenty of room between wedges for air to circulate. Dehydrate at 135-145 degrees for 6-12 hours, depending on the juiciness of your tomatoes.
Don’t have dehydrator? Neither do I. You can use your oven, set at the lowest setting (usually 175) for 2-4 hours. Or you can make bona fide sun-dried tomatoes actually by drying them in the sun. You’ll need three days. First, make sure humidity levels are low. Arrange cut tomatoes on a baking sheet so that each piece gets plenty of room to get sunlight and air. Turn the sheet after the first day and a half so that both sides get plenty of drying time.
Store in an air-tight container. Rehydrate in hot water, or crush and add to soups and stews. They can even be snacked on just as they are. Sun-dried tomatoes can be stored in oil also.
Once you have sun-dried tomatoes, it’s a snap to make tomato powder. Grind dehydrated tomatoes in a blender until powdered. You may have to stop occasionally and scrape down the sides. The powder can be rehydrated into tomato paste or sauce. Or use it to thicken and add tomato flavor to soups or stews.
Store in an airtight jar. Turn the jar upside down and leave it on the counter for a day or two. Watch for any moisture inside the jar. If you notice moisture, your tomatoes were not dry enough, but you can simply leave the jar open for another day or two to dry out the powder. If no moisture shows up, it is good to go on the shelf for an indefinite period of time.