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Got Too Many Tomatoes?

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?tomatoes

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.

Tomato Salsa

Ingredients:

• 3 cups heirloom tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped (add that tomato water, too, it’s full of flavor!)
• 1 cup coarsely chopped jalapeno or other hot pepper (remove seeds and pith)
• 1 onion, coarsely chopped 
• 6 cloves garlic
• ½ cup fresh oregano (thyme works well, too)
• 4 – 5 teaspoons salt
• ½ teaspoon cumin
• ½ cup lime juice

Directions:

• Place the tomatoes and tomato water in a blender. Pulse on low for a rough chop. Remove to a large bowl. 
• Place remaining ingredients in blender and pulse on high for a finer chop. Add mixture to tomatoes and stir to combine.
• Ladle salsa into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/4-inch head space. Adjust 2-piece caps. Process for 15-20 minutes in simmering water.

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.

tomato-sauceGrated Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:

• 3 lbs. tomatoes
• ½ cup olive oil
• 4 garlic cloves, crushed
• 4 rosemary sprigs
• 2 TBSP butter
• Salt to taste (be generous – salt brings out tomatoes’ flavor)

Directions:

• Thinly slice off bottoms of tomatoes. Place box grater in a large bowl. Grate tomato flesh on the largest holes down to the skin and stem. Discard or compost remaining skin and stem after grating (or save for veggie broth). Season generously with salt and set aside.
• Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook garlic until golden, about 3 minutes. Add rosemary sprigs and cook, stirring frequently, for about 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low, add tomatoes, and simmer, stirring frequently, until sauce thickens, about 5-10 minutes.
• Remove from heat. Remove rosemary sprigs. Stir in butter. Add more salt if needed. Let cool. Store chilled for up to two weeks, or frozen for up to six months.

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

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 mediumlow 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.

sundried tomatoSun-Dried Tomatoes

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.

Tomato Powder

Once you have sun-dried tomatoes, it’s a snap to make tomato powder. Grind dehydrated tomatoes in a blender until powderedYou 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.

About Kim Robson

Kim Robson lives and works with her husband in the Cuyamaca Mountains an hour east of San Diego. She enjoys reading, writing, hiking, cooking, and animals. She has written a blog since 2006 at kimkiminy.wordpress.com. Her interests include the environment, dark skies, astronomy and physics, geology and rock collecting, living simply and cleanly, wilderness and wildlife conservation, and eating locally.

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