By Larraine Roulston:
If you are fortunate enough to be producing a bumper crop of tomatoes this year, or if you find that your local farmers’ market has an abundant supply, this is an opportunity to start filling your pantry. Taking advantage of overripe tomatoes will allow you to enjoy the wonderful flavor and aroma of fresh red tomatoes all winter long. To preserve tomatoes for sauces, whole tomatoes and ketchup, the National Center for Home Food Preservation offers recipes and outlines the canning procedures.
- First, stem and quarter the Roma tomatoes and arrange them on two or more baking sheets so that they do not touch each other.
- Drizzle with olive oil and lightly cover with sea salt and fresh thyme.
- Slow roast at your oven’s lowest temperature for at least 12 hours.
- Purée the roasted tomatoes in batches with the fresh basil and garlic.
- In a large pot, bring the sauce to a boil to blend the flavors, then serve with your favorite dishes. Cool and store the remainder in airtight freezer bags that, when flattened, will take up less space in your freezer.
For whole or halved tomatoes packed in water, start by dipping the tomatoes into boiling water. When the skins break, remove them and the cores, then add some lemon juice and salt to the jarred tomatoes.
Making sun-dried tomatoes can be achieved simply by slicing tomatoes in half and arranging them on a raised screen. Lightly sprinkle with salt and optional herbs. Cover with a raised cheesecloth so it does not touch the tomatoes, and place in the sun until dry. Be sure to bring them in at night. This could take anywhere from 4 days to two weeks, depending on your weather conditions. If you have a dehydrator or use your oven, they will be done in a fraction of the time. In any case, they must be perfectly dry but not crispy, and with no inside moisture (to avoid bacterial growth). Note that sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil with fresh herbs or garlic added must be refrigerated.
Lately, my attention has been focusing on the amount of sugar listed in processed foods. As a result, I now am considering making my own ketchup. The National Center for Home Food Preservation suggests a recipe for Country Western Ketchup that includes a variety of spices you can include for extra flavor.
Whether you make sauces, store whole tomatoes, dry them in the sun, create spreads to use on crackers, or make ketchup, you will be reminded of the warm sunny summer days of the tomato season all year long.
Larraine authors children’s adventure books on composting at www.castlecompost.com