I’ve been enjoying fresh tomatoes for several months. Now I am starting to think about preserving some of these wonderful veggies (or fruits if you want to be technical) for the months when fresh, locally grown tomatoes are not available.
Fortunately, the tomato is suited to several preservation methods. Tomatoes can be canned, frozen or dried with excellent results.
Canning is the most popular way to preserve tomatoes and the method I prefer. The most common canning practice for tomatoes is the boiling-water method which has been in use since the 1840s. The equipment required is minimal and has not changed much over the years.
A relative newcomer is the steam canner. Using this method, filled jars are processed in a closed pot using steam to do the processing. The temperature in the steam environment reaches 100 degrees Celsius (212 degrees Fahrenheit), the same as boiling water. Compared to water-bath canning, steam canning saves time and energy and uses far less water.
Both canner types require the same support equipment. You’ll need canning jars with lids, a jar lifter and a wide-mouth funnel. All are reusable from year-to-year; only the jar lids need replacing. Keep in mind that canning is a science. To ensure high quality and safety, follow the reliable methods found in guides such as the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving.
Freezing is the easiest way to preserve tomatoes. Like canning, freezing prevents spoilage and bacterial growth. The only equipment you’ll need is a sharp knife and a supply of freezer bags. Raw tomatoes can go into the bags whole, halved or quartered. Freezing will split the skins so you don’t need to peel. Thawed tomatoes won’t have great structure, but they will have the flavor and nutrition of raw tomatoes.
For dried tomatoes, use a meaty paste variety. Slicing-type tomatoes like ‘Early Girl’ have a higher water content and don’t dry as well. Wash, core and cut an “X” in the rounded end. Dip in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds to loosen the skin. Peel, cut in half and place the halves in a dehydrator for 10 to 12 hours at 135F to 140F. If you don’t own a dehydrator, place the skinned and halved tomatoes on a foil-lined cookie sheet and bake at 170F for 6 to 8 hours. Dried or dehydrated tomatoes make very good oil-packed tomatoes. All you need is a sterilized pint canning jar and lid, dried tomatoes, fresh basil and olive oil. Fill the jar with tomatoes and basil, add enough olive oil to cover completely, screw on the lid and refrigerate.
No matter which method you choose, you’ll be glad that you preserved some of the tomato harvest from the Napa Farmers’ Market. Next winter, when you’re making a dish that calls for tomatoes, you’ll have your own flavorful canned, frozen or dried tomatoes to bring back the taste of summer.
Chef’s Demo: Sandra Richardson, owner of Constrained Gourmet, will demonstrated a deconstructed sushi salad at the Napa Farmers’ Market on Saturday, September 23, at 11 a.m. The demo is free and a recipe will be provided.
This is the perfect time of year to make salsa. All the fresh ingredients are available at the Napa Farmers’ Market. I can it in half-pint jars; it makes 2 dozen. You can halve or quarter the recipe, if you like. Eat some of the salsa fresh and can the remainder.
Makes 24 half-pints.
4 quarts tomato sauce
3 medium yellow onions, diced
2 to 4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 medium-hot red or yellow chiles, diced
¼ cup mild or medium chile powder
3 Tbsp. dried Mexican oregano
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. dried and ground cayenne or chile de arbol
5 pounds plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
5 limes, juiced
2 cups cilantro, roughly chopped
5 Tbsp. Kosher salt
2 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
In a large pot, combine the tomato sauce, onions, garlic, chiles, chile powder, oregano, cumin and cayenne. Bring to a simmer, then simmer until the sauce reaches the consistency you like.
Put the diced tomatoes in a sieve and let drain 10 minutes. Add to the pot and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the lime juice and cilantro. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
If serving the salsa fresh, allow it to cool, then refrigerate until ready to serve. If canning, place the salsa in hot sterilized half-pint jars and process for 15 minutes in either a water-bath or steam canner.