We use a lot of tomatoes – Italian is our favorite cuisine, so our tomatoes are used in everything from pizza and sauce to rustic stews and soups. We have never yet grown enough to meet our need, even though the tomato garden usually looks like this:
The Tomato Forest
Okay – down to it. Our favorite way to preserve the tomato harvest is to make crushed tomatoes and can them. These are perfect to throw into a soup or stew, easy to cook down into sauce, and easy enough to make.
Step 1 – Pick your tomatoes.
Pick your tomatoes nice and ripe – this is a mixture of Roma, Pompeii, San Marzano, Pompadoro, Beefsteak, and Brandywine. We mix every ripe tomato into these. Wash your tomatoes well and drain on a towel.
Step 2 – Ready the tomatoes for skinning and seeding. With a sharp paring knife, carefully remove the core from each tomato, then cut a small x on the bottom. This is to aid in removing the skins. Also remove any insect damage, disease, or soft parts of the tomato.
Step 3 – Skin and Seed the Tomatoes. For this you will need:
- large pot of boiling water
- bowl of ice water
- container for refuse (which we put into the compost)
- very large bowl for the tomatoes
- sharp knife
- slotted spoon
Put several tomatoes into the boiling water for about 30 seconds, or until you see the skins beginning to slip. You will not need to keep the water at a boil for this, but it must be very hot.
When the skins begin to separate from the tomato, carefully lift it from the hot water and plunge into ice water. The tomato will cool quickly.
Slip the skin from the tomato and cut the tomato in halves or quarters, depending on the size. Remove all seeds into your refuse container (along with the skins). If you find any additional blemishes after blanching, cut these out as well.
Put your cleaned tomato halves and quarters into the big bowl. If you want to keep the tomatoes as liquid free as possible, place a colander in the big bowl and put the tomatoes in this. The bowl will then catch any extra moisture, which you can pour away before adding the tomatoes.
Step 4 – Making the Crushed Tomatoes. Put a large soup/sauce pot on the stove over medium high heat. Add about 2 cups of your tomato pieces and mash them with a potato masher.
When these begin to boil, start adding your tomatoes, about a cup at a time. There is no need to mash these, they will break up as the tomatoes boil. When all of your tomatoes (or as many as fit in the pot) are in the pot, allow them to boil for about 5 minutes.
Step 5 – Canning your scrumptious crushed tomatoes. For this you will need:
- Water bath canner (or pressure canner with the plug removed from the lid)
- Canning jars
- Lids and Rings for the jars
- Jar lifter
- Magnetic lid lifter (nice to have)
- Small pot
- Clean damp cloth
- Jar funnel
Fill your canner about halfway with water and set on the burner at about medium high heat.
Put your lids into the small pot and cover with boiling water, set the burner on low to keep them hot.
Place 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice in each pint jar, 2 Tablespoons in each quart. (You can also use 1/4 teaspoon citric acid per pint, 1/2 teaspoon per quart)
Begin filling your jars. A jar funnel will really help in this process. Fill each jar to within 1/2 inch of the top. Carefully wipe the top of the jar with the damp cloth. Lift a lid from the pot and center on the jar, then add a ring and twist finger-tight.
Carefully lower the jars into the canner.
Add boiling water as necessary to 2 inches above jars. Add canner lid and bring to a boil.
Step 6 – The Waiting. Process according to instructions for your canner – here’s what we do:
When the water boils in the canner, we turn the heat down just a bit to maintain a moderate boil (medium high on our stove). Process pints for 35 minutes, quarts for 45 minutes.
Step 7 – You’ve Got Tomatoes! When the time is up – immediately turn off the stove and remove the canner from the stove. Take the lid off and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
Remove the jars to a towel and allow to cool. You should hear popping – one for each jar you filled.
This is the first year we tried the Italian way – Basil leaves in the jars. We did two jars this way and we’ll let you know how they turned out
From the tomatoes pictured at the top, we got 10 pints of crushed tomatoes – PLUS, the following:
We removed the little San Marzanos from the mix before the de-skinning process, cut them in half and seeded them, and put them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. We drizzled them with olive oil and salted lightly.
We put these in a 375 degree oven for about an hour – and got these:
ALSO, we added several minced cloves of garlic and some oregano and crushed red pepper to the remaining tomatoes in the pot (rather than processing another canner full) and cooked it down further into a quart of yummy sauce (that will likely be on our pizza tonight and pasta one day this week).
There you have it – three options for preserving that yummy organic tomato harvest you worked so hard to achieve.
Dharma Dogs Farm