Putting Up Your Tomatoes
There are 101 ways to enjoy tomatoes, from sauces to soups to bruschetta, but even so, their lovely ripeness means they need to be prepared now. Since you can only eat so many tomatoes in a week, here are two ways to put your tomatoes by so you can enjoy them past the season.
Canning tomatoes requires lots of know-how and equipment which you can learn how to do by buying a book, taking a class, or having someone show you how. For two methods that don’t require special skills and knowledge, read on.
Tomatoes can be frozen whole, sliced, chopped, or puréed. They can then be used for soups, sauces, stews, and salsas. You can freeze them raw or cooked, and as juice or sauce. Thawed raw tomatoes may be used in any cooked-tomato recipe.
But don’t substitute them for fresh tomatoes, since freezing makes them mushy. Tomatoes should be seasoned just before serving rather than before freezing as the freezing process may alter the strength of seasonings such as garlic, onion, and herbs.
To prepare tomatoes for freezing, select firm, ripe tomatoes. Avoid overly soft or bruised fruit. Wash and blot dry.
Freezing whole tomatoes with peels: Wash and cut out the stem. Place the tomatoes on cookie sheets and freeze. Tomatoes do not need to be blanched before freezing. Once frozen, transfer the tomatoes into freezer bags or other containers and seal tightly. To use the frozen tomatoes, remove them from the freezer a few at a time or all at once. To peel, just run a frozen tomato under warm water in the kitchen sink and the skin will slip right off.
Freezing peeled tomatoes: If you prefer to peel tomatoes before freezing, you can wash and dip them in boiling water for about 1 minute or until the skins split. Transfer to a bowl of cold water, then peel and freeze as noted above. Frozen tomatoes will keep for about 6 months.
Dried tomatoes, either seasoned or plain, add a gourmet touch and great flavor to many dishes and salads and cost a fraction as much as store-bought dried tomatoes.
You can use any type of ripe tomato, however Roma tomatoes work best. The yield varies considerably depending on the moisture content of the tomatoes and the weather. Roma tomatoes typically yield about 2 cups of dried tomatoes per 5 pounds of fresh.
Wash, dry and cut tomatoes in half lengthwise. Cut out the tough part around the stem and any bruised or soft parts. The pieces will shrink to ¼ their original size so if you want even smaller pieces you can cut them into quarters.
If using meatier tomatoes such as beefsteak, remove the seeds by scooping out with a spoon or finger. Seeds can be left in Romas.
Food dehydrator method – Arrange the pieces on each rack so that air can circulate, preferably with the pieces not touching each other. Sprinkle the tomatoes with sea salt, kosher salt and/or other spices if desired. Turn the dehydrator on; if your drier has a thermostat, set it for 140 degrees F. It will take 3 to 8 hours.
Oven method: preheat the oven to 150 degrees F. Arrange tomatoes on cake racks, with space between slices. Or use cookie sheets if you don’t have cake racks or screens but then the slices will need to be turned during drying. Season first if desired and close the oven door. It takes about 10 to 20 hours, but you’ll need to check periodically, including rotating the shelves and moving them up or down to get even heating.
How to tell when they’re done: The amount of time it takes depends on the water content of the tomatoes, the thickness of the slices, and how well the air is able to circulate around them. When done, the tomatoes should be flexible but not crumbly or brittle. Let the tomatoes cool to room temperature then place in ziplock bags. Squeeze out the extra air before sealing.
Storing dried tomatoes: keep in a cool dry place, preferably in a freezer, which will help them retain their color and flavor for up to 12 months. Or refrigerate for several weeks. If there is much moisture left in them, they will become moldy.
To use dried tomatoes: Rehydrate them in hot water and use scissors to cut them up.
Recipes using dried tomatoes:
Sun-Dried Tomato Puttanesca Sauce
Bruschetta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Kale-Walnut Pesto with Sun-Dried Tomatoes