When your tomato crop is in full bloom, your mind starts crowding with recipes you’re going to try. However, if your flourishing garden produces baskets of tomatoes, it’s practically impossible to use them all fresh before they start going bad. Learn how to preserve tomatoes and use them for months without fearing that they will go bad.
Even if you do manage to consume it all in a few days, the idea of preserving the fresh produce and using it well into the winter months is a more appealing one. Imagine having a nice homemade tomato soup from your garden’s harvest on a chilly evening, with the family, huddled up in blankets in front of the fireplace!
How To Store Tomatoes For Months
Want to know how to preserve garden tomatoes for months? There are several ways in which you can save your garden’s produce and use it for a long time. I am going to be looking at 5 methods to preserve tomatoes:
1. How To Preserve Tomatoes – Puree
For many, the best way to preserve tomatoes is to puree and refrigerate them. They have a much longer shelf life than fresh tomatoes and are free from chemicals and preservatives present in store-bought purees.
Purees work best in Indian curries, and Italian spaghetti and meatballs recipes. It will make your gravies thicker, adding the same fresh, sweet flavor that you find in fresh tomatoes.
How To Make Tomato Puree
Making tomato puree is very simple. Just follow the steps:
- Wash 1kg garden fresh tomatoes.
- Cut them into large pieces.
- Toss the pieces in a large pot and turn on the heat.
- Add 1 teaspoon sugar and the same amount of salt.
- Once the tomatoes start boiling, let them simmer for another 3 minutes.
- Let the mixture cool down to room temperature.
- Pour it out in a bowl through a sieve.
- Don’t discard the lumps collected by the sieve.
- Grind the lumps and add them to the puree.
Another fantastic puree recipe to try is preserving tomatoes the Italian way.
How To Store Tomato Puree
Pour the puree in an airtight container to store and use for up to a week in the fridge. Remember to use a dry spoon each time you want to scoop out a little bit for your gravy.
If you want to store it for longer than that, consider freezing it. Pour the puree out in ice trays and freeze it. Once it’s solid, pry it out of the tray compartments and transfer to ziplock bags and seal them. Let the puree bags sit in the freezer until you want to use it. Take out only the number of cubes you want to use, instead of thawing the entire bag.
2. How To Preserve Tomatoes – Paste
Have a bumper crop that won’t go in the freezer whole? You can reduce it to a manageable size by turning it to paste before storing it.
Here’s what you do:
- Wash the tomatoes and remove the stem and damaged parts, if any.
- Cut them into large pieces and transfer to a pot.
- Turn the heat up high to bring the tomatoes to boil.
- Let them cook for a further 2 minutes to soften the chunks.
- Run the mixture through a sieve, pushing all the juices out through the sieve using a spoon until only peels and seeds remain.
- Continue cooking the mixture on medium heat, stirring every 15 minutes or so to prevent it from sticking.
- After it has reduced to about ½ the original size, lower the heat to a simmer and continue cooking for about two hours or until you see a thick, brick-colored paste.
- Transfer the paste to airtight jars once it’s cool, leaving an inch of empty space at the top.
- Add a layer of olive oil over the paste and seal the lid.
- Store it in the fridge.
3. How To Preserve Tomatoes By Canning Them
If you don’t have plenty of free space in your fridge or freezer, you can even store tomatoes in a dark cabinet for months. Here’s how to preserve fresh tomatoes at home that will not involve any freezing or refrigerating.
Here’s how to preserve tomatoes through canning:
- Bring water to boil in a pot.
- Place canning jars and lids in the water, leaving them to boil for a good 3 minutes.
- Remove the contents of the pot with tongs.
- Fill the jars with the tomato mixture, leaving half an inch empty below the rim.
- Run a clean knife through the mixture or tap it on the counter a couple of times to free any air bubbles.
- Wipe around the rim with a tissue and place the lids back on tightly.
- Place the jars, using tongs, in a canner. Make sure the jars are covered by at least 2 inches of boiling water.
- Seal the lid of the canner, and let the jars cook for ten minutes before pressurizing the pot. Cook the cans at 11 pounds of pressure for 15 minutes.
- Turn the heat off and let the canner cool down and depressurize completely before removing the lid.
- Remove the canner’s lid and take out the jars using tongs.
- Leave the jars at room temperature for 24 hours.
- Check if the lids have sealed by pressing them at the center. If they’re flat and not popped up, they’re sealed. Store them in a cool, dark place and use for up to a year.
- For the jars that haven’t sealed, store them in the fridge and use within a week.
- Many people are of the opinion that canning better preserves the flavors of fresh tomatoes.
- It’s the preferred approach to preserving a determinate crop’s produce since the tomatoes ripen at around the same time.
- It leaves your fridge and freezer space free for storing other edibles.
- There’s no risk of spoiling in the event of a power outage.
- It’s a time-consuming process.
- You’ll need a canner for canning the tomatoes safely.
- The kitchen, and pretty much the entire house will heat up while the tomatoes are being cooked and canned.
4. How To Freeze Tomatoes
So how to preserve fresh tomatoes? Should you freeze them or can them? They are both excellent methods to store and use your harvest for months. Chances are, you won’t be buying tomatoes from the store for the entire year until the next harvest season when you have another bumper produce to store.
It’s probably the easiest and the quickest of the techniques you can use for your tomato harvest. Don’t think of it as an easy way out for lazy people. It’s, in fact, a smart way to preserve all the freshness and goodness in its natural form. Besides the ease, frozen tomatoes are easy to peel and offer much more versatility of use than purees.
Here’s how to preserve garden tomatoes in the freezer:
Wash the tomatoes and remove the leafy parts. Place them in ziplock bags, remove the air, and seal the bags. Place them in the freezer and use it for up to 6 months.
Here’s how canning and freezing tomatoes compare:
- It’s the easiest way to store tomatoes since almost no preparation is required.
- It’s super-fast since you just wash them, put them in a bag, toss them in the freezer, and be done with. No processing is required.
- It works well for many different recipes including soups, stews, sauces, and more.
- For indeterminate tomatoes, freezing works best since the entire harvest doesn’t ripen at the same time. Just freeze them as you pick them. For canning, you need a good load of tomatoes at hand for the technique to be feasible.
- When you thaw them, mushy and watery.
- They don’t work well in recipes that use fresh tomatoes, like salads.
- Flavors are slightly reduced when you freeze them.
- Storing them whole will take a lot of space in your freezer. A possible solution is to store chopped tomato chunks in the same way.
So is it canning or freezing – what’s your pick?
So now you know how to preserve tomatoes this harvest season in so many ways. Freeze them whole, or puree them to refrigerate or can them. You can even oven-dry them to preserve in oil or sun-dry to turn to tomato powder. Whichever way you choose to save these beautiful red delights one thing is for sure – you’ll be enjoying them long after the crop turns to dust.