Tomatoes should be picked when ripe and used within two days. Store them at room temperature away from the sunlight with the stems facing down. Don't pile them on top of each other as they make each other mushy this way. Resist the urge to refrigerate tomatoes as this changes their texture and makes them mealy.
Small cherry tomatoes can be frozen on a tray or cookie sheet and then put into jars or (gulp, please avoid plastic) plastic freezer bags and frozen. They can then be used later for soups, sauces or even a winter salsa.
Large tomatoes can be frozen whole peeled or unpeeled. The tomato peel adds thickness to sauce or soups. The skins will slide off easily as they thaw so I don't bother blanching and peeling tomatoes. Just core them (remove the stems) and place on a tray and freeze. When they are solid toss them into a jar, seal and freeze.
For sauces or stewed tomatoes you can just make your sauce, fill canning jars, let them cool completely and freeze. To stew tomatoes, wash, core, quarter and simmer in a heavy covered saucepan. Once they are soft cook them for an additional 20-30 minutes. Then put in jars, cool and freeze. Sauces need to cook longer, usually 4-6 hours, and stir them every 20-30 minutes. You can also use a crock pot of the oven which makes burning the sauce less likely. Just use an oven proof container uncovered at 350 degrees and stir occasionally. Again just jar, cool and freeze.
The USDA currently recommends that tomatoes are pressure canned. This is because the acidity of different varieties of tomatoes differs greatly. You can still use the water bath if you add extra acidity to your tomatoes. Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice of 1/2 teaspoon citric acid per quart of whole, crushed or juices tomatoes.
Tomatoes should be canned using the hot pack water bath method. To do this:
- Get your jars ready, clean and put in hot water. Don't boil the lids.
- Get your canner pot filled with water, put the lids on and heat so its ready for use.
- Choose your tomatoes, wash, remove the stems and drain.
- Option step: If you want to remove the skins blanch the tomatoes for 30-60 seconds in boiling water and dip into cold water. Slip off the skins. (The skins will add thickness to sauces and soups and there is no reason you can't just leave them on)
- Put tomatoes in a sauce pot and cover with water. Boil gently for 5 minutes.
- Remove a canning jar from the hot water with a jar lifter.
- Add citric acid or lemon juice to the jar.
- Pack tomatoes into hot jars leaving 1/2" head space.
- Ladle boiling water from cooking over the tomatoes (again leaving 1/2" head space)
- Add 1 teaspoon salt per quart jar.
- Wipe the rim, remove lid from hot water, screw the band down evenly until just firm.
- Add the jars to the water bath canner. Water level must cover all the caps by 1-2"/
- Put a lid on and bring to a boil. Once it is at a rolling boil process for 45 minutes for quarts and 35 for pints (adjust for higher altitudes)
- WHhn processing is done take the jars out with a jar lifter and set them on a towel about 1" apart to cool for 12-24 hours.
- Check the lids when they are cool.
- Label and store in a cool dark dry place until needed.
If you would like to learn to Pressure Can please visit this Pressure Canning How to Guide
|dehydrated dried tomatoes|
Choose smallish tomatoes and slice or slice larger tomatoes into lengthwise pieces. Sun drying take 1-2 days, the oven or dehydrator 6-8 hours. Post drying they should be put in a paper bag or open non aluminum container for 10-14 days to finish drying. Then they can be packed in clean glass jars and seal. I like to use glass canning jars and vacuum seal them with the food saver attachment for jars. Dried sealed tomatoes will last 6-9 months, twice that if you vacuum seal them. You can also freeze the dried tomatoes.
TOMATO SOUP RECIPE
8 quarts fresh tomatoes chopped (or 5-6 quarts of juice)
2 medium yellow or orange sweet peppers
1/2 cup sugar
2T salt (add more after you taste if needed)
1 cup butter
1 cup flour
1/4 cup lemon juice
1. Chop peppers Place in large pot w/ just enough water to keep them from burning. While this simmers, cut tomatoes (remove stems).
2. Add tomatoes to pot & cook until tender.
3. put through strainer or food mill to remove any seeds, then put aside 2 cups for mixing with the flour later.
4. Return to kettle, add lemon juice, sugar & salt.
5. Cream butter and flour together and mix thoroughly with two cups of reserved juice (chill so it’s cold), blend together in a blender until there are no lumps. Add butter/flour mixture to warmed tomato juice. (Add before it’s too hot, to avoid lumps). Stir well.
6. Heat just until hot. Just prior to boiling, turn off the burner. It will continue to thicken as it cools..
7. Ladle into hot jars with 1/4 headspace, close securely with lids and pressure can for 20 minutes with 10 pounds of pressure. If you would like to learn to Pressure Can please visit this Pressure Canning How to Guide