Start preserving your harvest once you’ve enjoyed your first ripe tomato with drippy sandwiches and bowls of gazpacho. Different types of ripe tomatoes have different ways of preservation, which means you can’t just put your tomatoes in jars. You can preserve certain types of tomatoes by freezing, drying, or pickling depending on their nature.
Preserving Cherry Tomatoes
Your first preservation challenge is often with prolific cherry tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes are small, seedy berries that have thin flesh. They often produce bitter juices and sauces. Whole cherry tomatoes can be preserved in a vinegar-sugar brine for refrigerator pickles. Larger cherry tomatoes can be dehydrated to make tomato “raisins” by drying them to the chewy stage.
Cherry tomatoes can be preserved the best way by freezing them in small quantities. To make sure they are ready to be used in cooked dishes, wash and dry them. Cherry tomatoes will soften when frozen and thawed. This is a good thing if they are used in pasta dishes last-minute.
Preserving Slicing Tomatoes
The best-tasting tomatoes are full of juice from both the flesh and the gel surrounding the seeds. You want this in fresh tomatoes, but that liquid can be a problem when you bottle them. The preferred way to preserve heritage varieties is drying them. Tomatoes are dried raw with their skins intact and their flavors get concentrated due to dehydration, dried tomatoes are a minimally processed food. Because they are versatile in the kitchen, drying more tomatoes every year would be of great help. Dried tomatoes can be added to any dish that takes more than 30 minutes to cook, including winter soups or stews. Making powders from dried tomatoes can be done and some people use a spice mill to grind them. This is used to enhance the flavor and nutrition of broths and sauces.
Preserving Salad Tomatoes
Planting “Roma” or a small-fruited variety of saladette like “Juliet” to half-dry them once ripe is the best substitute for fresh tomatoes in salads or sandwiches. Half-drying these tomatoes will then proceed to freeze them to lengthen their time of use. These tomatoes are less water-soluble, and frozen ones can be thawed into flavorful and chewy tomatoes.
Frozen tomatoes that have been partially dehydrated or frozen half-dried tomatoes can be used like fresh ones.
You would prefer to start with a dehydrator to extract about half the moisture from cut tomato halves. However, it is possible to do this in an oven that has been warmed up to 150°F (65°C) and kept ventilated for several hours. The tomatoes will collapse after four to five hours in the dehydrator, or 12 to 18 hours in an oven that is monitored and warmed. The half-dried tomatoes are then frozen on cookie sheets before storing them in plastic bags.
Canning Garden Tomatoes
The best tomatoes to bottle have thick flesh with very little juice. They can be used in salsa as well as for canned diced tomatoes. You can also use other varieties of tomatoes to make salsa, marinara sauce, and tomato sauce. To remove any of the juice from the heirloom-sized tomatoes, you can place some cut tomatoes in a strainer and let them rest for a while.
Bottling tomatoes takes practice. It is best to acidify canned tomatoes with vinegar, lemon juice, or citric acid. A water bath or steam canner can be used to can tomato products. However, a pressure canner is quicker and more efficient.