How to Turn Your Tomato Harvest into Food for the Winter

Now that your tomato garden is ripe and ready for harvest, you have a lot of work to do.

We all wish these tomatoes could sit fresh on our counter all winter long but that’s not going to happen – though the fruit flies implore you to try!

Growing, harvesting, and preserving your garden is more work than going to the grocery store in the winter, but well worth it. You will know exactly what went into each jar of your food and how it was grown. Who doesn’t get the warm fuzzies from watching a garden grow then creating delicious pesticide-free food for their friends and family?

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You will need to either freeze or can your harvest. Canning is a term that means preserve. Most people use glass jars and not cans even though it’s called canning.

You need LOTS of tomatoes to make even a small amount of sauce. Most tomatoes are almost half water so they will simmer down to shockingly less sauce than one would expect. Make sure you have many tomatoes to make it all worth your time! Some varieties of tomato are more commonly used for sauce because they are more fleshy and less watery.  Roma, Amish Paste, and San Marzano are famous for being good sauce tomatoes. You can make sauce with any tomato you have though so don’t worry.

3 ways to store your tomato harvest

The options below all include the tomato skins as the skin holds a lot of nutrients. You can remove the skins if you prefer.

1. Freeze them whole

Wash and core the tomatoes. Space them out on a cookie sheet and put it in the freezer. Once they are completely frozen, put them in a freezer bag to keep in the freezer until you need a tomato in the winter. The texture of these tomatoes will be mushy once they defrost so use them for cooking only.

This works well for people who aren’t getting many ripe tomatoes at once as you can keep tossing them in the freezer until you have enough to make a big batch of sauce.

2. Freeze them as a tomato sauce

If you keep the tomato sauce plain then it keeps your recipe options open for later.

IMG_0907Wash and core the tomatoes, cut them into sections and use a spoon to remove as many of the seeds as you can. (set the seedy goop aside to store your own seeds for next year)

 

Once the seeds are removed you can toss the segments into the blender and puree the fruit to your desired consistency.

If you like chunky sauce, separate and puree half and make the other half chunky. Add the two together in the pot. If you prefer chunky sauce you may want to remove the skins from the chunky half of the recipe as there will be noticeable pieces of skin in your sauce.

 

The sauce will be watery. Simmer it until the water has evaporated to your desired consistency.

 

Leave it in the pot to cool then pour the cooled sauce into freezer bags and put it in the freezer.

You can season it and add any meat or vegetables when you defrost it later.

3. Can the whole tomato or tomato sauce

If you want to make the sauce and keep it in jars in your pantry you should use a pressure canner. Bacteria can grow inside the jars if not processed at the correct heat for a specific amount of time. Use trusted recipes from the experts as the ratios of fruit to acid must be correct for safe canning.

How to remove tomato skins

  1. Wash the tomatoes and submerge them in boiling water for a couple of minutes or until you notice the skin has cracked.
  2. Immediately move the boiled tomato into a bowl of ice water. Let them sit a minute. The ice water will cool them to make them easier to handle. Also, the ice-cold water immediately stops the cooking process.
  3. Use all of your fingers to make a gentle pinching motion on the tomato to pull the skins off. They should slide off easily.
  4. Once they are skinned, you can core them.
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