What is the best way to have fresh tomato flavor all year long? Who wouldn’t want to enjoy that wonderful taste?
There is nothing like a tomato that has grown from a garden vs. a grocery store tomato.
We currently have pounds of ripe tomatoes!
We also have an abundance of cherry tomatoes
What to do with Baskets of Fresh Garden Tomatoes?
There is so much that you can do with fresh garden tomatoes.
I divide my precious tomato stash is divided into two different piles. The first pile is for creating eating right now and preparing fresh meals with this abundance of tomatoes. These are just some of the things that I love and enjoy with fresh tomatoes
- Sliced tomatoes with salt & pepper
- Bacon, Lettuce & Tomato Sandwiches (I actually like the Bacon & Lettuce on the bread and the tomatoes on the side)
- Fresh Summer Tomato Pasta
- Bruschetta Chicken – I love this recipe from Delish
- Easy Tomato and Basil Chicken
- Chicken & Veggie Skewers
- Salad Nicoise
- Spaghetti Sauce
- Side Salads with Homemade Dressing
There are so many recipes for using your tomato harvest. The list could go on and on!
After you have eaten so many tomatoes that you are red in the face, then you may want to figure out how to preserve that fresh garden tomato taste when your gardens are done!
How do you preserve fresh garden tomatoes?
There are many ways to preserve tomatoes. You can preserve them in a water bath canner or a pressure canner. You can freeze them or dehydrate them.
I prefer the first three preserving methods as they are my favorite way.
To begin preserving tomatoes you must first prepare your whole tomatoes.
Prepping the Glass Jars and Lids
You need to make sure that you are sterilizing your jars and lids before use. Wash your jars in the dishwasher and then I put them on a baking sheet right side up and put them into a preheated 200-degree oven for at least 20 minutes.
I boil the lids and rings in a large saucepan of water.
You can leave them both in the oven and in the water until you’re ready to use them.
Again, you should follow food preserving guidelines before canning and preserving any foods.
Before all methods of preserving (except for sauce), you will need to blanch your tomatoes. Blanching is the easiest way to remove the skin from raw tomatoes.
- Wash your tomatoes and remove the stem area with a sharp knife and also any bad parts that might be on your tomato
- Heat a large pot of water to boiling
- Add 5-6 tomatoes at a time to the boiling water with a slotted spoon
- Leave in water just until the skin begins to peel back (about 15-20 seconds)
- Remove from the water with your slotted spoon
- Let them sit for a bit until almost room temperature
- Skin will easily peel off the tomato
Prepping the Tomato for Canning
- Cut tomato into quarters and put it into pint or quart jars
- Fill until almost full
- Push down with your fingers to get all the tomatoes filled in the jar. I use a chopstick to push down the sides of the jar as you need to remove any air bubbles.
- For pints add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of bottled lemon juice to the top of the packed tomatoes (double for quart jars).
- Wipe the edge of the jar clean with a towel or paper towel and then place a seal and lid on the jar.
You will need a water bath canner for this next step. My water bath canner holds 7-pint jars*
Water-Bath canning is the method where you place your tomato packed in a water canning pot. Pints or Quarters are placed in the basket and lowered into the boiling water bath and you let that boiling continue for 45 minutes.
With a water bath, you will fill your pot about 3/4 full with water and bring it to a boil with the jar rack OUT of the pot. Once your water is boiling, you want to gently put your rack, filled with jars into the boiling water. Once it returns to boil you will want to keep it at a nice rolling boil with the water covering the jars, for 45 minutes.
After 45 minutes I allow the water to cool down a bit and then I gently lift the wire rack out of the canner.
I use rubber high-heat gloves when I’m working with my canners.
- My canner doesn’t do well with quart jars because the water would boil out and the tops wouldn’t be covered for the whole 45 minutes. There are probably canners that work better for quarts.
I bought a pressure canner about 3 years ago and I like it for a few reasons, it takes less time to process. I can fill it with more pint jars, and it works well for quart jars.
It takes less time than a water bath but it needs more attention as you have to keep your pressure steady throughout the process.
* Disclaimer: Please follow your manufacturer’s directions on both your water bath and pressure canner. You can also contact your county extension office for more great information on food preservation. Our University of Illinois Extension is a resource that I use all the time. It is just a wealth of great information.
Probably the easiest way to preserve tomatoes is to freeze them.
You will need to blanch your tomatoes and remove the skins, then put them into freezer bags. Using a vacuum sealer is also an option.
You can leave the tomatoes whole or slice them in half or quarters and then toss them into a freezer bag. Remove as much air as possible, label with a sharpie marker and lay them flat in a single layer on a baking sheet, and put them in the freezer.
Once they are frozen tomatoes you can take them off the baking sheet and stack them easily in the freezer.
The key here is to have enough freezer space. I have very little space in my freezer so I typically don’t freeze many tomatoes.
When I do it’s the end of the season when I honestly can’t bear to drag out the pressure canner one more time and I blanch and freeze the tail end of my harvest.
That is one of the first things I use because freezing only lasts about 6 months while canning can last for a few years.
Chili or homemade marinara sauce is great for this bag of frozen tomatoes.
There are two ways to dehydrate. One is the easy way to do it by slowly drying it out in a low-temperature oven. The other would be to use a food dehydrator.
I personally don’t want one more “kitchen appliance” that I need to find a place to store.
This isn’t something that I have tried but it’s very interesting to me.
Preserving Other Things
I have a few things on my list that I want to try
- Tomato, Zucchini, and Onion – You can preserve this amazing trio and I can’t wait to try it
- Mustard Pickles – I can pickles but I’ve never tried this and since I love mustard and I love pickles, this recipe would be right up my alley.
Canning & Preserving Tools
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What if you don’t have a Garden?
If you don’t have space to garden but you would like to enjoy that fresh garden flavor all year long, you can get your produce from a local farmers market or co-op.
You really can’t get a good-tasting tomato from the grocery store.
There are few things as fulfilling to me as opening up my pantry and literally seeing the fruits of our labor in the garden.
Are you Curious about Starting a Garden?
Would you like to start a garden but don’t even know where to begin?
I have the blog post for you. I’ve written about it HERE.
If you have more questions or something to share on how you preserve your garden harvest, please comment.
I will share how I make tomato sauce in another post! Thanks for visiting!
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