Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Preserving tomatoes

11 hours and 12 quarts later...

Plus some sauce, but not as much as you'd think.

I guess there's a reason plum tomatoes are recommended--we had about 10 times as much juice and seeds as finished product. My compost pile is soaked through with tomato gore.

I know we could have canned the juice too, but it was just. too. much.

We ended up with large jars packed full of tomatoes and not too much juice. It took careful peeling and seeding, a thorough squeezing, and a hot pack. We absolutely did not need to add additional water or juice. After a little pressing, our tomatoes were completely covered in their own juice.

I've made some decisions about how to best deal with the summer surplus of tomatoes.

This is it:

If you have a chest freezer, freezing, hands down. You can put your tomatoes whole on a cookie sheet in the freezer. When they're hard, transfer to plastic bags.

In the winter, when you pull them out to defrost, their skins slip right off and cores are easily cut off. You have to deal with a bit of hassle later down the line, but you skip the days and days of canning in the summer. The texture isn't as wonderful as canned whole tomatoes, but whatevs. Throw those suckers in a soup or chili, and no one will know the difference.

Unfortunately, I don't have a chest freezer.

But those glass jars of tomatoes look lovely on my cupboard shelves. And a day and late night of progressively more delirious tomato-spattered hilarity with a couple good girlfriends is never a bad thing.

I am still freezing the sauces: lazy tomato sauce, enchilada sauce, tomato puree.

If they are packed as above, they stack neatly and keep well.

Don't be tempted, as I always am, to fill the freezer bags too full. If they are thin, you can break off a sliver of sauce and close up the bag again. (Then use up in the next couple weeks—freezer burn sets in fast once you open a bag.) If you overfill, you have to defrost an entire bag to get a bit of enchilada sauce for a wet burrito.

I'm also planning on sundried tomatoes and my mom's sundried tomato paste, which goes a long way in a winter stew.

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