Preserving your own food can be fun and easy! It’s tomato season, which means you probably have lots of tomatoes on hand. It’s great to make a satisfying salad to use up those garden tomatoes, but what do you do with the rest of them? Below, I’ll show you how preserving tomatoes can be easy, even for beginners.
The hot, dry, Texas dirt got an unusually good helping of rain this spring, and our family’s garden has really thrived. (It doesn’t hurt that Mr. Incredible has a green thumb. Me, not so much.) Harvesting cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, peas, and green beans has been exciting and rewarding. There’s nothing like biting into a vibrant, juicy tomato.
If you’ve also had a good garden haul this summer, you may have a problem emerging: how to preserve your bounty. One common problem? Preserving tomatoes.
Tomatoes are a use ‘em or lose ‘em crop, so you’ll want to work quickly to preserve them. Here, I’ll tell you about water-bath canning, lacto-fermentation, and dehydrating with herbs for “sun-dried” tomatoes.
If you’re new to preserving tomatoes, don’t worry: these methods are simple, and no experience is required. (In other words, if I can do it, anyone can!)
How to Can Tomatoes
Canning your own tomatoes at home is the best way to avoid toxins found on the inside of cans, which are likely to leach due to the acidity of tomatoes.
To can tomatoes, you’ll want to blanch them in boiling water, then toss them in a bowl of ice to make them easy to peel. Dice them up before filling sterile canning jars and topping them off with a little lemon juice.
Affix sterile lids before canning in your water bath canner for 35-40 minutes, then remove to a cool, dry place undisturbed.
Preserving tomatoes through lacto-fermentation can be done a number of ways, but salsa is a fun and easy way to add a little spice to your routine. (See another favorite lacto-fermentation recipe: garlic dill sauerkraut– it’s way better than store bought kraut, I promise!)
Choose the combination of tomatoes, peppers, onions, and garlic you want before blending with a little salt and whey and filling clean jars with secure lids. To achieve the benefits of lacto-fermentation, leave the salsa out on the counter for two days before transferring to your refrigerator.
Leaving the jars out for a couple of days allows the gut-loving microbes in the whey to grow and multiply, imparting probiotic properties to your salsa and good bugs to your gut.
Find a full lacto-fermented salsa recipe here.
Finally, you’ll love making “sun-dried” tomatoes, a fun way of preserving tomatoes.
This is the top-rated dehydrator I used to make my dehydrated tomatoes.
Combine thinly sliced tomatoes with your choice of spices or herbs (I used salt, garlic powder, and oregano), then dehydrate in your dehydrator on low for 24 hours. Alternatively, you can use your oven on the lowest setting and place the tomato slices on parchment-lined baking sheets.
Dehydrated tomatoes have a chewy, tangy, sweet finish reminiscent of fruit leather, which are great for snacking on, or adding to salads. You can also put them in soups in the fall or infuse olive oil with them.
Bonus newbie tip for preserving tomatoes
You can also throw whole, fresh tomatoes in freezer bags in a pinch, then use them later in sauces and soups. You’ll love this copycat Campbell’s tomato soup recipe when you’re ready to pull out those tomatoes. (I’ve done this many times when I simply don’t have time for preserving tomatoes in more time-consuming ways, and even when I was moving and didn’t want to leave all my tomatoes behind. We got to enjoy tomatoes for months and months after the move!)
Need a great way to use up some fresh tomatoes? Check out this chunky bacon jalapeno salad for another tasty option.
Preserving tomatoes isn’t scary!
When you’re just learning about preserving tomatoes and other produce, it can be intimidating. I was terrified the first time I water-bath canned a batch of tomatoes, due to the risk of botulism (which I’ve never encountered using the above method), but I was committed to preserving our hard work and moving our family toward self-sufficiency, which, to me, looks like going to the grocery store less and eating more food from our own back yard.
If you’re interested in preserving tomatoes, give one (or all) of these methods a try. They are easier than you think, and you’ll feel like a pro in the kitchen after you preserve your first batch of home-grown goodness.