For us, peak tomato season hits at the exact wrong time in late summer. Peak tomato is usually some point in early-to-mid September, by which point we are tired. Not to mention it’s usually too hot to have a huge pot of hot water boiling all day in the house to process them for storage.
This year, we had a very manageable harvest of tomatoes from our 5 plants – just enough for us to have as many as we wanted to eat fresh, and some to give away to friends. Last year, our paste tomatoes were by far the least successful of the plants we grew, so we didn’t grow a paste tomato again this year. So, what to do about processing tomatoes for winter? Not having tomatoes in storage is no longer an option for me now that I’ve seen the light. So, here’s what we did.
Strategy 1: We are so fortunate to have a wonderful organic farm down the hill from us in Soquel – Everett Family Farm. So, I bought a flat of canning tomatoes from them and spent an easy morning making tomato puree to freeze. One of our best purchases this year was a chest freezer, as it has increased our capacity to store food without having to process jars in hot water.
Making tomato puree is super easy. First, cut the tomatoes into chunks and cook them down until the skins separate easily. Then, pass the cooked tomatoes through the food mill. Fill the jars and put in the freezer for future use. Easy!
Strategy 2: I bought a flat of San Marzano tomatoes from our CSA, Spade & Plow. Since we got out the dehydrator this year to dry our prunes, I decided to try drying tomatoes to see if they would come out similar to sun-dried tomatoes. It worked really well! We now have a quart jar of dehydrated tomatoes in the fridge, waiting to add umami goodness to our food for however long they last.
It might be too easy to declare this, but I may never preserve tomatoes any other way!