Have you ever found yourself surrounded by a sea of tomatoes on your counter and wondered “What in the WORLD will I do with all these tomatoes?!?”
I feel your pain! August and September on our farm are insanity.
Seems like every day, there is more and MORE produce ripening that demands to be preserved! I have such a hard time dealing with food waste, so I’m always doing my best to make sure nothing goes to waste. Days are spent canning tomatoes – salsa, whole tomatoes, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato juice…
But then… the intense fatigue hits and the thought of pulling out the canning pot one more time makes me burst into tears.
It’s time for some quick and easy preservation methods that don’t require me to stand in my hot steamy kitchen for hours on end!
Here are my top 3 methods for when I’m bone tired and overwhelmed.
Dehydrated Cherry Tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes are great, but sometimes they are so prolific we can’t eat them all!
If you have a dehydrator, you are in luck! If not, you can use your oven at it’s lowest setting.
The method is pretty simple and straight forward.
- Cut your cherry tomatoes in half.
- Place them cut side up on the dehydrator trays or a lined cookie sheet (if using your oven).
- Dehydrate until tomatoes are dry. This takes 6-12 hours in a dehydrator or an oven set at it’s lowest temperature. Check them periodically as they are drying to make sure they are not sticking together.
- Store in an airtight container.
- Sprinkle dried tomatoes on salads
- Incorporate them into quiches, frittatas or other egg dishes
- Rehydrate (soak in water) and use as pizza toppings or in casseroles
- Throw a handful into soup and stews
Homemade Tomato Paste
I absolutely love having tomato paste on hand and this method is a great way to use up a HUGE pile of tomatoes and turn it into something that easily fits in your freezer.
You can use any kind of tomato for making paste – canning/paste tomatoes, slicing/beefsteak tomatoes or even cherry tomatoes.
For this method, you will need a food mill. There are several different kinds of food mills – I have a simple hand-crank type that is set over the top of another pot, and the larger type for big jobs that clamps to the counter.
The food mill does all the work of removing the seeds and skin from the tomatoes. If you don’t have one, be sure to ask around! I bet you know someone who would let you borrow theirs.
Feel free to play around with this method. You really can’t go wrong. If you have other produce available, you might throw in some chopped zucchini, sweet peppers, onions, garlic or herbs with the tomatoes to create an even richer tasting paste.Print
Easily preserve all your home grown tomatoes by making a freezable tomato paste
- Any type of tomato you have on hand
- Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle a pan with olive oil.
- Start cutting the tomatoes into chunks, right into the pan, as many as can fit! Add other veggies, if desired. Sprinkle with herbs (fresh or dried – Italian seasoning is good), about a tsp of salt and drizzle again with olive oil.
- Roast tomatoes for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until they are cooked down and thickened.
- Remove pan from oven and pour tomatoes into the food mill, with a clean pot underneath to catch the sauce. Crank the food mill until all the seeds and skins are separated from the sauce.
- At this point, you have a lovely tomato sauce that you could freeze. If you want to make paste, though, you will need to cook down the sauce even more.
- Simmer the sauce until it reaches the desired consistency (you probably won’t get it as thick as commercial tomato paste). Stir occasionally to keep the bottom from burning.
- When the paste is ready, allow it to cool. Spoon cooled paste into ice cube trays, freeze until firm, them transfer to a freezer container.
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The options are endless for tomato paste! The frozen cubes are the perfect size for almost all recipes, as each cube is about 1-2 tbsp (depends on the size of your tray). I find myself reaching into the freezer for these cubes all the time!
- Rice. Add a cube to cooking liquid.
- Soup or stew. Add a few cubes for great flavor.
- Casseroles and egg dishes. Set out a few cubes to soften (or thaw in the microwave) and stir in with the other ingredients.
- Pizza Sauce. 2 cubes in the perfect amount for a 12 inch pizza!
Whole Frozen Tomatoes
I save this method for the days when I’m truly desperate. It’s also my favorite method, because it only takes a few minutes!
Are you ready for this? Here we go:
- Place tomatoes on a cookie sheet.
- Place cookie sheet in the freezer.
- When frozen, transfer tomatoes to a freezer bag.
If you are feeling fancy, you CAN remove the stem/core from the tomatoes, but it’s not necessary!
When winter comes, you can pull out tomatoes out of the freezer as needed. A quick dip under hot running water will remove the skin and then you can chop the frozen tomato and add it to soup, stew, chili or casserole.
Or you can dump the entire contents of the bag in a big pot, cook down the tomatoes, run the contents through a food mill and make sauce or tomato soup (this is a wonderful thing to do on a cold snowy day. Trust me).
The point is, you are using your freezer as a holding area until you have the time and energy to deal with the tomatoes.
- Tomato sauce
- Tomato soup
- Soup, stew or chili