By Michael Nolan
First, a quick note about the photo: Don’t try it.
It is a joke. Seriously.
With so much time and energy devoted to selecting, planting and growing your lovely tomato plants, it is easy to let the harvest sneak up on you before you’ve had the chance to make plans.
The first response I expect to be flashing in your minds is “what the heck do I need plans for? I’m going to eat them!” TouchÃ©, my friends. TouchÃ©.
But if you are growing more than one or two tomato plants, you will likely have more tomatoes than you — and your neighbors — can eat before they will begin to go bad.
I wish I could say that this year I am planning to be diligent enough to do home canning of sauces and stewed tomatoes, but here’s the deal. My house is old and it has exactly two window unit air conditioners in it to keep us somewhat remotely cool in the heat of summer.
If I were to run the stove this summer for as long as it would take to make batch after batch of my homemade marinara and then to use my canner, my partner would have taken the dogs and left me before I heard the glorious POP! assuring me that my home canned deliciousness was safely stored.
Thank goodness I have an alternate method for storing tomatoes that I’ve been using for as long as I can remember with absolutely no problems at all. Now before I tell you about it, I want to remind you that if you have the chance to sun dry tomatoes — do it. If you have ever had real homemade sun dried tomatoes you will never look at the store-bought versions the same again.
Okay, on with the show. To process my tomatoes, I remove only the stem-end and coarsely chop the fruit. I then toss the tomatoes with some coarse sea salt and give it about an hour to sweat before filling good quality zipper bags. These bags will lay flat in my freezer and allow me to stack as many as six (sometimes more) high.
Then, when I need to make some chili, stew or just about anything else during the cold months, I pull out a bag or two of frozen tomatoes, let them thaw and process them further to coordinate with my recipe at the time.
This works well for me because I want as much of my precious tomatoes as possible. I don’t remove the seeds, I don’t remove the skins, I want it all. I’m greedy that way.
Of course there are times when I will use my trust dehydrator too. In fact, last year I pureed my fresh harvest and carefully poured it into the smooth-bottom trays (used to make fruit leather). When it was fully dried out, I rolled the tomato leather up and froze them too! This made simple work of my homemade tomato sauces and pastes later.