Posted on 02 July 2008 by

Preserving Your Tomato Harvest

By Michael Nolan

First, a quick note about the photo: Don’t try it.

It is a joke. Seriously.

Just don’t.

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!” Touché, my friends. Touché.

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.

12 Responses to “Preserving Your Tomato Harvest”

  1. Ray ( Dad ) White Says:

    Very good Michael,we are all enjoying the important things that you write. I have wanted to ask you, what state to you live in ?

  2. our friend Ben Says:

    Great ideas, Michael! Speaking as someone with exactly one (very inadequate) window air conditioner in the house, I feel your pain. I assume that, if you wanted to free up freezer space once the weather’s finally gotten cool, you could pull out all those freezer bags, make a big batch of marinara, and can it then, right? I love the idea of the tomato leather. I’ll have to try that this year!

  3. Michael Nolan Says:

    Dad – I am in Birmingham (Alabama) not too far from you!

    ofB – That is what I usually end up doing; when the weather cools and I feel even more domestic, I start saucing it up a bit. Of course I sauce things up anywhere at any time!

  4. Three cool things, none of which have anything to do with one another — Shining City Says:

    […] I found this in my morning perusal of my favourite gardening blogs. As someone who often buys in-season and […]

  5. Daphne Gould Says:

    Why do you need the salt? Couldn’t you just chop and freeze?

  6. Michael Nolan Says:

    Daphne: You can, that’s just the way I do it. There’s no reason why you can’t just chop (or process) and freeze them as-is.

  7. TeresaS Says:

    Excellent idea. While I was thinking of canning the bounty of my 6 tomato plants this fall, I like this idea *much* better!

  8. Jennie Says:

    Never thought of freezing! After canning well over 200 pounds of homegrown tomatoes last year, I will be giving this a try.
    You mention marinara sauce—do you have a favorite recipe? I can’t seem to find a flavorful one.

  9. Laura Says:

    Thank you for the great idea. You made my day. Do you share your marinara recipe? If so, I would love it. Thank you.

  10. Michael Nolan Says:

    I thought I’d published my marinara recipe here before but apparently I haven’t. Give me a bit and I will make sure that omission is rectified!

    In other words, I’ll publish the recipe as soon as I can.

    Thanks for the feedback!

  11. Peg Says:

    A few years ago I found out about freezing tomatoes and started doing it but when I had enough to can and fill the canner I didn’t like having to remove the skins so I started to process them in my blender and then can them. This year I plan to do that again but I’d also like to make some marinara sauce to can and would like your recipe too. Please post it A.S.A.P. Thanks
    P.S. processing the tomatoes with the skin on made sense since we eat the skins when we eat sliced tomatoes so why not when they are canned too but I couldn’t find a reason why everyone, for years, said to remove the skins. I guess it was because whole tomatoes and quartered tomatoes where the way to go and people preferred removing them, the skins, than eating them!!!???

  12. Fred Says:

    I am new to tomato freezing… how much coarse sea salt do you use per quart or gallon size bag?

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