Preserving your tomatoes

ON THE GARDEN PATH by Carolyn Herriot

Warning: this article will make your mouth water. Every year, I tell myself to cut down on the number of tomato varieties I grow. I still ended up with 35 different varieties this fall and it was a bumper year. You may know I’m an avid seed saver, so I’ve been busy saving the seeds from multitudes of ripe tomatoes. I hate to waste the tomatoes once the seeds are removed so consequently I’ve been up to my ears in ripe tomatoes.

As time passed, I decided I needed a system to cope with bowlfuls of tomatoes and I think my system must have worked as I didn’t waste any and we now have tomatoes coming out of our ears for winter eating. I thought I’d share what I did with all these tomatoes in case you ever find yourself blessed enough to be in the same predicament.

Separating tomatoes into cherries, salad and paste varieties was the best way to start. I discovered that the smaller cherry tomatoes make great salsa fresca. I simply whirled them in the food processor for a few spins, added the ingredients noted in the recipe below and left the mixture to marinate. I then strained off the liquid and froze in portions perfect for the winter munchies.

The big paste tomatoes got thrown into a large stainless steel saucepan and were slowly cooked down on low heat with no lid, until the water evaporated and all that was left was a thick tomato paste. This was frozen in tubs for use in sauces, casseroles or as a cream of tomato soup base.

Meaty heirloom paste tomatoes make a mean tomato sauce, which involves adding garlic, onions, squash or peppers, a bay leaf, parsley and fresh basil while the tomatoes cook down. This scrummy sauce makes a 10-minute pasta that we adore as a taste of the garden in midwinter.

With salad tomatoes, there’s a range of quick options. If they are firm, cut them in half and fill freezer bags with them. I add frozen tomatoes to a range of recipes and I think the fact they are still frozen is the secret for the best success. If you have a dehydrator, dry them and add the flavour of homegrown tomatoes to pizzas, omelettes, salad dressings and dips.

Salsa fresca 
1 cup diced tomatoes
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 minced garlic clove
1 tsp. minced jalapeno (seeds removed)
3 tbsp. finely chopped fresh cilantro
Juice of 1 lime
Salt & pepper to taste

Bruschetta to die for! 
This recipe makes the best Bruschetta topping ever. It’s a great way to enjoy freshly harvested tomatoes. (Makes 2 1⁄2 cups.)

Stir together:
4 to 6 finely chopped and seeded plum tomatoes
2 finely sliced green onions

2 tsp. olive oil
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 clove crushed garlic
1⁄2 tsp. salt
Pinch pepper

2 tbsp. fresh basil, finely chopped
2 tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan
Toss with tomato mixture
Serve on top of toasted baguette

Roasted tomatoes
Tomato flavour is accentuated by slow roasting. For a real treat try this.
(1 to 2 hours roasting time)
Preheat oven to 325°F (150°C)
5 lbs. whole, washed tomatoes
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. coarse salt
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
Herbs de Provence (optional)

Place tomatoes in a single layer in a large roasting pan lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper and fine herbs as desired.

Put the pan uncovered into the preheated oven for 15 minutes, then turn down the oven to 250°F and continue to roast slowly for 1 to 2 hours until they are reduced in size and lightly browned on top. Let cool for 15 minutes. Add to a multiple of recipes or just eat on a cracker.

Then, of course, there are always all the green leftovers, but it’s great to offer mince pies at Christmas from the fruits of your labours in the garden. Bon appetit!

Green tomato mincemeat 
6 cups chopped apples (peeled)
6 cups chopped green tomatoes
3 cups brown sugar
11⁄2 cups white vinegar
3 cups raisins
3 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
3⁄4 tsp. allspice
3⁄4 tsp. mace
3⁄4 tsp. pepper
2 tsp. salt
3⁄4 cup butter

Mix apples with tomatoes and drain. Add remaining ingredients except butter. Bring gradually to the boiling point and simmer uncovered for approximately 3 hours or until desired thickness. Stir occasionally to be sure it doesn’t stick. Add butter and mix in. Pour into sterilized Mason jars, and process under water at a rolling boil for 20 minutes to seal.

Carolyn Herriot is author of A Year on the Garden Path: A 52-Week Organic Gardening Guide. She grows Seeds of Victoria at the Garden Path Centre where she teaches The Zero Mile Diet – Twelve Steps to Sustainable Homegrown Food Production and Growing an Edible Plant

Leave a comment