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Tomato-palooza: Preserving 45 pounds of summer tomatoes

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Preserving 45 Pounds of Tomatoes - www.ohlardy.com

This summer has been a wonderful one for tomatoes, at least in Chicago.  With the very hot and dry weather, the tomatoes seem to be growing like crazy!  I have been eating tomatoes for almost every meal!  Don't you just love garden fresh summer tomatoes?  Hopefully these recipes will give you some ideas on how to preserve your summer crop!

I purchased over 45+ pounds of tomatoes (a mixture of beefsteak and roma) from my CSA program, Sandhill Organics.  I want to preserve some of summer's bounty so I decided to preserve my tomatoes as: canned tomatoes, canned tomato sauce, canned bruschetta mix, canned tomato soup, dehydrated sliced tomatoes, and lacto-fermented tomato relish/salsa.  And, I am so crazy about tomatoes, I just emailed Sandhill to ask for MORE tomatoes!  Yikes!  I love being able to open my pantry or freezer and pull out summer goodness in the middle of a dreary Chicago winter.

There are many ideas for preserving tomatoes.  Here are a few!

photo credit


I get my instructions from www.pickyourown.org.  I am fairly new to water bath canning, just decided to take the plunge last summer.  I bought my equipment last year and always turn to this site for my canning help!  It is full of everything you need to know about water bath canning, pressure canning, freezing, dehydrating, jam making, etc.  A great resource!

Here is an Oh Lardy! tutorial on canning tomatoes!

If you are going to try canning, it is VERY important that you follow tried and true canning recipes.  The acidity of the recipe is very important for proper preservation.  Canning times can vary based on altitude.  Consult www.pickyourown.org for more info.

If you aren't ready to start canning, the thought overwhelms you, you can easily freeze these recipes in small freezer safe mason jars, plastic jars or ziploc bags.

Whole/Halved Tomatoes, canned or frozen

canning tomatoesFollowing these directions, I canned about 7 quarts of tomatoes.  Can't wait to open a batch of summer tomatoes this winter!  If you are aren't ready to try canning yet, you can follow these instructions for freezing your whole/halved tomatoes.

Simple Tomato Sauce, canned or frozen

I made a very simple tomato sauce using the following recipe from the book The Art of Preserving.  I plan on using this in the winter as a base to make delicious spaghetti sauce or to add to chili.  This makes 6 one-pint jars.  I used a new size jar, one and a half pint.  It is my new favorite size!  Sometimes 1 quart is too much but 1 pint is too small.

1 tbsp olive oil
4 yellow onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
10 lbs tomatoes, cut into chunks
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup finely chopped basil
1/4 cup fresh or bottled lemon juice (for canning; if freezing, omit lemon juice)
1 1/2 tsp salt (buy sea salt here)
1/4 tsp pepper

  • Heat oil and add onions, cooking until translucent (about 6 min)
  • Add garlic and cook 2 minutes more.
  • Add tomatoes and wine.  Raise heat to high and bring to  a boil.  Reduce to medium and simmer uncovered until reduced by half (about 1 hour).
  • Continue to simmer on medium-low until sauce is desired consistency.  Stir in basil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Taste the sauce and adjust for seasonings.
  • To can:  Ladle hot sauce into the jars (sanitized and warm), leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Remove any air bubbles and adjust the headspace. Wipe rims clean and seal tightly with warmed/sanitized lids.  Process jars for 30 minutes in a boiling water bath.  (If you use larger jars, pint and a half or quarts, process for 45 minutes)
  • To freeze: Ladle into freezer safe jars and freeze.

Bruschetta Mix, canned or frozen

Again using The Art of Preserving, I adapted the recipe a bit to make a delicious brushcetta topping.  This topping would also be delicious over chicken or fish!  Makes 6 half pint jars.

5 lbs Roma tomatoes
1 1/4 cup dry white wine (I used red because it was open)
2 tbsp champagne vinegar
2 tbsp white basalmic vinegar
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice (for canning; if freezing, omit lemon juice)
salt and pepper

  • Peel, core and squeeze out seeds of the tomatoes then cut into chunks.  (Here's a tip for easily peeling tomatoes)
  • In a large saucepan, combine wine, vinegars and garlic.  Bring to a boil over high and cook until reduced by 1/3 (about 5 minutes).  Stir in tomatoes.  Reduce heat to medium and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are hot throughout (about 10 minutes).  Stir in basil and lemon juice.  Season with salt and pepper.
  • To can: Ladle the tomatoes into warm and sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Gently push on tomatoes with spatula to cover them with liquid.  Add more liquid from saucepan if necessary.  Remove any air bubbles and adjust headspace.  Wipe rims clean and seal tightly with warm and sterilized lids.  Process jars for 20 minutes.
  • To freeze: Ladle tomatoes into freezer safe jars.  Freeze.

 Tomato Soup, canned or frozen

This one is sort of an experiment so I will let you know how this worked later this winter!  I simply took the leftover above bruschetta mixture (I made way too much…probably used more than 5 lbs of tomatoes, which is why I ended up with so much extra.)  It reminded me of tomato soup.  I used a stick blender to blend the bruschetta mix, added a touch more lemon juice (not necessary if freezing) and ladled into pint and a half size mason jars (warm and sterilized).  I processed for 40 minutes.  If freezing, pour into freezer safe jars and freeze.  I think when I open the cans, I will heat up the soup, adjust seasonings and add a touch of cream.

Tomato Slices, dehydrated or oven dried

I sliced tomatoes abut 1/4 inch thick.  I tossed the slices with olive oil, salt and pepper and a drizzle of basalmic vinegar.  I put them in a single layer on dehydrator trays and dehydrated about 6-8 hours at 135 degrees.  I let cool and put them in freezer bags and popped in the freezer.  You could also store in a mason jar in the pantry for a month or in the refrigerator for a few months.  These were absolutely amazing.  Half of them didn't make it into the freezer bags…they ended up in my belly!  You can also do this in an oven (temp around 175 degrees or lower).  It will take about 24 hours, however.

Tomato Relish, lacto-fermented

This recipe is taken from Nourishing Traditions (a real food bible…a must have in any real food kitchen).  Eventually, Oh Lardy will do extensive posts and tutorials on lacto-fermenting food.  In short, lacto-fermenting is a form of preservation that allows the food to ferment, building up enzymes and probiotics, becoming a living, healing food.  It has been used by almost every traditional culture throughout the world.  For more info on lacto-fermenting, check out our quick start guide to fermentation.

This recipe made 2 one-pint jars.  Makes a fantastic salsa!  I have tried several canned salsa recipes but have never found any I liked.  Experimented with two for this post…and still haven't found any I like!  This fermented relish is my favorite salsa so far!

4 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (here's a tip on peeling tomatoes)
1 bunch green onions, choped
1 green pepper, seeded and chopped (I used a purple bell pepper)
1-2 jalapeños, seeded and chopped (1 is medium hot; 2 is hot)
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
4 tbsp whey (or vegetable starter culture)
1 tbsp sea salt
1/2 cup filtered water

  • Mix all vegetables in a bowl and pound lightly with wooden spoon or meat hammer.
  • Place in 2 pint sized jars (or 1 quart sized jar) and press down with wooden spoon until liquid completely covers tomato relish.
  • If needed, add a bit more filtered water to ensure the tomatoes are covered.  The top of the vegetables should be at least 1 inch below top of jar to ensure enough room for fermentation.
  • Cover tightly with lid.  Keep at room temperature for 2 days.
  • Transfer to refrigerator.  It will stay for months in the refrigerator.

Do you have any plans for your tomato bounty?



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Preserving 45 Pounds of Tomatoes - www.ohlardy.com


  1. My mom made a tomato jelly that tasted like autumn. I wish I knew how she did it. Anyone have tomato jelly made like that?

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