Introduction: Get More Yield From Your Tomato Harvest and Preserving Techniques
Home gardening and canning has changed a lot since my childhood. There are less risk involved in canning and preserving than in the past, if certain steps are followed. The internet offers many tested and state approved methods and recipes that are readily available to those who are not educated about home canning and preserving fresh fruits and vegetables.
I have canned fruits and vegetables in the past when I was quite young. My sister taught me a lot by using the water bath canning method and freezing. If you are interested in canning or preserving food for your family, I strongly recommend doing the research to be safe. Not everything you read online is the proper way to preserve. Canning and preserving food is a serious commitment and all safety measures should be used to prevent serious physical reactions.
Ball's website is a great place to start. They have a lot of wonderful fully tested state approved methods and recipes to help you get started. The county extension office is a good place as well. It may surprise you but freezing does not kill some bacteria. With that in mind please follow state approved guidelines for freezing and preserving tomatoes or any fresh produce or herbs.
I did a lot of research before freezing and preserving foods from my garden but I am not perfect and I could be wrong or may have missed stating an important fact. I did read that freezing is one of the safest methods.
I was planning on canning my tomatoes and other produce and after researching the safe methods of canning, I could only use the water bath canning method and did not want to take any chances. So I decided to freeze and dry my bounty. High acidic foods are often used in water bath canning methods. Meats and some vegetables are low acid and should be canned using a pressure cooker. Personally I won't attempt canning using a water bath for green vegetables and meats because it can be fatal. The rule of the thumb is you should never taste anything questionable. According to many articles I read you can not taste or smell botulism. When in question discard by flushing down the toilet or get rid of any food items in question, in a manner that no one will dig through the trash and eat it.
This instructable will share how I processed homegrown organic tomatoes, made a sauce, and froze the sauce for later use. I don't recommend canning this recipe unless you will be using a pressure cooker. I will share how to get the most from the crop of tomatoes you will be preserving and I will share an unconventional method of food drying that might surprise you. Let's get started . . .
Step 1: Seeds Juice and Skins
I know there are a lot of people who discard the seeds and peel of red and and green tomatoes, when they make recipes, but I think it is kind of wasteful. I use all of the tomato except the stems, and stalks. I have been trying to find ways to use them and this instructable will share what I have learned about that later.
I will share how I preserve herbs by drying and freezing later on. I found this article online "How to Make the Best Tomato Sauce From Fresh Tomatoes by Daniel Gritzer," at Serious Eats. I am using some of Daniels methods for making the sauce and have built upon his method; using my families favorite recipe and some of my own discoveries.
Step 2: Ingredients and Utensils
Ingredients . . .
I used my families favorite marinara sauce and will list the ingredients later. You may use these methods for just about any tomato sauce recipe adjusting for "steps like heating garlic,increasing measurements for large batches and other methods".
Variety of tomatoes, dried oregano and thyme, fresh rosemary and basil, fresh garlic, Kosher salt, vinegar, baking soda, brown sugar, dry red wine, and fresh ground pepper.
Tomatoes, I used different varieties because it was the end of the season and I needed all I had, but Roma and other meaty, sweet and tarty versions will make a great sauce. How many you need will determine how much you want to make. I only made about two quarts. The recipe I used was the perfect amounts for two quarts. I did have a little seasonings left over because I did not want to over season the batch because I will be adding more seasonings when I make spaghetti.
You will not need all of these tools. I am sharing methods of preserving herbs by drying and freezing with this tutorial because it is a great way to save time while you are waiting on the cooking process.
Food mill or colander, funnel, food processor or mixer, covered glass bowls or freezer bags, stock pot, food dehydrator for preserving tomato skins and drying methods,cookie sheet, stock pot and lid,spoons, zip lock freezer bag or glass canning jars and lids, marker pen, knife, parchment paper and cutting board.
Step 3: Recipe
I do not recommend canning this recipe using a water bath, please be safe and use a pressure cooker.
2 minced garlic cloves cooked lightly in olive oil
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
5 pounds ripe variety tomatoes, romas, plum, or whatever
1 cup dry red wine
1 Tablespoon dried oregano
Fresh Basil leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Fresh sprig Rosemary
Salt and ground pepper to taste.
This tutorial will explain the directions for making the sauce using the freezing method.
Step 4: Pick and Clean
Pick the tomatoes.
Set up a work station with everything you need.
Fill a large stock pot with water leaving a nice head room.
Set a bowl of ice into the sink. Fill the bowl of ice with water just before you emerge the tomatoes into the boiling water.
Estimate how long it will take to wash the tomatoes and turn the heat on, to boil the water so it will be hot when the tomatoes are washed and stems removed.
Step 5: Skin Those Babies
Boil a large pot of water if you haven't already. I salted mine but I am not sure if you are supposed to.
Place tomatoes into the pot but don't crowd them.
Boil them for aboutone minute or at least under two minutes,"some tomatoes take a little longer to loosen the skins". You can test one to see if it peels nicely, if the peels are difficult to remove, place them back into the pot and cook them a few more seconds.
Using a slotted spoon to remove the tomatoes and place them into the ice bath.
Gently slip off the skins and place the skins into a separate bowl, "throwing away any bad ones".
Using a knife, remove cores and bad spots and place the skinned tomatoes into the bowl of skins.
I separated the skins from the tomatoes but realized later it was not necessary. I am glad I did because it showed me how much would have been wasted if I had not used them.
Step 6: Food Processor
Method to Process tomatoes:
Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees F.
Add peeled tomatoes and skins to the food processor and pulse until it is a thick sauce. " or a mixer or masher."
Divide this mixture into thirds in separate bowls, one to be roasted in the oven, one to be cooked on top of the stove at the end of the roasting process, and one at the very end for the garden fresh flavor.
Place two of the mixtures in refrigerator while the remaining mixture will be roasted until caramelized as explained in the next step.
Step 7: Oven Roasting the Tomatoes
Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees F:
Measure your recipes seasonings if you haven't already and place them separately into small dishes. You may need to adjust the recipe by increasing or decreasing the amount of seasonings for the quantity of sauce you are freezing.
Add a few pinches of the different seasonings to the tomato mixture that will be roasted.
Place this mixture into a shallow cookie sheet with a rim. Don't add all the seasonings all at once, but add them a little pinch (of each one) each time you check the sauce, stirring and tasting as you go. This method will prevent mistakes and will keep that fresh home grown tomato flavor in the sauce. It is important to watch the sauce closely, because it can burn easily.
Bake until caramelized. Slow and low is the way to go for the oven roasted mixture.Take a mini break, you have earned it : ) Now go to the next step so you can finish the second step of the cooking process.
Step 8: Cook Stove Top Mixture
Please keep in mind that the frozen sauce will loose flavor after it has been preserved. You don't need to add a lot of seasonings because when the sauce is used in a recipe, more seasonings will be added at that time to get the perfect balance of flavor.
After the roasted sauce is done, remove the mixture and put it in a small bowl and set it aside while you place one of the uncooked refrigerated tomato sauces into a stock pot on medium heat and add the wine and cover with a lid to keep all of the nutrients from escaping. When the sauce begins to bubble; add the roasted sauce mixture to it. Taste and add a small pinch of the seasonings a little at a time as I described earlier with the roasted sauce.
Cook for ten minutes or until small bubbles form and taste. Add more seasonings if needed. Cook another ten minutes.
Add the last remaining uncooked sauce that is in the refrigerator to the stock pot. Bring the heat up again and taste the mixture. Add more seasoning if needed. When the sauce has begun to bubble again, taste and add seasoning if desired and cook long enough to kill any bacteria and remove the sauce from the heat to cool.
Step 9: Strain to Remove Pulp
After the sauce has cooled, use the food mill to remove the pulp from the batch. I used a colander.
Taste the batch for bitterness. Place a small batch of the sauce in a small bowl and add a tiny pinch of baking soda and taste it. If it removes the bitterness add a tiny pinch to the stock. Continue using the baking a tiny pinch at a time until the bitterness is gone BUT BE CAREFUL if you add too much it alters the flavor with a weird taste. If that does not work you might try salt or brown sugar but again don't add this to the entire batch, do a sampler.
Save the pulp for garden mulch.
Place the sauce into sterilized lidded glass containers leaving 1/2 inch head space to allow for expansion from freezing the jar.
If using freezer bags, mark the contents and date on the bag before freezing them. For a gallon size bag I did not use any more than 4 cups of sauce. If you freeze the sauce in large batches; it takes a long time to thaw. Using more bags will reduce the thawing time. I used freezer bags by removing as much air from the bag by laying it on a flat surface and closing the top "leaving a small opening" at one end to release the air. This prevents freezer burn. Lay flat to freeze.
When you are ready to use the sauce "thaw the sauce overnight in the refrigerator or heat over the stove to thaw on low heat", it is a pain though.
I prefer using glass jars instead of plastic bags because in my opinion it is a healthier option. My freezer is full so I needed the extra space and the sauce won't be stored in the plastic very long because I only made two batches. I hope to learn more about canning before the next gardening season and try canning pickles and sauces ~ yum~
Step 10: How to Dry and Freeze Herbs and Skins
To Freeze rosemary, chives, and basil:
Place a cookie sheet in the freezer to chill.
Wash herbs and rinse them in vinegar water to remove bacteria.
Dry the herbs thoroughly with a clean dry towel.
Chop them and place them on a parchment lined cookie sheet, loosely.
Freeze until firm.
Remove them from the cookie sheet and place them into covered glass containers or freezer bags
and place them into the freezer immediately.Whole tomatoes can be frozen whole using this method also but they loose their texture and are only good for cooked soups and such.
Remove the herbs as you need them returning the container to the freezer not allowing them to thaw, otherwise they may turn black. The chives were so pretty. I love this method~
Drying the herbs:
Wash herbs and then rinse them in vinegar water and dry them thoroughly.
Follow your dehydrators instructions for drying them or dry hanging them up-side-down.
It is best not to crumble the dried herbs and storing them in a jar because most of the flavor comes from the stems. It is best to break off what is needed and then crush them. Store the dried herbs away from moisture, dust and bugs. Store them in a zip lock bag or a glass container with a lid.
I have never tried home dried tomatoes and wow~ they are so delicious. The tomato skins were very crispy and tasty. They added a splash of color to the green herbs. Now I understand why they are so expensive. You can make seasoned oils and vinegar and all kinds of wonderful condiments by drying them. If you are adventurous you can dry tomato leaves to go into a seasoning mixture with the tomatoes but keep in mind I have read a lot of comments that tomato leaves are toxic if eaten in large quantities. If you read the link in my comment section from Daniel Gritzer, he states that they are safe to eat and list a link from a food writer that explains the details. I tend to be on the cautious side and would recommend if you use them in your sauce; don't add them to the whole batch. Use it like table salt at the table clearly marked Green Tomato leaf salt or something. Some people have allergies to all kinds of different foods and can get very ill by eating them. I dried some and added them to my dried tomato peels and placed them at the table. The leaves accented the fresh picked flavor of the tomato sauce.I will bet that they will send a great soup over the moon~ I will try it in home made tomato soup ~yum. I Store them in glass lidded containers or jars, in a cool dark place for the dried herbs.
Or you can chop herbs on a kosher salted cutting board using about 1 tablespoon of salt and 1/2 to 1 cup of herbs into the salt. I added fresh ground pepper to my batch. Allow to air dry for a couple of days in a ventilated area. Store in glass lidded containers and store in a cool dark place.
I have made up several different kinds of seasoned salts using dried tomato skins,fresh and dried green tomato leaves,fresh rosemary, pepper, kosher salt, and fresh basil. I love the idea of preserving them this way.
The green tomato leaves added a splash of tomato-y zing to the sauce that brings out the fresh flavor of home grown tomatoes. We loved it sprinkled over our salad and in our spaghetti. Store in glass lidded containers and store in a cool dark place.
I used books to dry herbs between the pages and this method keeps the color and shape of the herb. I really like the outcome and it helped me dry more at one time, I was running out of room to dry them. I have not used the herbs yet, they are still drying; so I can't say how well the flavor held up because the main reason I wanted to do this was, to use the herbs for cards or embellishments for baked goods.
Step 11: Sunshiine's Final Thoughts
In the beginning of this process; I removed the juice, seeds and skins and was amazed that they were almost as many of them as the meaty part of the tomato. It made a huge difference using everything except the stems. I know that a lot of cooks would probably just preserve tomato sauce and make spaghetti sauce from them but a really good spaghetti sauce is very labor intensive because it has to be closely watched and takes a long time to make, compared to simple sauces. I like the idea of making this sauce in advance for special occasions and can spend my time preparing for the event and not have to do everything in a rush. The flavor is exceptional because I used home grown tomatoes and a few fresh herbs.
Preserving the food from our organic garden has been a rewarding experience. I am so happy with everything that I preserved and will be planting and preserving my gardens produce next year. I hope you try these methods for drying and freezing your bounty. I think you will be delighted that you end up with quite a lot more preserved tomatoes than you have yielded in the past.
Thanks for stopping by and do have a grand week.