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Some people really enjoy canning.  Not me.  I do it out of necessity, in order to avoid the BPA and other chemicals in canned tomato packaging.  Because I like to have preserved tomatoes available in the off seson I’ve gathered a few tricks that make preserving the tomato harvest quicker, easier, and cheaper:

  • Oven roasting tomatoes for canning
  • Dehydrating tomatoes
  • Freezing tomatoes

Easy Roasting Method

Instead of all the coringmashing, boiling, stirring, sieving, and boiling again involved in making tomato sauce the standard Ball Bluebook way, I’ve found a much quicker method that starts by roasting your tomatoes in the oven.

The roasting process is a hands-off way to evaporate the moisture in tomatoes.  Roasting also enhances the flavor as some of the sugars caramelize.  This no-fuss method sure beats standing at the hot stove stirring and waiting for the sauce to cook down.  Roasted tomatoes are easier to can and (in my opinion) they just taste better. Double win!

Although other varieties can be used, Roma, or paste tomatoes, are meatier and will make a thicker sauce.  To roast the tomatoes cut them in half (in quarters if they’re large) and place them face down in a roasting pan (non-aluminum).   Roast them at 450° for about 30 minutes.  The skin will be shriveled and the edges should be just starting to char.

When the tomatoes are roasted to your liking put them in a blender or Vitamix and whir until smooth.  I use the whole tomato, skins and all, for my tomato sauce.  If you want to remove the skins pick them out with a fork.  If the roasting created juice in the pan save it for soup.

Proceed to acidify your tomatoes and process them as you normally would.   This post is not meant to be a full canning tutorial, just an explanation of saving time by roasting instead of boiling down your tomatoes.  If you are not familiar with canning you can learn a lot here, or here.  Reading these tips for newbies would also be helpful.

Caution:  Do not can tomatoes from dead or frost damaged vines.   Their acidity is not reliable.

Dehydrating Tomatoes

Dehydrated tomatoes are the new darling of home tomato preservation, and for good reason, as it’s less time consuming than canning.  Dried tomatoes are versatile since they can be used in salads, dips, or for snacking, or they can be thrown into soups or dishes with more moisture where they become reconstituted.  Dried tomatoes add a gourmet touch to foods.  You’ll pay an exorbitant price for dried tomatoes in the store but making them at home is very economical.

Drying tomatoes in an electric dehydrator or oven are the most popular methods.  Whatever method of drying you use start early in the day because the length of the drying time is unpredictable.

As with canning, meatier tomatoes work the best for drying.  Any tomato can be dried, but the more moisture they contain the longer the drying process.  To prepare tomatoes for drying core them if needed, then cut them into uniform sizes.  Cut Roma (paste tomatoes) in half lengthwise, or into 1/4-inch slices if they are large.  Cut cherry tomatoes in half.  Large tomatoes should be cut into 1/4 -inch slices.  If you want to speed up the drying process you can scoop out the gel and seeds, but you may lose flavor.

 

Dehydrator- Place the tomatoes, cut side up on the dehydrator tray, leaving space between the tomatoes.   If you have a dehydrator with a thermostat follow the manufacturer’s recommended temperature.  If none is given set it at 140°.  Tomatoes take anywhere from 3-15 hours to dry.

Oven Drying- Place the tomatoes, cut side up on a cooling rack or some type of slotted tray if you are drying them in the oven.  A cookie sheet (covered with parchment paper if it’s aluminum) works but takes longer since the air can’t circulate as well.   You will have to flip the tomatoes mid-way through the drying process if you use a cookie sheet. Leave space between the tomatoes so they do not touch.

Set your oven on the lowest setting.  If you have a convection oven use the fan.  If you don’t have a convection oven, switching the tomatoes to different oven racks occasionally will help them dry more evenly. They will take anywhere from 3-20 hours  to dry depending on the size and moisture content of the tomatoes, as well as your oven temperature and air circulation.  They should end up leathery, similar to a dried apricot, with no visible moisture.

Freezing Tomatoes

Canning tomatoes is probably the most popular way to preserve tomatoes, but in my mind, freezing is the easiest.

  1. Wash and dry tomatoes.
  2. Freeze small tomatoes as they are.  Quarter or halve large tomatoes.
  3. Freeze them on a cookie sheet, skin side down.
  4. Bag them up and label them with a date.
For soups and stews just throw the frozen tomatoes into the blender or Vitamix as is, then add the tomato slush to your soup.  If you don’t want to use the skin let the tomatoes thaw then slip it off.   Check out Joanna’s Lazy Freezing Techniques.  She leaves the tomatoes whole.
Guide to Free and Cheap Produce, Part 1 and Part 2 gives you lots of ideas for finding economical produce to preserve.

What is your favorite use for preserved tomatoes?

**This post has been entered into  Fresh Bites Friday, Homestead Barn Hop #77, and Monday Mania.**

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14 Comments

  1. [...] the sauce to cook down.  Besides the ease of canning roasted tomatoes they just taste better.   Click here to read the rest of this post.  I’m posting at Modern Alternative Mama today. This entry was posted in Uncategorized, Vegetables and tagged dehydrating tomatoes, drying, [...]

    Reply

  2. Great post! I really only make 2 things with tomatoes (though I want to can diced tomatoes as some point), but I thought I would share how I use my freezer.

    I grow tomatoes in my garden and I just throw them in the freezer all summer until I want to make salsa or sauce. If you will be taking the skin off, you don’t even have to wash them first. I just toss them into a gallon freezer bag as I pick them and then put them in the freezer. When I am ready to put them in a pot for canning salsa or making spaghetti sauce, I just run each one under warm water, the skin slips right off, and its into the pot! I use an immersion blender in my sauce pot, but I don’t do anything to them as far as blending etc when I make salsa.

    Reply

  3. I have a question…. do you add vinegar to your canned tomato products? I did spaghetti sauce yesterday and one of the commentors on the recipe said that to be safe she always added vinegar. I did not, as I never have before, but now it’s nagging at me! Thoughts?

    Reply

    • The recommendation to add an acid ingredient (lemon juice, vinegar or citric acid) is because the acidity of tomatoes is variable. The variety of the tomato and growing conditions impact it’s acidity. There is no way to know it’s acidity unless you test each one.

      I always use USDA recommendations and recipes when canning, because they have extensive research behind them. To assure the pH is 4.6 or lower they recommend adding 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice or 1/2 teaspoon citric acid (available in the grocery store near canning supplies) to each quart jar. Citric acid has the least impact on taste, though I usually use lemon juice because I have it on hand anyway. Personally, I don’t think I’d use vinegar unless I was making some type of tomato condiment that called for vinegar like salsa, catsup or a chutney. I don’t think I’d like the taste of vinegar in tomato sauce. I’m sure you can find a recommendation for the amount of vinegar if you decide to use it.

      Reply

  4. Okay, so I dehydrated my tomatoes. Where is a good web site for recipes on how to use all these little gems? Can I powder them and use them as paste and sauce? Ideas please!
    Jamie

    Reply

    • Jamie, I never thought about making paste with the dehydrated tomatoes. I wonder if you could just pulverize them in a Vitamix or food processor with a little added moisture. I don’t know if a blender would be able to deal with the skins and seeds once they are dried. I try to dry my tomatoes until they are rubbery. If you wanted to powder the dried tomatoes I think you’d need to dry them until they are crisp. If you do give this a try, stop back and let us know how it worked.

      We eat all of our dried cherry tomatoes out of hand, as snacks or on salads. They are so yummy! I use the Romas mostly in soups and stove top dishes in place of canned tomatoes.

      Reply

  5. I have always roasted tomatoes with olive oil and whole cloves of garlic. I then pour the pan’s contents in containers and freeze. I do not process further until I need to so my options for use are open ended. I take out a container anytime I make my spicy lentil soup or any recipe that can use the taste of summer. Nummy.

    Reply

  6. Great post! I just processed some tomatoes this morning…what a lot of work. I never would have thought to freeze them whole like that. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply

  7. What an excellent resource this post is! I particularly like the way you roast the tomatoes before canning; it must give them a wonderful flavour!

    Reply

    • Thank you April! Last year was the first time I roasted them before canning and they did turn out good. Canning tomatoes is a project for this week.

      Reply

  8. Hi! I found you via Bama Girl. I wondered if you dry tomatoes if you use them on salads like that or if you soak them in water first? I come from a farm but my husband is a city boy and we have a lot. I do have my little gardens and have started sharing my excitement on my blog, Cozy Thyme Cottage. Please visit if you like! Nancy

    Reply

    • I use the dried cherry tomatoes as is on salads and just to eat for snacks. I’m still learning about how dry the dehydrated tomatoes need to be for long term storage. I don’t dry the cherry tomatoes super dry, so I store them in the fridge or freezer.

      The Roma tomatoes I dehydrate to a drier state because I have more of them and want to make sure I can store them in the pantry. I use them mostly for cooking where they will pick up moisture from the other foods they’re cooked with. If I were to use the Romas on salads I would probable rehydrate them with just a drop or two of water.

      Sorry this was so long winded! I guess I’m saying that it really depends on how dry you dehydrate your tomatoes.

      Reply

      • Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my question. I think I will give it a try again next year when our tomato season starts again. We did not have a good tomato crop this year. Hope you will post anymore info you find on it to share! Have a great week-end. Nancy

        Reply

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