Tomatoes are a rich source of vitamins A and C, lycopene, niacin, Vitamin B6 and folate. They are also rich in Phosphorus and Potassium. Today, we will study some easy ways to preserve tomatoes for a long time. Some of these methods include canning, freezing and drying. However, we will also study ways to preserve tomatoes without canning or without a fridge.
1. Storing at room temperature
Whether you have picked them from your garden or from a retail shop, tomatoes are best eaten at room temperature within 3-4 days of picking/purchase. Never store tomatoes in the refrigerator as the cold destroys important enzymes, spoils the taste and texture and also accelerates rotting process. If the tomatoes are about to rot, you may place them in crisper section of the refrigerator within a paper or plastic bag (the latter with a few slits). Remove from the fridge an hour before you plan to eat the tomatoes.
Tomatoes can be frozen whole, sliced or pureed. You can also make them into juice or tomato sauce or paste before freezing. Thaw the tomatoes for an hour before cooking. However, freezing can change the texture of tomatoes considerably, so do not expect them to retain the same taste. Thawed tomatoes are very mushy and when cooked, can become even more watery. Always select firm, ripe tomatoes before freezing. Wash and wipe them thoroughly and remove the stem scar. Then place them on sheets and freeze them. Once frozen, you can place them in containers or plastic bags in the freezer. You can also make them into juice or stew them before freezing.
3. Drying tomatoes
This is another popular way of preserving tomatoes for a long time. The secret to dehydrating tomatoes is to control the temperature and air circulation. Always maintain drying temperature at 135 to 140 F. In case you live in a hot area, you can use the sun for drying the tomatoes. Place the sliced, deseeded (optional) tomatoes on drying trays and cover them with net to keep insects off. Make sure you keep turning the cut tomatoes when out in the sun. The entire sun drying process can take up to 6 days. If the temperatures drop (and also at nighttime), do bring the tomatoes indoors. An electric dehydrator is the best for drying tomatoes. Never use an oven for the drying process as it makes the kitchen unbearably hot and also takes more than 40 hours to finish drying.
4. How to preserve tomatoes Italian style
This is an Italian style of preserving tomatoes. Blanch, core and peel the tomatoes. Make a sauce by adding herbs like garlic, oregano and onions and simmer the sauce in olive oil for 45 minutes. Adjust sugar, salt and pepper to taste and pour the sauce in hot sterilized mason jars. Place the jars in hot water bath for 20 minutes, cool, re-bath and seal the jars. This is also a way to preserve tomatoes with canning.
This is the most efficient way of preserving tomatoes for a long time.
- Prepare the tomatoes by washing and drying them. You can halve the tomatoes or place them as is.
- Add some acid– Acid helps preserve tomatoes longer. You can add lime juice or citric acid. Vinegar is another top choice. Also add sugar to offset the acrid taste of acid.
- Use the right equipment for canning-go for glass mason jars with two piece metal canning lids.
- Heat treatment– To preserve tomatoes longer, you need to treat them with heat. Heat destroys viruses, bacteria and fungi helping the tomatoes last longer. This heating process is never direct heating; rather you use a hot water bath as mentioned above. Use a large kettle or pot for making the bath. Place the mason jars with tomatoes in the pot and cover the jars and their lids with more than an inch of hot water. Boil the water gently. Next, place the jars in a cool place and make sure the lid and seal on the cans are intact. For further information on canning process, click here.
6. Preserving tomato puree
If you want to preserve tomato puree without canning, here is a basic recipe:
- Wash the tomatoes and cut off their stem scars.
- Boil the tomatoes in a large pot filled with water.
- Once boiled for 10-15 minutes, cool them and remove their skin. You can also choose to remove seeds.
- Place the tomato halves in a blender and puree them.
- Now boil the puree with vinegar, salt and sugar until the sauce thickens.
Store this puree in different sized containers and you can even add them to empty ice containers and freeze to make puree cubes. Use the cubes as needed in your recipes. Never re-freeze thawed puree.
And that concludes our guide on ways to preserve tomatoes in jars without and with canning, for a long time.