As we prepare for the gardening season I like to make lists of different things I am growing for the year and how I can use them up and preserve them so that when I find myself with a basket full of food I don’t have to go hunting for ideas Using and preserving tomatoes is easy and this staple puts my canner to work all summer long to feed our family. Here are a few ways to use and preserve tomatoes.
Ways to use up a lot of tomatoes
When your garden is thriving it is not uncommon to find yourself with a thriving abundance of tomatoes at some point in the summer.
Using tomatoes in this way may not be the most creative way to use them, but there are countless possibilities for creating amazing dishes. You can add different spices, garlic, and onions to make the most delicious homemade pasta and pizza sauces. You can blend your tomatoes and cook them with your choice of herbs, spices, and other vegetables.
Pico De Galo
We love different types of salsa. Pico de gallo is a popular option used to top classic Mexican and Latin American dishes. This contained tomatoes, onions, and cilantro. I like to make pico de gallo without cilantro seeing I am not a fan of this herb.
When we grill out I like to take fresh beefsteak tomatoes and pop nice big slices on the grill for burgers. The small cherry tomatoes of chopped tomatoes make a great option for grilling on skewers for shish kabobs.
Fried green tomatoes
Despite its waning popularity, this dish still makes for a great use of extra green tomatoes you might have pulled from your plants before a frost or storm. Add frozen mozzarella slices or different seasonings to the breading for a unique take on this favorite. My grandmother did not cook much but whenever she would be offered green tomatoes from someone she would jump on this opportunity and was so excited when I grew tomatoes while she lived with us.
How to preserve tomatoes
You can use your tomatoes throughout the year if you preserve them. If you have an overabundance of produce from your garden, it is nearly impossible to consume them all without any going bad. This is unless you have a plan to store them. Several effective methods exist that allow you to preserve tomatoes fairly easily.
In most cases, you should blanch your tomatoes before preserving them. In order to create the best flavor, color, and texture for your final dish, you will need to remove the skin before preserving if the final recipe requires it. When storing, remove the skins if you are unsure as to what you will use them for.
Set up a large bowl of ice water and a pot of boiling water on the stove for this purpose. Cut an x into the sin of each tomato. Drop your tomatoes into boiling water for two to three minutes before removing and immediately dropping them into ice water to stop the cooking process. The skins will separate from the fruit once they have cooled and you can peel them easily.
You can freeze your tomatoes when you need time to prepare other methods of preserving them. When you need to keep a large harvest from going bad, this is a quick and easy solution. While blanching and peeling tomatoes is recommended if you plan to freeze them, it is not necessary if you won’t need to remove the skin for all future uses. Frozen unblanched tomatoes will blend up perfectly in a blender to become a sauce or paste.
By dehydrating tomato slices, you can make your own sun-dried tomatoes that are great for cooking. Make the most of your favorite dishes with these delicious tomatoes that have a concentrated flavor. You can use dried tomatoes for so many things, such as adding them to omelets, making pasta, adding texture and flavor to roasted vegetables, or even grinding them up to make tomato powder for tomato sauce or adding flavors to soups and other dishes.
To dehydrate tomatoes, use a mandoline slicer to cut uniformly thin slices between 1/8th and 1/4 inch thick. Turn your dehydrator to 145 degrees and arrange your tomatoes on the trays. I like to flip a few times through the process to avoid sticking. Run your dehydrator for 8 to 10 hours until fully dry.
Canning is perhaps the most popular method of preserving tomatoes. Tomatoes can be canned in many ways, ranging from sliced and ready to cook to homemade sauce. Most recipes for canning tomatoes can be done in a water bath canner, making them a great canning project for beginners not yet ready to use a pressure canner. You do not need many ingredients to make your tomato products shelf-stable when canning. This includes vinegar or lemon juice will increase the acidity enough to preserve them.