The tomatoes are coming fast and furious now from the garden. While some early varieties may have ripened in July and given you a quick taste of summer, August is when the large-sized tomatoes and plum-shaped canning tomatoes come into their own. When your tomatoes start ripening by the bushelful, you have to get creative about ways to use or preserve them. I love having the taste of vine-ripened tomatoes in winter, so I use three different preservation techniques to keep the flavor of the harvest.
- Canning –
- In my Italian American family, canning tomatoes was a yearly ritual. I’m happy to keep up the tradition and every year we can pint- and quart-sized jars of our tomato harvest. It’s best to find a USDA-approved recipe if you are canning tomatoes using the hot-pack method. It’s important to create a sterile environment and to cook the tomatoes long enough so there is no risk of bacteria invading. In all my years of canning tomatoes, I have never had a problem with contamination. I like to add some flavor to our canned tomatoes by putting a few fresh basil leaves and even a clove of garlic in the jar along with the liquids, salt, and tomatoes.
- Freezing: This is probably the easiest and safest way to preserve your tomato harvest. Clean your tomatoes, slice them in quarters, and place them into freezer bags. We have a chest freezer in the basement that’s loaded with many frozen vegetables from our garden, but tomatoes are always one of our favorites. We try to eat these frozen vegetables within six months of freezing to get the best flavor and nutrition.
- Juicing: Tomato juice is a favorite of many people and making your own is simple. Clean and chop up your tomatoes; add other vegetables and spices for flavor such as onions, salt, and pepper; and cook until soupy. Then run the mixture through a food mill, bottle it, cool it, and drink. It should last about a week or so in the refrigerator. To keep the juice longer, consider freezing it.