Canning Plans and Anxieties

Estimating my output of tomatoes this year has me somewhat excited: it looks like we’re going to get 200-300 cherry tomatoes and 50-100 San Marzano paste tomatoes. I’m excited that we raised the San Marzanos from seed, and that the cherry tomatoes all came from the same small seedling that Husband’s friend D sent us. However, we’re starting to hit the point in the harvest, as 10-15 cherry tomatoes come in each day and the San Marzanos are turning rosy, where I have to think about how to handle them.

I love a good tomato-based pasta sauce, especially now that I’m putting some sauces onto quinoa, so I am tempted to can my San Marzanos, which have a reputation for making a wonderful red sauce. I’ve seen lots of sites that say to just cook the tomatoes, add lots of lemon juice, and can them sterilely; I am tempted to do this, but it seems like so much work that I would need more than the few pounds of tomatoes I’m likely to pull this year. I don’t know if the tomatoes will ripen in a way that will make it possible to gather a big group and cook them down.

I also love sun-dried tomatoes, but I don’t know if there is a good way to make them fully dry and keep them on the shelf. I’m considering making a full-on tomato sauce and packaging it for freezing instead of room-temperature, but I think the quart-sized mason jars I have aren’t freezer proof… You can see I’m a bit at a loss. What is your favorite way to preserve tomatoes, in terms of ease of using down the road, ease of preparation upfront, and total flavor retention? I will certainly let you all know what I choose, because while I love a good story, I don’t have any childhood stories that connect to canning tomatoes… I bet my grandmother knows a little, though, so I think I might give her a call this weekend and find out if she’s got any tips.

Also… a small animal stole one of my beautiful, half-ripe san marzanos last night. I’m fine with critters eating in the garden a little, but he just bit it a bunch of times and left!!! Sigh. Sharing the world with animals, I suppose!

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18 comments on “Canning Plans and Anxieties

  1. phoebedecook says:

    I blanch, peel, quarter, and freeze my tomatoes into gallon-sized Ziploc bags. They stack in the freezer so they don’t take up as much room as mason jars. Most of the juiciness stays intact and I can use the whole bag for a big pot of chili or break off a portion to make a tomato-based sauce for a single meal.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Same! Though I leave them whole to freeze. But I’ve found this to be super easy and leaves my options open for how I want to use them in the future.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I ‘m with Rheanna, i just throw my home grown tomatoes straight into the freezer and pull them out when i need them. If you want to you can make sauces or passata from the frozen ones as needed. Also if we want to make a big batch of passata we are able to buy in saucing tomatoes through our local market.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve done pretty much everything you listed! We prefer canning, but most years we’re picking them by the 5-gallon bucket. If you don’t have a lot I’d recommend freezing the sauce – get some freezer bags and freeze them on a cookie sheet so they freeze flat. Last year I made “sun” dried tomatoes in my dehydrator. I just peeled, halved, and seeded them. They’re in the freezer, but they hardly take up any room – a dehydrator-full fit in a pint sized freezer bag. I really want to try to make tomato paste this summer if I can get a decent harvest (my ongoing battle with blight has my plants looking awful!)

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  3. Teresa Bassett says:

    Here in the UK we had success with an easy method last year. We minced the tomatoes, skins and all (you could skin if you don’t like the skin). Then we brought the mixture to the boil, turned it off and threw in some chopped basil and oregano. We cooled it and froze it in an ice cream tub. When we needed it, we used it as you would a can of tomatoes, as a base for sauces etc. Good luck with yours, sounds like you’ll have lots!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. edawng says:

    I’ve never actually processed tomatoes myself, but my mom usually makes a sauce or cans them. I think maybe you could more than one thing, though. Like, have the first batch be canned, then once you get a large amount of tomatoes again, make a sauce the second time, dry the third, and then save some from each batch for general consumption. Like I said, I’ve never really done anything with tomatoes myself except for helping with peeling (aka: slopping them right after they’ve been boiled for however long) them when Mom was making sauce… But well, just an idea.

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  5. edawng says:

    Also, my dad freezes fruit and stuff in Ziploc freezer bags… would this work on tomatoes? I don’t know, but if it did, then you wouldn’t have to worry about the jars.

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  6. Last year I bought a circular dehydrator (which looks like a Nesco rebranded for the Australian market) and dried my Black Russian cherry and Marzano tomatoes as a mixed purée , on the solid liners for making fruit leathers.

    I think I puréed my tomato, my small capsicums, a few fresh chilies and some extra, tinned tomato purée. Cooked it lightly, cooled it and dehydrated it. It formed a thin, dried crust that peeled off in shards, which I packed into vacuumed reseal-able bags, and stored those (with other similarly packed dried veg and fruits) in a lidded tub.

    I called the mixture ‘tomato bark’, and it was so good as a wonderfully concentrated addition to stews and sauces! The shards can be added directly, just crumbled into whatever you are cooking, or powdered first, or reconstituted with a little liquid.

    I have found the dehydrator very useful for garden produce gluts. Shredded and dried golden courgettes are a winner!

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  7. Diya says:

    I’m afraid I can’t offer much in the way of advice but I just had to pipe up to say that my hubby would be soooo envious of your harvest 🙂 He’s been trying to grow tomatoes for a while although in this weather there’s not much success. We were delighted with the 4 we managed to eke out earlier this year 🙂

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    • 4 is good! It’s pretty clear to me that I’ll be happiest with at least 5-6 varieties of things, because we’ve had total dud crops (our onions haven’t grown in size at all from the root bulbs we started with!) so it’s nice to have one thing produce something. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. renedith says:

    Oh, to grow from seed again….sigh… 🙂
    Has been a while since my gardening days…I fathom, when I get back into it, I will plant for me and for the animals. I felt that would be easier, than trying to fend them off all the time. ha ha

    I just want to say, thank you for sharing your tomatoes, even though the critter was a bit rude. Maybe it was not rudeness. Perhaps they were interrupted by a predator and had to leave before finishing. We just never know for sure… ren

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  9. Usually when my tomatoes are getting ripe, other garden veggies are, too. I just throw my tomatoes in a freezer bag straight from the garden. I can them in the winter. When they thaw out, the skins will slip right off. No need to blanch! I’ve done this many years and it saves a ton of time in the summer.
    Brenda

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  10. lfish64 says:

    Canning brings back memories of my childhood. I helped my mom can 1000 quarts of fruit and tomatoes when she was 9 months pregnant and we didn’t have air conditioning in the house, just a fan blowing.

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  11. I can most of my tomatoes but I also dehydrate and when I have run out of time I have also popped them in the freezer. You could also make your sauce completely and freeze that for later use too. I make chili sauce, crushed tomatoes and vegetable soup all canned.

    Liked by 1 person

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