As the growing season winds down, I often find my tomato plants aren’t winding down. They just keep producing, as if to taunt Ol’ Man Winter and that annual first frost. So, if you are in the same situation and have canned your quota of salsa, dehydrated for hours-on-end and have eaten your last BLT, try this preservation plan.
As an Advanced Master Gardener and Master Food Safety Advisor at the University of Idaho, I have a lot of preservation techniques at hand. But, the reason I like this tomato preserving method is that I let the oven, the food processor, and the freezer do the work.
Gather all your tomatoes, wash and core them. If they are small cherry type tomatoes, skip the coring step—for obvious reasons. For larger tomatoes, I cut those in half.
Place them in a baking dish. If I have a lot of tomatoes, I’ll use the restaurant baking pan that I nicked from my restaurant-managing-husband. If I have just a few, I’ll use my 8×8 pan that fits into my toaster oven. This way, for small batches, I conserve energy.
I pre-heat the oven to 400°. While it’s heating, I drizzle on some high-quality olive oil and sprinkle on just a little salt and pepper. I always throw in an ample amount of fresh garlic cloves. (Each of us is different in our taste for garlic—so you be your own judge.) You can also tuck some herbs under the tomatoes or throw on some onions if you have them on hand and desire a different flavor component.
Pop it in the oven, mid-rack is best and set a timer for 50 minutes. And then wait… wait for your home to fill with some wonderful aromas! You might even have to fend off a few neighbors if you accidentally leave open a window.
Because ovens vary, check your tomatoes after 30-35 minutes. I like to have mine a bit charred on the edges. This way, they’ll have a lovely roasted taste. Once the tomatoes are sufficiently roasted, remove them from the oven and let them cool to touch. If using a “juicier” tomato, you’ll notice a clear juice in the bottom of the pan. I reserve that for use in clear-broth soups.
Place the roasted tomatoes (skin, seeds and all) in a blender or food processor. Whiz it on high speed until the sauce is smooth. I like the idea of keeping on the skins, as they are said to have the most nutrients. If you raise organic tomatoes this is a bonus. Though my Vitamix does a really good job of “saucing” the ingredients, I do like to use a strainer before I pour the sauce into the freezer containers.
Make certain to label and date your sauce. Because if you’re like me, you’ll forget what it is, in about a week. Your sauce is an easy go-to dinner starter. You can use it in Italian and Mexican recipes, throw it together with some ground beef for Sloppy Joes or doctor it a bit for some scrumptious soup. I just made some Cream of Roasted Tomato soup today. It was delicious!
Two parting words of caution: Make certain to use freezer safe containers and only use a freezer for this particular method of preserving.