It’s that time of the year when eating locally gets very samey and you long for the flavours of summer, so we thought it might be the perfect time to share this method of preserving tomatoes written for us by one of our American readers…
If you’re not willing to exclude tomatoes from your cold season menu, then here’s our two words piece of advice: preserve them! It is an unarguable fact that tomatoes are best consumed fresh, but that doesn’t mean we have to go through the whole fall and winter only with bullion or some odd chemically-loaded tomato sauces found in stores.
This preserving method we’re about to pass on to you is guaranteed not only to save the delicious taste of tomatoes, but also to maintain their aesthetic aspect.
Rule number one: whether you shop around for tomatoes or pluck them out from your own garden, look for the ones that look sturdy. The perfect tomato should feel solid to touch, have a nice red tone and a very important aspect – feel heavy for its size. This way you will know the content isn’t mostly juice and will resist intact during the preservation period. So sturdy, healthy and heavy is the secret code for how to preserve tomatoes.
Make sure you have enough tomatoes to last you for a while and also, to feed everyone at the table. Moreover, keep in mind that preservation doesn’t have a 100% win-win rate, so some jars might fail to deliver.
- Step one: Carefully wash the tomatoes in cold water, to make sure they are perfectly clean.
- Step two: make sure you have enough clean, sterilized jars. If you’re not sure whether or not they are sterilized, warm them in boiled water for a minute or two and you’re good to go. Also, do your math and check if you have enough lids and rims for the job.
- Step three: Another piece of advice many will rush to give you is to peel the tomatoes and remove the hard green area where they were attached to the bush. While this might make them look exotic and restaurant-like, we as gardeners really do not recommend. First off, peeling the tomatoes implies both boiling them and throwing them into cold water, a process that has the unfortunate characteristic of robbing the tomatoes of their vitamins and nutrients. Then, if you decide to also cut out the green area, you risk losing not only another amount of precious vitamins, but also a good part of the fruit itself. Some will be removed in the process; some will be damaged during preservation. All in all, keep the tomatoes intact for preservation.
- Step four: Fill the jars with tomatoes on a ¾ proportion. Measure 1-2 teaspoons of lemon juice into each jar. Lemon juice is acidic in nature, therefore will help preserve the fruits healthy-looking aspect and the color, as well. If some tomatoes don’t fit in the jar, don’t hesitate to slice them. It will give the jar a pleasant look and the juice will also contribute to the preserved tomatoes taste. Fill the jars with water and then very carefully, using a thin spatula, mix the content so that the lemon juice spreads uniformly in the jar. This gesture will also help eliminate air bags and we all know how damaging air bags can be to preservation jars.
- Step five: Pack the jars tight like your life depended on it! Any amount of air that could slip inside is a major factor risk for the alteration of the content.
- Step six: Finally, put the lids on the jars, tighten up the rims and put the jars to boil. For this step you will need a large pot filled with water. Give the jars a 90 minutes boil. It takes this much because you are working with fresh tomatoes that were cleaned in cold water. After this amount of time, carefully take out the jars and let them cool off. Don’t be afraid if you’ll hear the jars popping; it’s only natural, as they’re sealing up.
And that’s all. No need to add preservatives or salt to the preserving tomatoes unless you want to play with their taste a little. Some people would suggest adding a cinnamon stick or bay leaves, but this is strictly optional.
Enjoy your naturally preserved tomatoes!
One final thought, whilst in the UK we class tomatoes as fruit, as they contains seeds, in the US tomatoes were deemed vegetables in 1983 by the Supreme Court? It was really just a marketing decision, so they could tax tomatoes under tariff law.
And if you’re still in need of a little cheering up during these dull winter days, here’s a few photos from the rather fabulous tomato stalls we saw at the Real Food Festival a couple of years ago that we’ve not got round to posting before: