Need help preserving tomatoes?
For many, gardens produced abundant quantities of tomatoes. When we start getting the sores in the mouth, we know it is time to stop. But what can be done with the rest? Tomatoes are a great item to preserve for later. Your choices include water bath canning, dehydrating, pressure canning, freezing, or combining them with other ingredients such as salsa for canning.
Tomatoes are an excellent source of lycopene, that miracle antioxidant that can reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer and macular degeneration! When tomatoes are cooked, the lycopene availability increases, making cooked or canned tomato a more significant source of the antioxidant. They also contain antioxidants such as beta-carotene to help fight cell damage as well as several vitamins and minerals.
The easiest way to preserve them is to freeze them. Choose tomatoes that are firm, free of blemishes, and juicy. If you are going to use them within the next six months, put them on a cookie sheet, freeze and then transfer to freezer containers. If you plan to keep them in the freezer for a longer time period, blanching and skin removal is recommended. To do this, cut an X across the bottom and place them in boiling water—just until the skins begin to split. From the boiling water, plunge them into a cold water bath to stop the cooking action. Peel off the skin, cut them into quarters and spoon into freezer-safe containers. Label the container with key information (product, amount, and date).
Canning tomatoes begins with the blanching process discussed above. To fill the canner with 9 pints, figure an average of 13 pounds is needed. A second key piece of information is that because the acid level of tomatoes varies so much, we now recommend putting 1 Tablespoon of bottled lemon juice into each pint of tomatoes before inserting them the water bath. If you prefer not to add the lemon juice, I suggest use a pressure canner then no lemon juice needs to be added.
Check out the website http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can3_tomato.html for specific details about length of time tomatoes need to be processed and specific techniques. USDA contracted with University of Georgia to provide this excellent website that is full of quality information. It even has a video available to watch to help you with the home canning fundamentals!
The third option for preservation of tomatoes is to dehydrate them. I suggest this be done using an electric dehydrator since the outdoor temperatures have started to cool. Start by blanching the tomatoes and then slice evenly into three-quarter inch slices. In an electric dehydrator, I suggest between 10 to 18 hours to take 80 to 90 percent of the liquid out. It is not recommended that tomatoes be dehydrated outdoors.
It is always nice being able to enjoy quality produce when the snow is swirling outside!