University of Vermont
Fall News Article
Department of Plant and Soil Science
Dr. Leonard Perry, Horticulture Professor
University of Vermont
Got tomatoes? Maybe you have too many tomatoes, and wonder how to
possibly use them all. Consider making tomato sauce with excess ones
from your garden, or buy a bulk box for this purpose from a local
grower. Tomatoes and sauce can be canned, or easily frozen.
Tomato slices are easily dried to a nice crispy texture. Small grape and
cherry tomatoes can be roasted, then frozen. A little time invested in
this fun harvest activity now will reward you with healthy and fresh snacks
and meals for many months.
For making sauce, the right tools will make the job go quickly and easily
and you’ll wonder how you can manage otherwise. Traditionally, you
need to boil the tomatoes about a half minute, then soak briefly in cold
water, so the skins slip off easily. Then mash them with a potato masher,
and strain out seeds. Another method calls for cutting into quarters,
bringing to a boil in a stainless steel pot, then crushing with a potato
masher as you add more chunks and continue boiling.
For about $25, you can get a stainless steel strainer with pestle to mash
the tomatoes. For $50 to $100 you can get a food strainer with a
handle. This is the kind I have and highly recommend. Even if you just
use it a few times a year, as I do, it will save you countless hours.
Simply cut the tomatoes into halves or large chunks, put them in the top
funnel, then turn the crank. Out a chute comes the sauce, and the
skins and seeds come out the tube.
Bring the raw sauce to a boil in a stainless steel pot, then simmer on
medium heat, stirring frequently, to reduce the volume. Reduce by
about one-third for a thin sauce, by about half for a thicker sauce. You
then can freeze the sauce, or precook it with herbs and additions (such as
garlic and onions) so it is ready to thaw and use later. If freezing, use
containers made and labeled specially for this purpose. Leave a half
inch or so of headspace for the liquid to expand as it freezes.
If you’re canning the sauce, don’t add oil as it potentially may lead to
food sickness. For each pint of sauce, add one tablespoon of bottled lemon
juice (or citric acid for canning, as per directions). Then ladle
sauce into sterile jars, leaving about one-half inch of headspace.
Finger-tighten lids, then boil jars (completely covered in water) in a
pressure-canner for 35 minutes (for pint jars, 40 minutes for quarts). You
also might consider canning whole or halved tomatoes.
If you have several types of tomatoes in your garden, this will make a rich
and uniquely-flavored sauce each year. Figure on about two pints (one quart)
of a thin sauce from each five pounds of tomatoes. A thicker sauce
will, of course, require more tomatoes.
Other items to consider making are chili sauce, pickled tomatoes, salsa, and
ketchup. Ketchup really is just a thick sauce, strained more finely as
in a cheesecloth, and with ingredients such as garlic and seasoned vinegar.
Vinegar also is a key ingredient for pickled tomatoes. Make sure to
use the right proportion of ingredients from tested recipes. Salsa can be
made to eat fresh and, to preserve its texture, is best canned. Salsa
can be frozen but, when thawed, will be a bit watery for use with
chips. Use this instead for cooking. More details on safe canning
practices and recipes can be found from the National Center for Home Food
Tomatoes dry well to a crisp, and easily. Begin by boiling and
removing skins. Slice one-half inch thick. Soak for 10 minutes
in a solution of one teaspoon citric acid per quart of water. Unlike
most other vegetables, tomatoes don’t need blanching. Dry in a
dehydrator, or in an oven at about 140 to 150 degrees for 6 to 24 hours,
until crisp. If using an oven, you may need to prop the door open to
make sure the temperature doesn’t get too high (monitor with an oven
thermometer). You can stack trays with a couple inches space between
For roasting tomatoes, line a tray with parchment paper, then add small
tomatoes that you’ve sliced in half lengthwise. Drizzle with olive
oil, thyme, rosemary, ground black pepper, or coarse sea salt as
desired. You may want to roast slices of garlic with them, or season
with minced garlic or garlic powder. Roast at 350 degrees for 40 minutes,
then caramelize for another 20 minutes at 400 degrees. You may be able
to roast tomatoes while you have another dish in the oven cooking. Tomato
skins slide off easily after baking, if you don’t want to eat them.
You can store roasted tomatoes in the refrigerator up to 5 days, and 5
months or more in the freezer. Serve as antipasto, on bruschetta, with
a soft cheese such as mozarello and basil, add to tomato sauce, top on a
pizza, or chop into a risotto. Roasting is a good way to use tomatoes
that you may need to pick before they are fully ripe.
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