A Guide to Preserving Tomatoes

As summer starts to wind down, backyard gardens all across the country seem to go into tomato overdrive. Gardeners everywhere have more tomatoes than they can eat or give away. Not even a cooking school in Los Angeles could figure out what to do with all of those tomatoes. Fortunately, there is an alternative to adding the excess to the compost heap: preservation.

Preserving foods can take many forms including canning, freezing, and drying.

Tips for Canning Tomatoes

When it comes to canning any food, there are more ways of doing it wrong than right. That doesn’t mean, however, that canning is difficult. You do not need to be a culinary school grad to figure it out. It just means you need to follow instructions and keep everything as clean as can be. Follow these tips to get the most out of your tomato canning:

  • Don’t use overripe tomatoes. Using soggy and mushy tomatoes will only give you soggier and mushier canned tomatoes. Remember: quality in, quality out.
  • Use the best fruit available. Canning is not a way to get rid of those sub-par tomatoes with blemishes, cuts, bruises, and other problems. Use those fresh if you can. You should only can the highest quality tomatoes that come out of your garden.
  • Use multiple varieties. Don’t use just one type of tomato. Using many varieties can naturally enhance the flavor of your canned recipes.
  • Be sure to sanitize. Use a dishwasher to completely sanitize your canning equipment. You must also thoroughly wash your tomatoes.
  • Remove the skins. No matter how you are going to use your tomatoes, remove the skins. Cooked tomato skins are an annoying addition to your homemade sauces.
  • Don’t forget the acid. Lemon juice will help maintain both color and flavor in your canned tomatoes.
  • Be careful with the sugar. Many canning recipes call for the addition of sugar. Tomatoes are naturally sweet. Adding too much sugar will make them difficult to add some savory recipes like salsa or soup.
  • Pack correctly. Packing your tomatoes too loosely or too tightly can mess up your canning. The contents of the jar need enough room to expand when heated. Pack to tightly, and there is no room for expansion. Pack to loosely, and there will be excess air in the jar that could lead to spoilage.

10 Ways to Preserve Tomatoes

You can find many different recipes for each of these favorite tomato preparations. Some of the more interesting ones include many varieties of homemade ketchups and salsa. With so many tomatoes to use, don’t be afraid to experiment and find a combination that you will love.

  • Stewed Tomatoes
  • Tomato Sauce
  • Tomato Paste
  • Tomato Soup
  • Salsa
  • Spaghetti Sauce
  • Ketchup
  • Tomato Preserves
  • Tomato Jam
  • Sun-Dried Tomatoes

No matter the method or recipe you use to preserve fresh tomatoes, you will love being able to reach into the cupboard or freezer and pull out those garden-fresh tomatoes in the middle of winter.

This article is presented by Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Los Angeles. Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Los Angeles offers culinary arts and pâtisserie and baking training programs in Los Angeles, California. To learn more about the class offerings, please visit Chefs.edu/Los-Angeles for more information. 

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