I hope you’re having the same problem we are in terms of being inundated with tomatoes this season. In that vein, I wanted to share some of the recipes and preservation techniques that I use to extend garden tomato eating well into the winter.
As long as we have garden tomatoes, there is nothing better than fresh salsa. Here is the simple recipe I use:
3 medium tomatoes (diced, I keep the seeds in the mixture)
1/3 cup onion (we prefer red but white or yellow will be equally delicious)
¼ cup cilantro
1 small jalapeño (finely chopped)
½ cup sweet peppers (this year we have all sorts of lunch box and mini red bell peppers that we use)
¼ tsp cumin
Lime juice and salt to taste
Often, I will just throw all of these ingredients into the food processor, adding the onions and peppers first. I add the tomatoes last and only pulse it a few times so it doesn't get too soupy.
In addition to eating them fresh, my preferred methods for preserving tomatoes are oven-roasting them before freezing, freezing them whole, or dehydrating them.
I find that freezing is the easiest and quickest way to preserve my tomato harvest while still maintaining its flavor, especially at a time of year when a lot of other vegetables are needing to be preserved. Because we already have a large chest freezer for wild game, it makes even more sense for our household. I prefer to oven-roast the tomatoes before freezing them. That extra sweet flavor is retained and makes for a simple and easy pasta dish in the winter. The preparation is fairly quick and easy: cut the tomatoes in half, add olive oil, some garlic, basil and rosemary and bake at 325 degrees for a couple hours.
Dehydrating is another great option for food preservation and one of the better ways to retain many of the nutrients in the food. Roma tomatoes are excellent candidates for dehydrating because they are more fleshy than juicy. I often have them as a healthy snack or throw them into a pesto dish - again, another easy meal.
What I don’t do is a lot of canning. I find that after dicing the tomatoes, boiling them down, straining them and prepping the jars, my kitchen has exploded. If you’re like me, tomato sauce is smeared across the counters, on dishrags and on oven mitts and all I have to show for it are 6 pints of canned sauce. For me, it’s a lot of effort, time and energy for very little yield. I always like to weigh the input of time/resource use vs. my output. I’m sure if it were done in larger batches, all the water, energy and time would be worth it but I prefer the taste of my other preservation options, so it’s my last resort.
If you have any special ways that you preserve your harvest, I would love it if you shared them in the comments below.
P.S. Don’t forget about the Bozeman Winter Farmer’s Market this Saturday, October 24th from 9am to noon at the Emerson Ballroom.
P.P.S. If you are in need of high carbon materials for composting and mulching your garden beds, now is the time to collect leaves around town. The city of Bozeman begins collecting yard materials on October 26th so neighborhood residents in central Bozeman are raking their leaves into piles at the curbside. I take my large plastic bags, totes and a snow shovel and collect a bunch of leaves. I use these leaves for bedding in my chicken coop, to layer my compost as I collect kitchen scraps over the winter, as well as mulching garden beds.