Monday, September 17, 2012

If you haven't noticed, it's tomato season.

I don't know about you guys, but the time of the season has finally rolled around to where I am EYEBALL DEEP in tomatoes.  ALL tomatoes!  Slicers, romas, cherries, plums, pears!  Rainbows of tomatoes.  Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes.  And let's be honest here--there's only so much you can do with them, right?  WRONG-O!  Here's a list of my favourite ways to preserve tomatoes!

1.  Sauce - Basil, chunky, smooth, all-purpose--the variations go on and on!  I've included my favourite all-purpose sauce after the list.
2.  Dehydrated - Think sun-dried--stick them in some olive oil a day or two before you're using them, and they turn into this AMAZING tomato crack candy!  Plus, you get delicious, flavored olive oil too!  You can't can this though, so freeze them or put them in a sealed container for future use.
3.  Paste - It's really not that hard--just skin them, puree them, and cook it down in a crockpot until it's the consistency you like.  It smells heavenly, tastes amazing, and is awesome to have on hand.
4.  Roasted - Cut your romas in half, place them cut side up on a parchment lined tray, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle on salt and pepper, and roast them at 200-250* for several hours until thin, crackly and delicious!  Freeze those babies for all-winter use!
5.  Tomato Jam - Sounds gross, but it is seriously delicious.  Seriously.  Delicious.
6.  Ketchup - I was put off by ketchup-making because I thought it would be hard, but it is SO EASY.  Like, throw-it-in-a-crockpot-or-stock-pot-and-walk-away easy.  It tastes more "grown-up" than a bottle of Heinz, but it is an amazing difference (amazing--must be a trend!).
7.  Stewed - Sometimes, you just need a jar of plain old stewed tomatoes.  This one kind of sucks though, because if you want to can it, you need a pressure canner (which freaks my freak still).  They're easy-peasy to freeze, although consistency can be iffy.
8.  Salsa - Where would this favorite appetizer be without tomatoes?  Check out recipes that include end of the season produce such as zucchinis and red peppers!

I bet I left some ways off.  But you get the gist!  Sooo many ways to preserve tomatoes--and there are a billion different flavours you can incorporate into each!

Since sauce is such a crowd pleaser, here's my favorite recipe for all-purpose seasoned tomato sauce.  It's for a small batch, but doubles--even triples--nicely.  Make sure you only prepare enough that you can can at one time, otherwise you jeopardize the quality of the sauce by overcooking.

Seasoned Tomato Sauce

6 lbs ripe tomatoes, skinned and pureed--romas work great for a nice, thick sauce
1c chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano OR 1 tsp dried
1 tsp sugar
1.2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar OR lemon juice
1/2 tsp pickling salt

Combine tomatoes, onion, garlic, oregano, sugar, pepper and bay leaves in a large, heavy stainless steel or enamel stockpot (it's ultra important to not use aluminum when canning--it reacts to the acid in food).  Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat and boil gently, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 1 1/4 hours or until very thick.  Add vinegar and salt.

For canning:  Remove hot jars from canner and ladle hot sauce into jars with 1/2" headspace.  Process for 35 minutes for half pints and pint jars.

This recipe makes about seven-ish cups, depending on how thick you boil it down to.

This sauce is awesome on pizzas, in stews, on pastas, in soups and in casseroles.  Throw in some other herbs, and you can alter it to the dish you're making!

Hope you all have a blast canning tomatoes and other produce this season!  Leave a comment with your favorite way to preserve tomatoes!