My family doesn’t do much canning. They’ve always put fresh summer vegetables up by preparing them, funnelling them into Ziploc bags, and tossing them into the freezer. Growing up, I always helped with the process, but the first thing I ever learned to put up solo was tomatoes.
Fresh tomatoes are the easiest summer vegetable to put up for later in the year. And in Georgia they are plentiful.
We’ve put up tomatoes by the 5-gallon bucketful every year for as long as I can remember. You’d think we would never buy a can of tomatoes or a jar of pasta sauce. But that’s not the case. We’ve always bought tomatoes as recipes called for them. A 14-ounce can of tomato sauce here. A 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes there. What did we do with all of those tomatoes, you ask? We put salt and bacon grease in ’em and ate ’em over rice. Good, old-fashioned tomato gravy. It’s worth every bit of the hassle.
But recently I got tired of buying tomatoes when I have an absolute stockpile in the freezer. I’ve found that the ones I put up work every bit as good as canned in all kinds of recipes. I’ve even found the trick to making a beautiful pasta sauce.
But that’s for another day.
Today, I’m going to teach you how to put these bad boys up so you can enjoy local tomatoes year around.
I suggest buying local tomatoes in bulk. You can generally either U-Pick from a farm or buy a bucket or a box from your local farmers’ market. Another great money-saving way to buy is by getting culls. You can buy tomatoes from your farmer that are too ripe or have cosmetic blemishes, and they will generally work just as well.
How to Put Up Tomatoes
What you’ll need:
- Slotted Spoon
- 2-3 Large Pots
Place a large pot of water on the stove to boil. Leave plenty of head room for the water to rise when you drop in the tomatoes.
Once the water is boiling or close to it, gently drop tomatoes in. Leave for 3-5 minutes or until you see the skins start to crack.
Remove the tomatoes to a large colander to cool. I always wind up with scalded hands because I’m not patient enough to let them cool completely. LEARN FROM MY FOLLY. Even if they feel warm on the outside, the inside juices can be extremely hot.
Next, you’ll want to pull the skins off. If you let them stay in the water long enough, they should slide right off. I suggest doing this over the pot you want to simmer them in because the juice will explode everywhere as you pop the skin.
Now, cut the middle (where it was connected to the stem) out of the tomato and drop it into a pot. No need to worry about cutting them up too much. They’ll fall apart as they cook.
Now, simmer for 1-2 hours or until a significant amount of water has cooked off. This ain’t scientific, folks. If you are going to be using them for thick sauces, the more you cook down now the less you will need to when you get them out to use.
You’re all done! Let the tomatoes cool and then place them in freezer bags or jars.