Vine-ripened, summer tomatoes that just burst with flavor are one of the most anticipated crops of the summer. There’s just no comparison — especially when you’re stuck eating those bland, tasteless imposters that show up in the grocery store during the winter months. At Mt. Pleasant Produce in Honey Brook, Pennsylvania, we love our tomatoes just as much as you do and that’s why in today’s blog we want to talk about several ways that you can preserve these summer beauties so you can enjoy them all winter long. Keep reading, and if you’re not lucky enough to have your own tomato garden, we invite you to stop by our Amish farm market to get some from ours.
Perhaps one of the fastest and easiest ways to preserve your extra tomatoes is to freeze them. Some people wait until the last minute or don’t have a lot of extra time on their hands to spend canning tomatoes — if this sounds like you, then freezing your tomatoes is the way to go.
All you need is a large pot of hot (almost boiling) water, a slotted spoon, and some plastic bags or airtight containers. The key to properly freezing your tomatoes is to first remove the skins. This can be accomplished by placing your tomatoes in a hot water bath for about three to five minutes. Try not to overcook your tomatoes, just heat them enough to loosen the skins and then remove them from the pot. You can also choose to place them in a bowl of cold water for a few minutes to stop the cooking process and cool them down enough to handle.
Once your tomatoes are out of the hot water, chances are if you try to handle them the skins will start to peel off. Remove them entirely, and while you’re at it, remove the cores. Now your tomatoes are ready to be put in the freezer. To maximize space, you can put them in plastic freezer bags and lay them on a baking sheet so they freeze flat. Or, save a step and just put them in any kind of airtight container. It’s best to make sure they’re frozen first before attaching the lid.
Another way to keep your tomatoes so that you can enjoy all year long is to preserve them through canning. There are dozens of ways to can tomatoes — leave them whole, dice them, crush them, pack them with other vegetables, juice them, juice them and add spices for homemade bloody mary mix — really the options are endless.
If you’ve never canned before, you’ll want to read through some of the information provided by the National Center for Home Food Preservation. This website offers beginner’s tips on what kind of equipment you can use, what kind of jars and lids to buy, as well as some important food safety lessons.
Once you’re ready to get started canning your tomatoes, refer to the USDA’s Complete Guide to Home Canning for recipes and cook times for everything from basic crushed tomatoes to spaghetti sauce, and even cayenne pepper sauce.
Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
Homemade spaghetti sauce is the one thing you should be making from scratch, but probably aren’t. We promise that once you’ve tried it, you’ll never go back to store-bought spaghetti sauce again. Making your own spaghetti sauce from scratch is about as easy as it gets. Simply peel your tomatoes following the hot water bath instructions described above. Then, find a basic spaghetti sauce recipe and follow it.
Usually, there are only a few steps that often include sautéing onions and garlic in olive oil, adding tomatoes and fresh herbs plus a sprinkle of salt and sugar, followed by about a 90-minute simmer on the stove. Recipes may vary, but one thing is for sure — it only takes a short time to prep a few simple ingredients and in a couple of hours you’ll have a delicious sauce ready to take on any pasta shape you prefer. You’ll want to make plenty of extra and freeze it for a reminder of summer on a cold winter day.
Another way to get the most out of your tomato harvest is to dry them. Unlike canning or freezing tomatoes, drying your tomatoes will take up much less space and create a product with an intense tomato flavor. Dried tomatoes can be saved for weeks in the refrigerator or months in the freezer and they’re perfect for use in a variety of dishes — especially those where you want a delicious, concentrated tomato flavor.
Traditionally, tomatoes were dried out in the sun, but drying them in the oven or a dehydrator is faster and easier to do. If you’re using the oven, you’ll want to set it at a very low temperature, place your tomatoes cut-side up on a lined baking sheet, and sprinkle them with just a touch of salt. You can also add dried herbs and spices at this point if you wish.
Unless your tomatoes are completely uniform in size, you’ll have to keep an eye on them to ensure they are completely dry (pliable, not crispy) before taking them out. Drying your own tomatoes is easy, and well worth the effort. If you want step-by-step instructions, you can find dozens of recipes on the internet.
Shop Mt. Pleasant Produce For Farm Fresh Tomatoes and More
If you’re looking for wholesome, flavorful produce like tomatoes, zucchini, pickles, potatoes, corn, and so much more, we invite you to shop our Amish farm market in Honey Brook. We use traditional farming methods that respect the land to grow delicious fruits and vegetables for you and your family. Give us a call or check out our website to see which items are in season.
Although we can’t offer fresh produce all year round, we can provide homemade Amish goods like jams and jellies, pickles, baked goods, honey, and various cow and goat’s milk cheeses. You can purchase these items from our market, or let our market come to you by placing your order online and letting us ship it directly to your door. Enjoy nature’s bounty and our Amish goods, made with love — shop Mt. Pleasant Produce today!