Storing Tomatoes for the Winter

I know the timing of this post isn’t the best, but, hopefully, it will give you some food for thought for next year and what to do with all those delicious tomatoes.

atovegan_tomatoes-bowl1

Look at all these lovely tomato varieties I got this year from our market share, produced by one of our many local, organic-on-a-handshake, CSA farms—Barefoot Gardens. This is the advantage of buying from a small farm that produces quality and heirloom variety produce. I can’t remember what any of the varieties were called, but they were all amazingly delicious and, since I’ve stored them a few different ways, I’ll be enjoying them all over again this winter.

The best part about knowing your farmer, aside from knowing where and how your food is grown, is friendship  with some awesome people. Look what farmer Eric saved especially for me (below). Squeal! It was so cute we didn’t want to eat it. But, in the end, we did and it was delish :-)

Making Tomato Sauce

The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about storing tomatoes is making tomato sauce. Chris wrote a whole post about it. It’s a little time-consuming, but fairly easy to do. In the end, you can eat it right away, and freeze it or store in canning jars (using verified canning methods) to enjoy it in the future.

I made my own sauce for many, many years, but I wanted to try a few different ideas this year. So I opted for these methods: freezing them whole, roasting then freezing and dehydrating a couple of different ways.

Freezing Whole Tomatoes

This is the easiest way to store tomatoes, IMHO, if you have the freezer space. Here’s what I do to freeze whole tomatoes:

  1. Select vine-ripened, firm tomatoes without blemishes, bruises or over-ripened spots. This will affect how well the tomatoes will store.
  2. Wash them well in fresh running water.
  3. Remove the stem and the thick whitish core are the top.
  4. Place them in a freezer plastic storage bag or freezer-safe container of your choice.
  5. Pop them in the freezer and use within 3 months.
  6. Do not thaw and refreeze them. Food deteriorates much quicker once thawed and food safety can’t be guaranteed.

The thawed tomatoes can be used in soups, stews, chili and sauces. When you’re ready to use them, let them thaw in the refrigerator. It may take a day to thaw, depending on the size of the container. Once thawed the skin comes off easily and they can be chopped up easily. They will be very watery but the chunks will hold up if you don’t overcook them. They still retain a good amount of flavor as well.

I’ve been freezing tomatoes for a couple of years now and find it a great alternative to buying flavorless, mealy tomatoes at the supermarket in the winter.

Roasting and Freezing Tomatoes

Something new I decided to try, after trying a batch a friend made last year. Here’s what I do to roast and freeze:

  1. Select firm, vine-ripened Plum/Roma/San Marzano tomatoes.
  2. Wash them well in fresh running water.
  3. Slice them in half, length-wise so you have half of the stem and bottom tip of the tomato on both halves.
  4. Remove the stem, the thick whitish core are the top and any blemishes or bruises.
  5. Place them cut side up in a baking dish and sprinkle with a bit of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. You can also add a sprig of Rosemary for added flavor. Don’t use too much oil. If you need more liquid, add more vinegar or a little bit of water instead.
  6. Roast in a 350°F oven for about an hour, flipping them over half way through the process. Some tomatoes require more roasting than others, so keep an eye on them.
  7. Once cooled enough, place into a freezer-safe container and pop them into the freezer.
  8. Use within 3 months. Do not thaw and refreeze them. Food deteriorates much quicker once thawed and food safety can’t be guaranteed.

When you’re ready to use them, let them thaw in the refrigerator. It may take a day to thaw, depending on the size of the container. They come out like a mix between a rehydrated sun-dried tomato and stewed tomatoes and taste great in sandwiches, tossed with pasta and in sauces.

Dehydrating Tomatoes

When dehydrated and stored properly, food lasts much longer and retains more nutrients compared to freezing or canning. Storing in a dark, cool and dry cabinet is optimal, so you can actually store dehydrated foods in the refrigerator or freezer for greater longevity. The same amount of tomatoes will also take up less space when dehydrated as opposed to just freezing or canning.

After losing power for over three days last year, due to hurricane Sandy, and risking losing most of the veggies I had frozen, I decided to get a food dehydrator. I still freeze and can certain foods, as you’ve read above, but I feel more comfortable diversifying how I store food, in the event of another natural disaster and just because it lends different textures and flavors.

Since then I’ve been experimenting with dehydrating different foods, one of them being our beloved tomatoes above. Here’s what I do to dehydrate:

  1. Select vine-ripened, firm tomatoes without blemishes, bruises or over-ripened spots. This will affect how well the tomatoes will store.
  2. Wash them well in fresh running water.
  3. Remove the stem and the thick whitish core are the top.
  4. Slice them in rounds, if making slices; or slice them in half, length-wise so you have half of the stem and bottom tip of the tomato on both halves, if making sun-dried style tomatoes.
  5. Place them on the dehydrator trays, set the temperature to 135°F and let them dry.
  6. The slices dehydrate much quicker than the halves. Slices may take from 12 to 16 hours and the halves may take up to 48 hours. They’re both definitely worth it.
  7. Once done (tomatoes should be crispy and should make a clicking sound when dropped on a hard surface), let them cool and store in an air tight container, in a dark, cool and dry cabinet. Check back in a couple of days and make sure they’re still crispy. If they’re not, put them back in the dehydrator to dry up some more.

This is the first year I’ve done this, so I’m not sure how long they hold up. I’ll have to put it to the test. If any of your dehydrated foods show signs of mold after a few months, do not eat them, toss them. Hence the importance of making sure they’re dehydrated enough before storing.

Use the sun-dried as you usually would use the store bought brands. Rehydrating is as simple as putting them in a bowl with hot water or cooking them with little bit of broth. The slices can be eaten as chips (addictive), in sandwiches or rehydrated in all sorts of dishes.

Food Safety

Whichever method you choose for storing food, make sure to buy a good book on the subject and do research on proper storing procedures to ensure food safety.

I’ve already started using all the tomatoes I made above and can’t wait for the next growing season.

About Lydia Grossov


Lydia has been a passionate cook since she was 13 years old, a vegetarian/now vegan for a over 21 years, a graphic designer for over 18.... read her full bio or send her a message here.

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