Skip to main content

Preserving the tomato harvest

With our tomato harvest coming in fast, we were faced with the need to:
  • Cultivate an untiring passion for tomato-centric meals;
  • Distribute the harvest to friends; or
  • Find a preservation method. This usually means canning (or cooking and canning, if you want tomato sauce or stewed tomatoes), which doesn't have a lot of appeal on hot days.
Several years ago we did try canning. Tomato canning is a good starting place for a beginner because the acid in the tomatoes helps prevent botulism, so you don't have to worry quite so much about wiping out a dinner party with home-canned tomatoes.

As I recall, a neighbor had a bumper crop of San Marzanos. They did their own canning and distributed the overflow to friends. 

I loved the name. "San Marzano" just rolls off your tongue -- like, well like Italian with a really good accent.  It's just such a pasta-ready name. Until then, the tomatoes I knew were anonymous as soon as the Magic Marker washed off the little plastic stake. And "Beef Steak" just doesn't have the ring of "San Marzano."

Neither Karen nor I had done any canning. After buying the Ball instruction and recipe book, a flat or two of jars, a blue speckled canner, some bent tongs, a jar basket and a wide-mouthed funnel, we were ready to spend hours in a steamy kitchen, peeling tomatoes, boiling jars and boiling peeled tomatoes in jars. It's not on my Top10 List of Things I'd Like to Do Again.

This year, our preservation method of choice was -- dehydration. We used my favorite process: I bundled the bulky, 10-tiered dehydrator into a vinyl grocery bag and delivered it to Farmer Karen to do the rest.

And, oh what a delicious job she did!

The lovely, brick-red dried tomatoes were about the size of gourmet potato chips (the smaller ones, not the dip-gobbing picnic-sized chips). They were chewy and tender with a fresh, sweet-tart taste that enticed you to eat another . . . then another . . . then . . .  They are perfect to eat by themselves as a snack, with a dip or tossed into a salad.

At first bite, I was ready to drop the Friends and Neighbors Sharing Plan and concentrate our harvest into dehydrated tomato chips. Here is the secret recipe:

Karen Fink's DWP-Dried Tomato Chips

Step 1: Clean, dry and remove the stems from fresh garden tomatoes (or ones purchased from a farmers market).

Step 2: Slice or cut the tomatoes into wedges. Some sources suggest using an egg slicer for this. It might be great, but it might create a massive mess. Karen chose to make slices using a knife rather than wedges because the slices are more even and dehydrate better. She cut our smallish (roma-sized) tomatoes into thirds.

Step 3: Lay the tomato slices out evenly on the dehydrator trays. Stack the trays in the dehydrator and set the temperature for 135 degrees F. Dry for nine to 12 hours. Rotate the trays in the dehydrator every couple of hours.

When finished, let the tomato chips cool, then put them in an air-tight container.  They can be frozen for a longer lifespan.

You could season the tomatoes before drying. Karen preferred to leave them in their natural state. 

Popular posts from this blog

Hand-Knit Trellis Now Ready for Climbing Foot-Long Beans

Just as the "June" gloom is starting to burn off, I finished my knitted trellis for the garden.

It completely surrounds one of our bamboo tripods, with space at the bottom for tending the romaine lettuces growing within the tripod.

It's knit out of nylon twine on US 35 needles. While the nylon has no stretch (the way a wool yarn does), the huge gauge has loads of give. The piece was knit flat with ties attached along one edge.  It is tied to the tripod along one leg.

One some early samples for a knitted plant trellis, I experimented with lace patterns.  They look lovely, but I realized two things. One, once the plants grow up the trellis any knitting pattern is lost. Secondly, the plants and leaves need space to grow in and out of.

I used a pattern for a shawl: k1, yo, k2tog and then repeat. I got lost a number of times: the yarn-overs drifted over other stitches on occasion. As this was a speed project that won't be visible ones the beans grow over it, I didn't w…

My new favorite cauliflower recipe

We've had a couple of glorious weeks of sunshine that caused the cauliflowers to race right into the bolting stage. They've all been harvested and eaten.  We're just waiting for some spare time to take out the leaves and stems to make room for something new in the garden.

Karen and I have slightly different perspectives on what to plant: she likes novelty -- rainbow or watermelon radishes or purple or gold cauliflower; I'm more of a traditionalist; the novelty varieties never seem to turn out as well as the originals.

The fall of the great tomato plant

Our great tomato plant -- great in productivity, great in flavor, great in height -- has succumbed to gravity. Fortunately, it appears to have been a gentle collapse of the bamboo supports rather than a stem-snapping disaster. We're still harvesting tomatoes from it.

During the week, we harvested enough to make another batch of DWP-dried tomatoes. But we also got a great tip from Dorothy Reinhold, the shockingly talented creator of Shockingly Delicious about roasting and preserving tomatoes using a recipe from  Trying that recipe is definitely in our future -- if we can squeeze enough tomatoes out before our prize plant curls up its roots and dies.