There are many ways to preserve tomatoes for the winter. You can can them, dry them, freeze them, or make sauce from them.
Each method has its own set of pros and cons, and the best way to preserve your tomatoes will depend on how much time you have, how much space you have, and what kind of homestead kitchen equipment you have.
Here are 15 preservation methods to consider if you have an abundance of tomatoes to save for winter and beyond.
1. Can Whole Tomatoes
A simple way to preserve tomatoes is to can them whole. You can then use the canned tomatoes in many ways, such as in soups, making sauces, or cooking.
Because tomatoes are highly acidic, they can be canned using the water bath method. To do this, simply wash your tomatoes and remove the stems.
Then, place them in a pot of boiling water for 3-5 minutes until the skin starts to peel back. Using a slotted spoon, carefully transfer the tomatoes to a bowl of ice water. Once cooled, remove the skins and cores of the tomatoes.
Pack the tomatoes into canning jars, leaving ½ an inch of headspace.
Add ½ a teaspoon of salt to each jar (optional). Then, fill the jars with boiling water, making sure to cover the tomatoes. Leave 1 inch of headspace at the top of the jar.
Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean, damp cloth. Place a canning lid on top and screw on a canning ring. Process in a boiling water bath for 45 minutes.
2. Make Dehydrated Tomatoes
Dehydrated or "sun-dried" tomatoes are a delicious way to preserve tomatoes for the winter. They can be used in salads, pasta dishes, or as a simple snack. The process of making dehydrated tomatoes is time-consuming but mostly hands-off.
It's easy to get started dehydrating using a dehydrator, your wood stove, oven, or even a solar oven.
To make dehydrated tomatoes, start by washing and slicing the tomatoes. The thickness of the slices will determine how long it takes for them to dry. Thinner slices will take less time than thick slices.
Place the tomato slices on a wire rack set over a baking sheet, and sprinkle with salt (optional). Then place the tomatoes in the oven set to the lowest possible temperature (usually between 200-225 degrees Fahrenheit).
Prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon to allow for air circulation.
Drying times will vary depending on the thickness of the slices and the temperature of your oven, but it will usually take 8-12 hours. Once dried, store the tomatoes in an airtight container in your pantry.
3. Freeze Whole Tomatoes
Freezing whole tomatoes is a quick and easy way to preserve them for the winter. In fact, freezing fresh vegetables is a great way to make your kitchen garden bounty last for months.
To freeze tomatoes, start by washing and removing the stems. Then, place them in a single layer on a baking sheet and put them in the freezer.
Once frozen, transfer the tomatoes to a freezer-safe bag or container. Label and date the bag before putting it back in the freezer.
4. Make Tomato Sauce
Tomato sauce is a versatile way to preserve tomatoes for the winter. It can be used on pasta, pizza, or as a dipping sauce (try it with hardtack and parmesan cheese.)
Add tomato sauce to your stash if you're looking for ways to build out your emergency stores and secure your food supply.
Making tomato sauce is relatively easy, and it can be canned or frozen.
To make tomato sauce, start by peeling and chopping the tomatoes. You can do this by hand or in a food processor. If you have time, save some tomato seeds to plant for next year.
Then, cook the tomatoes down in a large pot over low heat until they are soft and have released their juices.
Add any desired spices and seasonings, then use an immersion blender to puree the sauce. If you don't have an immersion blender, you can use a regular blender in batches. Just be careful not to fill the blender more than halfway full to avoid splattering.
To can the sauce, ladle it into canning jars, leaving ½ an inch of headspace. Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean, damp cloth. Place a canning lid on top and screw on a canning ring. Process in a boiling water bath for 45 minutes.
To freeze the sauce, ladle it into freezer-safe jars or containers, leaving ½ an inch of headspace. Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean, damp cloth. Place a lid on top and screw on a ring. Freeze for up to 6 months.
Tip: if you haven't already, now is the time to invest in a good canning book. I own and recommend the Ball Canning Book of Home Preserving.
5. Make Tomato Paste
Tomato paste is a concentrated form of tomato sauce that can be used to add flavor to dishes such as my 3 Bean Chili Recipe or my Turmeric Lentil Soup Recipe. It can be made at home or purchased at the store.
Making tomato paste is similar to making tomato sauce, but it takes longer because the tomatoes need to be cooked down further to concentrate the flavors. It can be canned or frozen in the same way.
6. Make Dried Tomato Powder
Dried tomato powder is a versatile way to add flavor to dishes. It can be used in soups, stews, sauces, or as a seasoning.
To make it, first, dehydrate tomatoes using the method above. Once dehydrated, grind the tomatoes into a powder using a food processor, blender, or coffee grinder. Store the powder in an airtight container in the pantry.
7. Make Barbecue Sauce
Barbecue sauce is a delicious way to add flavor to grilled meats. It can also be used as a dipping sauce or condiment. You can even "can" it in bottles instead for a more convenient way of storage.
There are many recipes for barbecue sauce, but they typically include tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, and spices.
To make it, start by cooking the chopped tomatoes down in a pot over low heat until they are soft and have released their juices.
Add the remaining ingredients and continue to cook the sauce over low heat until it has thickened. Then, use an immersion blender to puree the sauce.
To bottle the sauce, ladle it into clean jars or bottles, leaving ½ an inch of headspace. Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean, damp cloth. Place a lid on top and screw on a ring. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
8. Can Tomato Soup
Tomato soup is a delicious way to use up excess tomatoes. It can be canned or frozen for later use, so you can always warm it up for an easy meal.
There are also a lot of recipes for tomato soup, so feel free to experiment with different flavors. Some common add-ins include onion, garlic, carrots, celery, and spices.
9. Make Spicy Tomato Chutney
Spicy tomato chutney is a delicious condiment used on sandwiches, burgers, or as a dipping sauce. It's a bit nontraditional in western cuisine, but it's delicious and brings tons of flavor.
Making chutney is similar to making jam, but it includes a wider variety of ingredients. In addition to tomatoes, chutney usually includes onion, garlic, vinegar, sugar, and spices.
Start by cooking the chopped tomatoes down in a pot over low heat until they are soft and have released their juices.
Add the remaining ingredients and continue to cook the chutney over low heat until it has thickened.
10. Can Salsa
Salsa is a versatile condiment that can be used on tacos, salads, or as a dip. Salsa is made with fresh tomatoes, onions, peppers, and spices, so it's a great way to preserve other vegetables from your garden at the same time.
11. Make Ketchup
Ketchup is a delicious condiment used on sandwiches, burgers, or as a dipping sauce. And making your own ketchup is a great way to avoid additives in store-bought versions. It is a good choice for preserving tomatoes if your family loves it.
12. Pickle Tomatoes
Pickled tomatoes are a delicious way to preserve tomatoes for the winter. They can be used on sandwiches, burgers, or as a simple snack.
To make pickled tomatoes, start by washing the tomatoes and slicing them into bite-sized pieces. Place the tomatoes in a jar or container with a tight-fitting lid.
In a small saucepan, heat vinegar, water, sugar, and spices until the sugar has dissolved. Pour the mixture over the tomatoes, making sure to cover them completely. Let the tomatoes pickle for at least 24 hours before eating.
Tip: If you're new to pickling, check out our posts on Pickling for Beginners and getting started with pickling vegetables.
13. Make Bloody Mary/Caesar Mix
If you know us in real life, you know that Dan's Caesar mix is famous in these here parts. A Caesar is what we call a Bloody Mary - I think it's a Canadian thing.
Regardless, if you love a good Bloody Mary (either alcoholic or as a virgin cocktail), make your own batch of Bloody Mary mix using fresh tomatoes. Then can it for whenever you're ready to make a batch, at which point you'll just need to add your favorite vodka (or not) and garnishments.
14. Make Your Own Frozen Pizzas
Making your own frozen pizzas is another great way to use up excess tomatoes. If you're used to making homemade pizza, you'll find this way of preserving tomatoes very easy: you just freeze the pizza instead of baking it once it's put together.
Flash freeze it on a pizza pan first, then you can wrap it in plastic wrap - this helps keep the pizza together without the toppings sticking to the plastic.
15. Make Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto
Sun-dried tomato pesto is a delicious way to use up excess tomatoes. It can be used on pasta, pizza, or as a dipping sauce.
To make sun-dried tomato pesto, start by blending sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and spices in a food processor. Or use an old-fashioned hand-crank kitchen tool like a hand blender. Then, add fresh basil leaves and pulse until the pesto is smooth.
As you can see, there are many staples you can make from your summer bounty to last you through the winter. If any of these ideas sound like good ways to preserve your tomatoes, make sure to give them a try.
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How do you preserve your tomatoes for the winter? Let us know in the comments below!