Each week I fight the urge to buy more than I need at the farmers’ market. Summer seems to be the most difficult season to curb this impulse. The array of colors, varieties and abundance are all too attractive to resist.
I avoid buying tomatoes about 7 months of the year, but when July arrives and farmers’ stalls are brimming with juicy colorful tomatoes, I look for ways to not only enjoy them everyday but to preserve them without the laborious and time-consuming canning method.
This week I purchased a 20lb box of dry-farmed early girl tomatoes from Tomatero Farm. The box cost $42.00 or $2.10/lb. UPDATE: As tomato yields increase prices drop. I found a 20 pound box for $20.00 at Front Porch Farm. Most vendors that grow tomatoes will sell you a box without pre-order. If you think that you’ll be buying a box that day, I recommend getting to the market as early as possible. However, it never hurts to place an order prior to your visit for larger quantities. If you shop weekly then speak to a farmer about picking up a box the following week. Or, many of the farms have websites with contact information.
Five ways to preserve tomatoes without canning
I keep it simple. This VERY basic sauce allows you to customize it later when you pull it from the freezer.
Wash, dry and remove the green stem if still attached. Cut out the “eye” (where the stem connects to the tomato) of each tomato. Being a home cook I’m not concerned with seeds and skins. Most is pulverized by my blender and I have to assume that the skins have benefits.
In a large pot pour one tablespoon of olive oil and toss in 6 (or more if you like) cloves of garlic set on medium low heat.
After about two minutes add 10lbs of whole tomatoes. Don’t have that much? You can make it with just few pounds, you might consider using less garlic.
Once the tomatoes start to break down and release their juices (about 10 minutes) turn burner to the lowest possible flame and simmer for 4-6 hours.
Allow to cool and process in small batches in a Vitamix or blender. Portion out into zip lock bags (you can find BPA-free bags at Target) or in glass containers. As much as I like using glass, zip lock bags certainly have their advantages when it comes to storage. Bags filled with tomato sauce lay flat, on top of one another and stack nicely in the freezer.
When it’s time to defrost, add onions, peppers and/or spices for a simple sauce. Or use this tomato base to make enchilada sauce, bolognese, lasagna, or one of my favorite last-minute meals Shakshuka. I first found this lovely recipe in 1998 and soon learned that it’s called Shakshuka or Shakshouka (pronounced “shahk-SHOO-kah”) meaning “a mixture”, in this case it’s poached eggs in a tomato sauce with vegetables and spices. What I love about this dish is that in the summer when bell peppers are in season I use those and in the winter I use jarred roasted red bell peppers. This dish can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch or dinner and is relatively quick. It’s a go-to meal when I arrive home late and have no plan for dinner.
Although I don’t use a formal recipe I usually start with onion, shallots or leeks. I then add the peppers. Here are a few recipes that sound great and will show you how easy it is to make.
This recipe does not use peppers but it’s a basic “how to” that will get you started.
Melissa Clark’s NYT recipe breaks it down into 3 easy steps and has a video. If you’re not a fan of feta then use goat cheese.
You’ll love the photos in this post for Shakshuka, a feast for the eyes.
Okay, so you get the idea. This morning I made our Shakshuka with baby leeks, red and yellow peppers and red onions. I made it in a 10-inch cast iron skillet served family style.
On occasion I’ll serve Shakshuka in individual skillets. It starts in a larger skillet, then portioned into the smaller skillets, and finally the eggs are added then finished off in the oven.
With grilled bread for breakfast and sautéed spinach or a salad at lunch and dinner!
I recently fulfilled a kitchen gadget dream and purchased a dehydrator. Making dried tomatoes is super easy using a dehydrator: cut tomatoes into thirds or halves depending on size, place on racks, and set the timer referring to your owner’s manual. But what if you don’t have a dehydrator? You could ask a neighbor or friend to borrow theirs or you can dry them, using these other methods. This blog post is great, scroll down to number 3 for drying heirloom tomatoes in the oven.
Freeze them whole
Yep, that’s right! You can freeze whole tomatoes and you’ll be happy you did. Read all about this method here. Wash and dry your tomatoes then place on a rimmed cookie sheet leaving space between each fruit and put in the freezer. Once frozen place in a zip lock bag or vacuum sealed bag in a single layer and place in the freezer. A bag of frozen tomatoes allows you to pull out one or a dozen at a time. Simply remove from freezer when ready to use and the skin will peel off, if not immediately then let rest a few minutes.
Fresh tomato juice is light and crisp, not as thick and viscous as canned. I made a batch in my juicer but if you don’t have a juicer try this way. If you plan to freeze, fill a glass container leaving a bit of a gap at the top to allow for expansion.
Heirloom tomatoes get all the hype and for good reason. They are visually appealing, taste fantastic and are nutrient dense. This heirloom tomato soup is simple to make and freezes well to boot! In the rainy cold months ahead having a steaming bowl of this soup with a gooey grilled cheese is going to taste so good! Make sure you double the recipe.
Tip-Always date and label anything you put in the freezer. It’s best to enjoy them within 6-9 months. I use Ball Canning jars for the most part. They are inexpensive, durable, can be found at hardware stores and Target and have a multitude of uses beyond canning.
Five ways to enjoy tomatoes right now!
I loooooooooooove gazpacho! Pronounced “gaz-pa-cho” and originating in Southern Spain, I find that there are strong opinions whether it is served chunky or smooth. I’m a chunky person myself. Here is a take of the classic summertime cold soup- Gazpacho Panzanella .
I stood at the refrigerator and ate this Cherry Tomato Confit by the spoonful. It’s probably best served her way though.
Host a tomato tasting party. This centerpiece of fresh herbs that guests can snip and add is darling. Ask guests to bring tomatoes from their garden or gather at your local farmers market. If you can, label the tomatoes. Small bowls of salts such as smoked, black and Maldon-this trio will get you started– as well as olive oils and vinegars are nice additions. A platter of bread, pre-cooked bacon, mayonnaise and lettuce makes it a meal.
I’m definitely making this Caprese Tart with Roasted Tomatoes after I buy more tomatoes!
I make this salsa weekly in the summer months. I find it’s best to divide the ingredients onto two half sheet pans. The tomatoes on one pan and remaining ingredients on the second pan. In my experience the vegetables cook at different rates and the juice from the tomatoes can steam the other ingredients not allowing them to get charred. There is also a video in the link above with step-by-step instructions. I prefer to char my tomatoes more than shown and I use two jalapeños rather than the three listed.