Those lucky enough to have tomatoes growing in their gardens are all too familiar with the overabundance of fruits that even one or two plants can provide.  You dare not eat even one meal that doesn’t include tomatoes, and you can feel pretty overwhelmed by the mountains of tomatoes building on your kitchen windowsills.

It is not until you have palmed some produce off on neighbors and friends that you finally admit defeat and turn to some kind of preserving method. Admittedly, there is no substitution for a fresh tomato, but having something you can add to soups, chilies, and pasta dishes all year round is a welcomed bonus.

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Water canning is an age-old method of preserving and is excellent for the long-time storage of produce. However, it requires certain tools and equipment, is rather time-consuming, and is a bit of a precise science that would deserve its own article.  So, here are few different ways that you can enjoy the fruits of your tomato growing labor (or bulk buying at the farmer’s markets) all year round with these simple preservation methods.

Freezing

Tomatoes take well to freezing.  However, once they have been defrosted, do not expect them to have the same constitution as when they went into the freezer.  These tomatoes will work for soups or chilies, and not for sandwiches or salads.

If you don’t mind tomato skin in your soups, then you can simply chop up excess tomatoes into chunks and freeze them as they are.  In order not to have a big block of frozen tomatoes, it is best to spread your chopped tomatoes on a baking tray and freeze them before then adding them to a freezer bag.

Alternatively, you can go ahead a freeze whole tomatoes in freezer bags.  Just make sure that they are clean and blemish-free.

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If you prefer not to have skins in your soups, you will have to remove them before freezing. First, you will need to take your tomatoes and score a cross into the skin on the top and bottom.  Then, you need to add the tomatoes to the water and bring it to a simmer.

You are looking for the skins of the tomatoes to start to peel away.  As soon as you see this happen, carefully remove the tomato from the hot water and add it to a dish with ice.  The ice is to stop the cooking process.  Once they are cooled, the tomato skins will peel off easily.  Add your tomatoes either whole or chopped to a ziplock bag and pop them in the freezer.

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Oil-Packing

This method of preserving is wonderful.  However, it does require refrigeration.   This is ideal for cherry tomatoes, but you can use other less-watery tomatoes, such as Roma.  Take your cherry tomatoes and, leaving them whole or halved, spread them out on a baking sheet.  Give them a generous dousing of olive oil, a little seasoning.  Next, put them into a 400 Degree Fahrenheit oven for about 20 minutes.

Remove them from the oven, and, once they have cooled, start spooning them into a clean glass jar.  Once the jar is almost full, you need to top the jar off with as much olive oil as you can fit.  Make sure that all of the tomatoes are covered and that there are no air pockets in between the tomatoes. Put a lid on top and store them in your fridge to be enjoyed over the winter.

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Homemade Sun-Dried Tomatoes

You can ditch the expensive jars of sun-dried tomatoes from the supermarket and have a go at making your own.  You need to pick a variety of tomato that is lower in water such as a Roma tomato.  Cherry tomatoes work well, too.  Try to use tomatoes that are uniform in size so that they dry at the same rate.

You need to place halved tomatoes on a drying screen that is covered with some kind of muslin or cheesecloth to keep the bugs away.  Be sure that the cloth is not touching the tomatoes.  Leave the tomatoes out in the direct sun to dry.  This may take a few days to a couple of weeks depending on your climate.

You will need to bring your tomatoes inside during the night and keep them somewhere warm and dry to protect them from dew.

Dehydrator

If the above method sounds too time-consuming, or you simply live in a climate not conducive to such activity, you can get a similar effect with a dehydrator.

Get your tomatoes together and cut them in half.  You need to remove the seeds at the point.  Next, take a knife and score the skin once lengthways. Sprinkle the open side of the tomatoes with some salt and set them on the trays of your dehydrator (open side up), leaving 1-2 inches between each rack for good ventilation.

Set your dehydrator to 135 to 140 degrees F and leave them to dehydrate for 6-8 hours.  The timing will differ depending on the humidity of where you live and the juiciness of the tomatoes.  You are looking for the tomatoes to have shriveled, turned a lovely dark red color, and be pliable but not crispy.

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You can either freeze your dehydrated tomatoes or keep them in an airtight bag for about 2 months.

With all methods, don’t forget to label your packaging with the date that you preserved them.

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