Saving those summer tomatoes for winter

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It’s that time of year that if you garden, you probably have tomatoes everywhere. Your counters are covered with them, bowls are filled with them and maybe, you can’t eat another one and the neighbors don’t want any more.

It’s a shame to let all of those delicious tomatoes go to waste. What better to do with them than preserve them so you can enjoy the fresh taste of the home-grown tomatoes in the middle of a cold, snowy winter day.

The easiest way is to can the tomatoes. This can be done by blanching them, peeling them and cutting them in half. I prefer to use Roma tomatoes to can over slicing tomatoes. I find they provide more tomatoes, less juice and if you’re making sauce, a thicker, richer pasta sauce.

So once you have dipped the tomatoes in boiling water for a couple of minutes, put them in ice water immediately. After they have cooled, peel them and start packing them in jars.

One important note is the level of acidity is important in preserving foods, so for tomatoes you have to add one tablespoon of lemon juice to each pint and two tablespoons to each quart jar. You also can add a half and full teaspoon of salt if you choose – I usually do.
Simply fill the jars until they are almost full. As you fill, use a spoon or other utensil to gently mash down the tomatoes to get the air out. Once full, wipe the rims, put the lids on and let them boil in a water bath for 85 minutes.

These tomatoes are great to use in chili, stews, spaghetti sauce and more. And they offer the ease of opening a jar, but the taste of the garden.

Last year I wanted to get a little more creative with my tomatoes, so I started adding some herbs. I took some dried oregano and put it in one jar and basil in another. Just add a small handful; you can use your own judgement. Then mix them in with the tomatoes before putting on the lid. They make a pretty jar of green and red when canned and taste good too. Are they better than simply adding the herbs as you cook the tomatoes in a recipe? I haven’t decided, but they are fun to make.

Until next time, happy garden-fresh eating!

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

2 quart jars of tomatoes
handful of crushed basil and parsley
small handful of oregano
one pound hamburger
one medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
salt and pepper to taste

Cook hamburger and drain grease, then continue to cook hamburger, onions and garlic until softened. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer 30 min.

Julie Clements is  a Butler County Master Gardener.

Share your ideas for garden-fresh recipes or ways to preserve at julieclements75@gmail.com and some will be featured in upcoming columns.

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