3 Easy Ways to Preserve Tomatoes: No Canning Involved!

Preserving Tomatoes

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At the peak of the harvest season, most of us have fridges jam-packed with our abundant harvests. It’s exciting because it’s what we’ve been waiting for all year.

But, it can also be stressful.

Every time you open up the fridge door there’s a lot of produce calling out to be put away for the winter or it will end up in the compost bin.

And, as is often the case where I live in Madison, WI, the height of the food preserving season coincides with some of the hottest days of the summer. The last thing I want to do is stand in front of a boiling vat of water for 12 hours during a marathon canning session.

If you feel the same way, but you have a crate full of tomatoes you want to put away for yummy winter dishes, let me give you some good news.

Canning tomatoes isn’t the only way to preserve them. Yahoo!!!

Here’s how to preserve tomatoes this summer without the blood, sweat, and tears that often accompany a long, hot day of canning.

How to Preserve Tomatoes Without Canning

If you have an abundant harvest you’re not sure what to do with, here’s how to preserve tomatoes three ways so you can get them into the freezer FAST.

tomatoes preserved whole

Option #1: Freezing Raw Whole Tomatoes

This method is quick and simple, but takes up a lot of freezer space. Tomatoes contain a lot of water and if you freeze them raw you’re storing that water. If you regularly run out of storage space in your freezer I’d skip this method.

If you’ve got more space than time, then this is the method for you!

You can freeze any kind of tomato – slicers, heirlooms, cherries – you name it.

Step 1: Wash

Wash your tomatoes off in the sink if needed. Try to dry them off before freezing so you don’t get a lot of ice crystals in the bag.

Step 2: Pack

Gently pack whole, raw tomatoes into quart or gallon freezer bags and put in the chest freezer.

Step 3: Defrost

When you’re ready to use them you can defrost them in a bowl and then throw them in your dish.

How to use them: They’re great in soups and stews. You can make them into a pasta sauce by defrosting them and cooking them down in a pan with garlic and onions.

ways to preserve tomatoes

Option #2: Freezing Chopped Raw Tomatoes

This method takes a little more time than freezing them whole, but the end result won’t take up quite as much room in storage. You’ll still be freezing a bit of water, so you could try letting them drain in a colander for a while.

I sometimes use this method when I don’t have enough tomatoes for option #3, but they’re starting to get overripe or have cracks so I need to do something with them.

Step 1: Chop

Chop tomatoes. I like to discard the top, but I don’t bother coring them.

Step 2: Drain

Optional – Drain off some of the water by placing them in a colander for a bit.

Step 3: Pack

Pack the chopped tomatoes raw into containers for later use. You can use quart or gallon freezer bags. If you eat a lot of yogurt you can save the containers for freezing vegetables.)

Step 4: Label

Label the container with the year and what’s in it, especially if it’s not clear and you can’t see inside.

Step 5: Record

I suggest keeping a food preserving record where you write down exactly what you preserve each season. This will help you figure out your sweet spot so you don’t put away more than you can possibly eat of something, but you won’t run out of your favorite food either.

How to use them: I use these tomatoes in any recipe that calls for chopped, diced, or whole canned tomatoes. You can also make them into a tomato sauce by sauteeing onions and garlic in a pan, then throwing in a container of defrosted tomatoes and cooking it down until it has a pasta sauce consistency.

how to preserve tomatoes

Option #3: Freezing Chopped Cooked Tomatoes

This is my favorite method even though it takes a little more prep time. I think it’s worth it because you can fit so many more tomatoes into a smaller storage space because you’re cooking off a lot of the water.

Step 1: Chop

Chop tomatoes. I like to discard the top, but I don’t bother coring them.

Step 2: Cook Down

Put chopped tomatoes into a stock pot or steam table pan and cook them down to desired consistency. The objective is to cook off some of the water so you’re freezing more tomatoes than water.

Smart Tip: Using a steam table pan allows you to put the pan over two of the burners on your stove. (See the below video.)

Step 3: Cool and Pack

Let the tomatoes cool and pack them into containers or bags and freeze. You can use quart or gallon freezer bags, old food storage containers and tupperware, or anything else you have around the house.

How to use them: Like the second method, use these tomatoes in recipes that call for any type of canned tomatoes, or make them into a tomato sauce.

Watch the video below where I walk you step by step through this option as I do it in my kitchen. It’s fun!

Preserving Tomatoes

I use this steam table pan to cook down my tomatoes.

Containers for Freezer Storage

For many of my frozen food items I use wide mouth glass quartpint and half pint glass canning jars. But, as I shared above glass can be tricky when freezing liquids. Opt for the wide-mouth 16 oz. or 24 oz. jars. Straight-sided jars are better for freezing because they’re less likely to break.

You can use the flat pack freezer bag method which means you’ll wait for the tomatoes to cool, fill quart or gallon freezer bags, and then lay them flat to freeze. This can save some space in your freezer!

Even though I’m not a big fan of plastic, sometimes it’s the best option. I try to care for my bags so they last several seasons in a row and then they’re often downgraded to hold other random household objects. But, they still do wear out and need to be thrown away.

We don’t even eat yogurt anymore and I still have a good stash of containers that are many years old.

If you have the budget, or plan to just freeze small amounts of food, you could invest in Stasher bags (or some other reusable silicone based bag).

You can also use plastic tupperware type containers for freezing vegetables, especially liquids.

See all of my recommended garden tools, books, seeds, and easy preserving supplies in my Amazon storefront.

easy ways to preserve tomatoes from your garden

How Much to Freeze

Since a lot of recipes call for canned tomatoes, I try to freeze my tomatoes in those same amounts – mostly between 28-32 oz. – which is why I like the yogurt containers.

I recommend keeping a record of how much food you’re preserving each year so you can evaluate whether you’re putting away too much, not enough, or exactly how much you need.

It’s best to try to eat your frozen kale and other vegetables within one year.

I checked my records and I usually freeze between 10-15 containers of tomatoes and we always use all of them.

Ideas for Using Preserved Tomatoes

I use frozen tomatoes in any recipe that calls for diced, chopped, whole or any other kind of canned tomato. I haven’t bought a tomato product in years!

That means it finds its way into chili, soups, and sauces. I often like to cook down the tomatoes with onions and garlic to make pasta sauce.

picking tomatoes for preserving

Additional Resources for Stocking Your Pantry

VIDEO: Watch this popular video where I invite you into my garden and kitchen and show you how to preserve tomatoes using option #3 above.

MASTERCLASS: This winter, imagine grabbing all the ingredients you need for a meal right from your pantry without having to go to the grocery store! With a few simple techniques you can continue to enjoy food grown in your own garden (or purchased from the farmers market) throughout the long, cold months of winter.

This class will teach you how to make every harvest last longer by quickly and easily preserving vegetables at the height of their season.  You’ll love the feeling of sitting down to a meal and knowing a large part of it came from your garden!

Find out more here.

super easy food preserving book

 

Preserving some of your excess produce is the best way to make your garden harvests last all year. And, preserving doesn’t have to be difficult or take up a lot of time.

My book, Super Easy Food Preserving, features the simplest and quickest way to preserve each fruit, vegetable, and herb. Read more about it here.

 

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BLOG ARTICLES: Discover more about how to easily preserve food from your garden and the farmers market this harvest season.

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