3 Ways to Preserve Tomatoes at home!

I'm often met with questions when I tell people that Shane and I no longer buy any tomato products from the store. People often assume that we don't really consume tomato products, or ask how we get tomatoes in January. The short answer is, we don't.

Tomatoes are in full production at the end of August into September - this always coincided with going back to school. We will get cherry tomatoes earlier, as well as a few early slicers/canning tomatoes, but the bulk are ready to process and eat around Labor Day. We buy indeterminate tomatoes, which just means that, once they start ripening, they will continue to set fruit and produce until they are killed by frost or disease. Some gardeners prefer to grow determinate varieties, so they know that all of the tomatoes will ripen the same week, meaning they will be able to process all of the tomatoes in one or two crazy weeks and then not have to worry about tomatoes anymore.

Prior to growing tomatoes, I had decided that I didn't like tomatoes. I thought they were bland, mealy and ruined the taste of whatever I was eating. It turns out that I don't like tomatoes from the grocery store that have been picked prior to ripening so they are easier to ship for hundreds of miles, lacking flavor and nutrition. Now, I look forward to tomatoes, in their correct season, and eat my fill of fresh tomatoes during the summer and find recipes to save the tomatoes for colder days.

When Shane and I decided to cut ties with tomato products from the grocery store, we sat down and made a list of everything we could possibly think of that we buy from the grocery store that includes tomatoes. Grab a pen and paper and make a list - it took us about 5 minutes. Then, think about one or two things that you could try to make from scratch for your family so you can begin to lessen your reliance on the supermarket for your family's food!

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Shane using a food mill handed down to us by his grandma to make BBQ sauce!

There are many ways to preserve tomatoes in your home kitchen, they range from so easy to more complex. We figured out that we save over $300 a year, on tomato products alone, by growing and preserving our own tomato products. An added bonus, we know exactly what is in everything we're feeding our family, and we're able to avoid sneaky food dyes, unnecessary additives, and feel such joy when we open a can in January of food that we prepared in August - fast food, paid for in advance!

Ways to Preserve Tomatoes:

Freeze Them!  
Tomatoes freeze beautifully, and they require very little prep to go into the freezer. If you don't feel like you have time preserve in August, you can wash your tomatoes and freeze them whole, leave the skin on. Throw them in a bag, bucket or box and leave them until you're ready to work with them. When you're ready to use them, run them under warm water, or let them thaw in the fridge, and the skins will come off immediately, leaving the tomato inside to use in your kitchen.

Note: Frozen tomatoes will not have the same texture as fresh tomatoes. Plan to use them like stewed tomatoes you could buy in a can.

You can also make recipes and freeze them, rather than canning them. We've frozen homemade tomato soup, pizza and pasta sauce, as well as tomato paste with great results. We've also done "meal starters" like chicken tortilla soup (without the chicken and broth), that can later be thawed and made into a soup in less than 20 minutes. This year, we're hoping to freeze some bruschetta and tikka masala sauce! If freezing in glass jars, make sure to leave around an inch of space on the top so the liquid can expand without cracking the jars.

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It's hard to beat tomato soup with a pesto grilled cheese in January. 

Dry Them!

We have a dehydrator that we use to dry larger cherry tomatoes to use like sundried tomatoes. Prior to owning a dehyrdator, we did this in our oven! Just cut them into quarters and put them on a baking sheet in the oven at a super low temperature until they dry out! If your oven doesn't get low enough, you can preheat the oven and turn it off prior to putting in the tomatoes and allow them to dry in the ambient heat.

Can Them!

When I think of preserving tomatoes, canning is definitely the thought that comes to my mind. Thankfully, tomatoes are acidic, so they are able to be safely canned in a water bath. In my opinion, water bath canning is a great introduction to canning, as it feels a little less intense than pressure canning. With canning there is a level of precision that is required, so if you've never canned before, ask a friend who has done it before to teach you or attend a class to learn! In order to preserve your food safely, you do need to follow the rules, there is little room for creativity, to make sure that the food doesn't spoil and get your family sick.

There are so many more ways to preserve tomato products through canning than I had initially thought of. Here are some staples that Shane and I have in our pantry:
  • Pasta Sauce
  • Tomato Sauce
  • Tomato Paste
  • Pizza Sauce
  • BBQ Sauce
  • Marinara Sauce
  • Ketchup
  • Sloppy Joe Mix
  • Tomato Soup
  • Salsa
  • Stewed/Diced Tomatoes
We are hoping to add some enchilada sauce and tomato chutney to our pantry this season!


I hope that this has inspired you to try to buy some tomatoes this summer to preserve for your family! I encourage you to start with one thing!

Plan to make all of the pizza sauce that your family will use this year, and then think about how often you want pizza. If I want to make homemade pizza once a month, I only need to can 12 jars of sauce to supplement my family's pizza sauce for an entire year!

Don't like pizza? Pick something else. You can do it, and I'm here to help. If you have any questions, make sure to send us an email at info@vineandvirtuefarm.com

Your farmer,