It is the time of year when tomatoes are starting to come in hard and fast. Your own garden has become a squirrels candy store as you just can’t seem to get them off of the vine fast enough. Your friends and neighbors have resorted to leaving bunches of tomatoes on your patio table, front porch, and even back stairs (if I knew who put the tomatoes that I stepped on in front of the door I would go throw them at their house, seriously?!). Now, as your drowning in tomatoes and sitting at your kitchen table shaking your head and thinking to yourself “what the hell am I going to do with all of these?” don’t worry, there is hope!
If you’re like me you LOVE tomatoes, especially sun-ripened tomatoes, bursting with a flavor that the greenhouse tomatoes just can’t match no matter how great the variety is. I will eat plate after plate of tomatoes with some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper all summer long, and even I will start to get tomato fatigue come early September. But then I remember that I just have to get creative in how I use them.Now there are the obvious staples to sort of mix it up in the summer: Caprese salads, grilled tomatoes, and an endless supply of BLTs. There are also the options for long-term storage that one should always consider: tomato sauce, tomato soup, salsa, pico de gallo, and chutneys of all kinds. By canning various tomato products you can ensure that you have those great summer tomato flavors well into the winter and spring. Plus, since tomatoes are already broken down and cooked for processing you typically don’t have to worry about canning ruining the texture (unless of course you are pickling green tomatoes, which is a very different story and typically should be left as a refrigerator pickle to avoid them becoming too mushy during the canning process).
One of the great things about canning tomatoes for long-term storage is that you can use all of you mutilated, sunburnt, buggy tomatoes and just cut out the bad parts, this was you can avoid relying on the idea that “there are always more tomatoes” as you compost a perfectly usable piece of fruit. Many people think that in order to make batches of sauce, soup, or salsa you need more tomatoes than you ever pull off of the vine at home at one time. This is generally true, but you can also prep tomatoes in batches and freeze them, and then when you’re ready to make a big pot of tomato sauce to can you bring out the containers of prepped tomatoes that you’ve squirreled away from the squirrels over the summer, thaw and combine.
How you prep them before freezing will depend on what you want to do with them. You can always cook down the tomatoes and puree them in batches and freeze the puree in quart containers (I would suggest on mildly seasoning the puree so that when you go to use the puree you aren’t stuck with a specific flavor profile…like going Italian and then wanting Moroccan or Indian, very different profiles). One of my favorite ways to prep tomatoes is to roast them in a large pot to concentrate the flavors and break down the flesh. Just put them in a pot (lid off) with a little olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper, and roast at 400℉ until the skins start to break. At this point, stir the tomatoes up to help break them up a bit and turn the over down to 300℉ and roast them until they begin to dry out and become slightly browned (If you have a lot of tomatoes you may have to stir them several times before they are all roasted). At this point, you can either put the roasted tomatoes in a container or freezer bag and place in the freezer, or you can use it as a spread on some bread (it’s absolutely delicious and perfect as a side dish for summer parties). Roasting tomatoes for a spread works best with smaller tomatoes or cherry tomatoes, and if you have more watery tomatoes you may have to turn the oven off and just leave them in there, uncovered, to dry out a bit.
Then there are always the go-to dishes to use up tomatoes in large quantities, including pasta salads, grain salads (especially tabbouleh), gazpacho (I know I already listed soups, but cold soups are different, at least in my mind), pizza, frittata, quiche, and more. There are a few other options though that you might not think of that have become some of my personal favorites when faced with so many tomatoes that you feel nauseous and your head starts to hurt. Here are some links to the recipes:
Mixed Tomato Cobbler with Gruyere Crust
Green Tomato and Fig Galette
and for the Pie Crust
And the simple but always good Tasty Marinated Tomatoes