Mamma Mia! We have an abundance of paste-type tomatoes at the Second Street Chicken Ranch.
Thankfully, there are several easy ways to preserve these jewels that will keep you in a summer-state-of-mind, all winter. My favorite way is roasting tomatoes.
I planted 10 heirloom paste tomato plants this year: three black plum, three Roma, three San Marzano and one cream sausage. The black plum is a
mega-producer. These small red/brown fruits, with green shoulders, are great to eat right off the plant or tossed in salads. They are also wonderful sauteed with summer squash, green beans or stewed with a little garlic. Because their size is small, these are best to use fresh or freeze whole.
Yes, you can freeze tomatoes whole! Wash, dry and pop them into a freezer bag, or put them on a baking sheet, freeze, then transfer to bags.
This is my second year growing the quirky, cream sausage tomatoes. These are a striking cream to light yellow color, with a nice tomato-y flavor. This plant hasn’t been a super producer, but in all fairness, it didn’t get planted until later in the season. I like this unusual variety enough to plant it again next year, and will attempt “yellow” tomato sauce. In the meantime, we’re eating these fresh!
The tomato stars this year are the Romas and San Marzanos. Given their late start due to a very cool and wet June, the plants have turned out loads of large fruit. Paste tomatoes require about 70 to 80 days to mature, but I have been harvesting these for a couple of weeks.
San Marzano tomatoes are the famous Italian variety used primarily in sauces. You”ll find these in the grocery store, sold in cans…and you’ll pay a premium for them. They are “dry” compared to other tomatoes; very meaty with few seeds. Romas tend to be a little more juicy, but remain the number one paste-type tomato.
So, what to do with all these tomatoes? Two easy ways to preserve tomatoes are roasting and grilling.
I love roasting tomatoes since I can pop them in the oven and go about my business for an hour or so! And, they make the house smell incredible. Tomatoes can be roasted whole or cut in half. I’ve roasted both ways with equal success. Roasting tomatoes whole will take a bit longer in the oven.
What you need: large baking sheet, cooking spray, about 1/4 cup olive oil (more or less), kosher salt, fresh cracked pepper, a few sprigs of rosemary, (chopped), a handful of basil leaves, garlic cloves (or whole garlic head) and about 20 Roma or San Marzano tomatoes.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
- Put tomatoes (cut or whole) in a large bowl and add rosemary, basil, garlic, salt and pepper. Add olive oil to coat the tomatoes and toss.
- Place tomatoes on baking sheet, skin side down (if cut). Drizzle a bit more olive oil over and roast in a 350 degree oven for about 1 hour (about 1 and 15 for whole tomatoes).
The tomatoes take on a sweet, deep, rich flavor that only roasting can bring out. Let the tomatoes cool and store in freezer bags in the freezer for up to 6 months; or in the fridge for a couple of days.
Grilling tomatoes is very similar to roasting, except it takes less time. You can grill whole or half tomatoes. Using the same ingredients as listed above, toss with oil in a large bowl. Grill, skin side down (for cut tomatoes) until they start to bubble, and the skins begin to slightly char, about 5 to 7 minutes (on a hot grill).
Use tongs or a spatula to remove from the grill and place back in the bowl to cool. Transfer to freezer bags or use within a few days.
There is nothing like pulling a bag of home-grown tomatoes out of the freezer in December and sauteing them with a little garlic…savoring that wonderful smell and anticipating that forgotten taste of summer.
How do you preserve your tomatoes? Do you can them? Make salsa? Share your tips and recipes in the comments below!