Smith: Enjoy your tomatoes all year long | Food and Cooking

It’s almost tomato time! As I look at my raised garden bed, I am patiently waiting on my tomato plants to ripen. The garden doesn’t always allow you to choose your harvesting time. When the produce is ready, you had better have a plan so your precious tomatoes don’t go to waste. Consider preserving your tomatoes so you can enjoy them all year long. Canning, freezing or dehydrating are the three methods to preserving.

You may can most any type of tomato, with the exception of overripe tomatoes or tomatoes on dead or frost-killed vines, which are too low in acid to safely can. Can tomato juice, tomato sauce, tomato paste, spaghetti sauce, salsa, ketchup and barbecue sauce, or simply can whole or halved tomatoes to use in various recipes. The canning process involves using tested recipes and either a boiling water bath canner or a pressure canner. Since tomatoes are on the borderline of being low acid, you must add acid in the form of bottled lemon juice, citric acid or vinegar to keep dangerous bacteria and toxins from growing. Visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation website for guidelines.

Freezing and dehydrating are also great ways to preserve your tomatoes. You can prepare any type of tomato product, including your favorite homemade recipe, and safely freeze it. I love to roast our cherry tomatoes with a little bit of olive oil in the oven at 450°F for 20-25 minutes until they’ve blistered and split. Then I pack them into freezer bags and freeze. Paste or meaty tomatoes dry very well in the dehydrator, as their tomato flavor becomes concentrated. Add dried tomatoes directly to soups, stews or sauces or use in a savory trail mix, pasta dish or other favorite recipe.

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