Cultivating tomatoes often result in a big harvest. Sometimes, the harvest is so big that you don’t know what to do with all of your tomatoes. But don’t worry, there are lots of ways to preserve your tomatoes, like freezing, drying, or semi-drying them. There are also several recipes, like tomato sauce, you can make of your harvest.
If you have many slightly damaged or "less beautiful" tomatoes, they are excellent to both dry or use in the tomato sauce. However, never use rotten, infested, or moldy tomatoes.
Keep reading if you want to know how to freeze, dry, or semi-dry your tomatoes, or learn how to make tomato sauce!
Let’s start with perhaps the easiest way to preserve all your ripe tomatoes; freezing them. You can freeze your tomatoes in different textures: whole, in pieces, slices, or mixed. Once freezed, tomatoes won’t do well in a salad, as they become sloppy in texture when they defrosted. Instead, cooking them is a better option!
Freeze the tomatoes in bags or jars of about 500 grams and then pick them out when you are in the mood for a stew in the autumn or winter.
Drying tomatoes is one of the best ways to take advantage of your harvest and making it last a long time.
You can dry all kinds of tomatoes, but some varieties are better suited than others - it is best to use tomatoes with firm flesh and slightly thicker skin. Thin-peeled tomatoes with a lot of liquid are preferably eaten freshly harvested.
Dry tomatoes by cutting them into 3-4 mm thin slices. The drying time will depend on how much water the tomatoes contain, the thickness of the slices, the air circulation, and the humidity. For best results, dry your tomato slices in a 40°C drying oven for 4-5 hours. If you do not have a drying oven, a regular oven also works fine. In that case, set the oven to the lowest temperature and keep the oven ajar for good air circulation. Keep in mind that it might be a bit harder to get the tomato slices really dry and crispy in a regular oven.
Once the tomato slices are dried, put them in a glass jar with a lid. Place the jars somewhere dark, as darkness will retain both color and their intense tomato taste for several years (that is if they are really dry, otherwise mold might develop). When dried, you can also marinate them in oil or grind down to tomato powder to use in pots or sauces.
The difference between dried tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, and semi-dried tomatoes is that dried and sun-dried tomatoes are completely dried. Semi-dried tomatoes are only dried halfway and have a bit of liquid and moisture left.
So how do you semi-dry tomatoes? Like this: slice the tomatoes, add salt, set the oven at 125 degrees and put the tomatoes in the oven for about 2 hours. Semi-dried tomatoes are incredibly tasty on, for example, bruschetta or as an accessory to a pie or oven-baked pumpkin. Home-grown cherry tomatoes will taste heavenly if you halve them and place them in an ovenproof form with the cut side up together with garlic, lemon, and herbs of your choice.
Semi-dried tomatoes should be stored in the refrigerator. Keep in mind that they have a shorter expiration date than dried tomatoes have, but they are incredibly delicious.
For this recipe, you can use all kinds of tomatoes; red, orange, and green. Adjust the sweet and the sour of the recipe according to the taste of your tomatoes. Your green tomato sauce may need a little more sweetness, for example.
You can also vary the ingredients with different spices and herbs. By adding oregano, your tomato sauce will be perfect on a pizza, while if you add basil, you get a good pasta sauce.
Roughly chop the tomatoes and finely chop the onion.
Heat the oil gently in a saucepan, preferably of cast iron.
Add the chopped onion with chili and black pepper. The olive oil does not tolerate too much heat, so avoid frying the onion.
When the onion has become soft and slightly transparent, add the tomatoes, the sweet, and the sour. Lower to a fairly low temperature and let simmer for a while, at least 45 minutes.
If you want a looser sauce, you can dilute with water.
In the end, after about 45 minutes, salt and add your fresh spices. Taste, adjust, allow to cool, and pour the sauce into a well-cleaned glass jar. The tomato sauce will be tastier and get more flavor from the fresh herbs if left to stand for a few days.
And there you have it: your own homemade tomato sauce!