Preserving the harvest: tomatoes don’t wait.


I. Have. Been. Canning.

I saw our neighbor at the farmers’ market last week. She said “Hey, do you want any tomatoes? I have extra.”

With my food-hoarding instincts, there’s no way I could pass that up.

Ten gallons later….

Well, let’s just say it’s hot in the kitchen.

If you haven’t tried canning, tomatoes are a good way to start. Home-canned tomatoes are so much better than store-bought.

You can actually just toss the cleaned tomatoes in jars and can them that way (“raw pack”), but I like to get the skins off first. Tradition says to dunk them in hot water for a minute or so to make them easier to peel, but I think that’s messy and you lose a lot of the lovely tomato essence in the boiling water.

A few years ago Jeffrey Hamelman showed me a better way. Jeffrey is a baker, and he roasts his tomatoes in the oven before he cans them. This way the juices are concentrated rather than diluted, and the skins are loose enough that you can usually pull them off with a pair of tongs. Much less messy. Just put a pan of tomatoes in a 350 degree oven for a half hour or so. They’re ready when the skins start to split.

And I make tomato paste with the skins and the leftover juice. Cook them down over low heat for a couple of hours, stirring often. When the skins are pretty translucent, strain the mix (or use a food mill). Then put it back on the stove over low heat until it’s as thick as you want it.

Back to the kitchen. (My salsa isn’t canned yet.)


  1. Kiva Rose said,

    September 6, 2007 @ 10:44 pm

    Ooooh, nice tip, I have to go tell Loba

  2. Jan S. said,

    September 7, 2007 @ 8:38 am

    I’m experienceing a bit of growing season envy. We had a touch of frost out in the meadow last week of Aug. (not near the house or garden). It’s September and my tomatoes are FINALLY STARTING TO RIPEN.

    My mom used to can tomatoes by the bushel/gallon. Fond memories.

    Thanks for the tip on roasting them. Happy canning!


  3. Riana said,

    September 7, 2007 @ 10:44 am

    That is such a great idea to make the skins into tomato paste and here I have been feeding my compost god all my lovely scraps. I love love love herbs and look forward to delving into all of your information here. thanks!

  4. The Herbwife’s Kitchen » Preserving the harvest: peppers aren’t patient either. said,

    September 10, 2007 @ 12:35 pm

    […] it was ten gallons of tomatoes to can, then six pecks of peppers to […]

  5. crabappleherbs said,

    September 10, 2007 @ 2:30 pm

    Thanks, Kiva and Riana.

    And Jan, frost in August? Wow. I grew a hundred pounds of tomatoes my last year in Norwich. It must be the elevation. (As for me, I’m looking forward to fall. The walnut tree in our yard is starting to turn a bit yellow…)

  6. Jan S. said,

    October 2, 2007 @ 3:14 pm

    Thank you for the tip on roasting them prior to peeling. I tried it when I made some sauce last weekend. I hadn’t done it in decades and it was really good (several cloves of crushed garlic, a chopped onion, sauteed in olive oil, the roasted peeled tomatoes, slightly blended with some fresh basil and oregano added, and then cooked down for a few hours). Todd was very enthusiastic about the taste.

    I am planning to grow more tomatoes next year and maybe do some real canning.

    And so far the frost is still holding off (although it is getting close).

  7. Clara said,

    March 15, 2012 @ 7:25 am

    Thank you for that idea on peppers! I was going to dehydrate or freeze this upcoming years (hopeful) bounty.
    In past years to keep up with my cherry tomato harvest I simply dehydrated the lot of them. Wash, cut in half, and then spread out on the racks. It takes a bit of time to dry but the house smells lovely. What couldn’t fit on the racks is taken over to my mother’s to can.

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