Canned Goods: Five ways to preserve your delicious tomatoes

story by Marisa McClellanFresh corn and juicy peaches are great, but there is no summer food more versatile than plump, sun-ripened tomatoes. Because their season is fleeting, I make a point of preserving as many tomatoes as possible in as many ways as I can. Here are some ways I stash away enough Romas, Sungolds, heirlooms and grape tomatoes to hold me through the winter and beyond.

Frozen Grape Tomatoes 
If you’ve ever frozen strawberries or blueberries, you’ll be familiar with this process. Wash and dry tomatoes, then spread them on a rimmed baking sheet and put into the freezer. When they’re hard as marbles, pour in a bag. They can be tossed, still frozen, into soups, stews and pasta sauces.
 
Marinated Oven-Roasted Heirlooms 
These tomatoes are delicious and remarkably easy to make. Slice heirloom tomatoes and toss with a marinade (see recipe on p. 13). Then, slow roast in a 200-degree oven for six to eight hours. If you can keep yourself from eating them all immediately, they freeze beautifully.
pounds heirloom tomatoes, sliced
1/2  cup olive oil
1/4  cup balsamic vinegar
1 lemon, juiced 
garlic cloves, crushed
Tbsp chopped rosemary 
tsp Aleppo pepper flakes
tsp kosher salt
1/2  tsp freshly ground pepper
- Place tomatoes in a large, non-reactive bowl (glass, ceramic or stainless steel). Whisk remaining ingredients together and pour over the tomatoes. Let sit at room temperature for one hour. 
- Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and arrange the tomatoes in a single layer on the sheets. Place sheets in a 200-degree oven and cook for 6 to 8 hours, until the tomatoes shrink and caramelize in places. Rotate pans 2 to 3 times during roasting, to ensure even cooking. 
- Once they’re cool, pack roasted tomatoes into pint-sized, freezer-safe containers, and stash in the freezer for a dark, cold day. 
- Save leftover marinade for use as a salad dressing or dipping sauce for bread.   
 
Tomato Jam 
A few years ago, a friend gave me a jar of her tomato jam and it changed my life. This jam is essentially high-class ketchup. I eat it on turkey burgers, dolloped on roasted sweet potatoes, and love to pair it with goat cheese and baguette rounds for an instant appetizer.
 
Makes 3 pints
5 pounds tomatoes, cored and finely chopped
3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tsp grated peeled fresh ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 Tbsp sea salt
1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
- Combine all ingredients in a large, non-reactive pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, and then reduce the heat to low. Simmer the jam, stirring regularly, until it reduces to a sticky mess. This will take between 1 1/2 and 2 hours, depending on how much water the tomatoes contained. 
- When the jam is nearly done, prepare a boiling water bath and jars. Place the lids in a small saucepan, cover them with water and simmer over very low heat.
- When the jam has cooked down sufficiently, remove the pot from the heat and ladle the jam into the prepared jars. Wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings and process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes. 
* For more tips on canning, visit foodinjars.com
 
Pickled Red Tomatoes 
Most people are familiar with pickled green tomatoes, but rarely do you see pickled ripe tomatoes. Firm, meaty tomatoes like Romas or Juliets work best, and pair well with a slightly sweet spiced brine. Put them on homemade pizza dough, cut them into strips to eat with cheese, or simmer them with a bit of their brine for a quick toast-topper.
 
Makes 3 pints
2 1/2 pounds small, meaty tomatoes, peeled (like Roma, plum or San Marzano)
1 1/2 cups red wine vinegar
2         Tbsp pickling salt 
3/4      cup granulated sugar 
1         2-inch piece fresh ginger, thinly sliced
3         Tbsp pickling spice
- If canning, prepare a boiling water bath canner and three regular-mouth pint jars. Place lids in a small saucepan, cover them with water and simmer over very low heat 
- Combine vinegar, 1 1/2 cups of water, salt, sugar and ginger slices in a large pot, and bring to a boil.
Line up your jars and measure 1 tablespoon of pickling spices into the bottom of each jar. Pack peeled tomatoes into the prepared jars, taking care not to crush them. Slowly pour the brine over the tomatoes, leaving a half inch of headspace. 
- Gently tap the jars on a towel-lined countertop to help loosen any air bubbles. Use a wooden chopstick or plastic knife to help remove any stubborn bubbles. Check the headspace again and add more brine if necessary. Make sure to include 2 to 3 ginger slices in each jar. 
- Wipe the rims, apply lids and rings, and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Let these pickles cure for at least a week before eating.
 
Dehydrated Sungold Tomatoes 
Dehydrated tomatoes require special equipment, but it’s worth the investment. Simply slice Sungolds in half and lay them cut-side down on a dehydrator tray. Run it at 135 degrees until they’re small and quite dry. The Sungolds are so sweet that, once dry, they taste like chewy tomato candy.
 
Marisa McClellan is a food writer, canning teacher and dedicated farmers market shopper who lives in Center City. Find more of her food (all cooked in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, foodinjars.com.