Around this time of the year, my garden is teeming with loaded tomato plants. We will eat them as a meal and as a side dish, give them away, make sauces, dry them, roast them, and prepare them stewed. My garden will produce over 200 lbs of tomatoes in a season, I need to be on top of the production or I will risk losing them to spoilage. There are only so many tomatoes one can eat in a day!
It was the abundance of fresh tomatoes that inspired me to learn about canning 6 years ago. In a given year I can turn out 30 or so quarts of sauce to winter over and give as gifts to friends. The remainder, what we don’t eat, are roasted tomatoes, stewed, and dried to be packed in olive oil or vacuum packed dry.
The most versatile way to preserve tomatoes is stewing, which can be used in a wide range of recipes or transformed into a different sauce.
Last night I prepared a batch of stewed tomatoes, 7 quarts total which fits neatly in my pressure cooker. This is a good quantity for me to prepare because it doesn’t overwhelm my counter space and I can prepare and can them in 90 minutes, easily accomplished at night after work while my kids are doing their homework.
This is not a complicated process if anything the trick is to not overthink things. I have to organize my workflow to be efficient with time, so I start by sterilizing my quart jars so that they can cool while the tomatoes are stewing. Preparing and cooking the tomatoes is not a time-consuming process and you don’t want to reduce down the tomatoes by cooking them long, stewed tomatoes should have a lot of liquid remaining then you preserve them.
Fresh herbs are best but if all you have are dried herbs, they will work fine. Sometimes I add diced peppers, red peppers typically but this year I grew some amazing purple bell peppers, which I used in my last batch so this time around it is just tomatoes, herbs, red pepper flakes, and salt/pepper.
Here is a starter recipe, you can alter it to fit your tastes:
5 lbs. tomatoes, multiple varieties
2 cups chopped parsley
1 cup chopped oregano
1/3 cup thyme
4 tbs course grey salt
1 tbs ground black pepper
3 tbs red pepper flakes
I prepared this explainer video to cover the details, along with a Foundation Skills section on how to blanch and peel them tomatoes.