Need good tomato recipes for a large haul from the garden or farmer's market? Here are ideas to eat, can, dry, and freeze tomatoes to enjoy both now and later.
One of the questions I got asked the most when visitors would see the huge bowls of tomatoes filling the kitchen counters during our garden's harvest season was "What are you going to DO with all those tomatoes?" The unspoken part of that seemed to be "how on earth are you ever going to use them all before they go bad?"
Tomatoes and me, though…we go way back. Well, not as far back as when I was a kid and didn't think I liked tomatoes (ha!), but when I was just teaching myself how to garden in our first house. It was thrilling to have a producing garden and be able to smile at the bowls of produce I was harvesting. We ate a lot of it fresh, but I was still left with pounds and pounds of tomatoes (and other produce like peppers and green beans). And I didn't know how to preserve them.
I had wet my water-bath canning feet with some easy jam previously, so I decided to try my hand at canning salsa with the tomatoes, peppers, and onions from my garden. It was amazing! And so began my tomato-preserving journey - I planted more and more tomato plants to keep up with all the tomato products I wanted to preserve for the winter.
So yes, I knew what I would make with all those tomatoes. It was just a race to get it all done while they were still good and coming in from the garden.
But this year we are living with my mom (while we search for a new place to live and garden) and there is not a sunny enough place for a vegetable garden here. For the first time ever, I had to look for tomatoes to buy, which gave me a chance to see what could be made from a specific amount of tomatoes in a specific time (vs. "just try to keep up with what's coming in" from the garden, ha!). Hopefully this will give you an idea of just what can be accomplished (hint: lots of great preserves you'll enjoy for months...) in a short amount of time.
Tomato Recipes: What You Can Make With 60 lbs. in 3 Days
The Tomatoes: Two almost 30-pound boxes of paste and slicing tomatoes (about 3/4 were paste tomatoes). I found these at a local farm for just .69/lb (quite a savings from the $1.69/lb table where you could bag up what you wanted!). Unfortunately, these were probably not organic, but I felt I was lucky to find them at that price. They were ripe and red and beautiful.
The Time Frame: The 3-day Labor Day Weekend. Any 2 or 3 days you have to spend putting up a few things your family loves is worth it. I didn't work all weekend - we still had time to go to the opening UO Duck football game, watch a Netflix movie with my sister-in-law and daughter, and enjoy a cookout. It's mainly that you need a few days in a row that you will be mostly at home so that a the end of 3 days the boxes will be empty.
The Recipes: We ate them fresh, of course (I did mention they were big, beautiful, and sun-ripened, right?) and I started preserving some of our family favorites.
Recipe Ideas with Fresh Tomatoes
Friday night we grilled some sausages and bread and had this easy tomato-feta salad.
Saturday before the game we had chef's salads - with a lot more chopped tomatoes than pictured here!
We also had BLTs on Sunday and I made a quick bruschetta tomato topping for grilled toasts on Monday.
Preserving Tomato Recipes
Addictive Tomato Chutney. This is the number 1 thing I wanted to make with the tomatoes - the recipe that seems to make SO many things better. It's what my family loves and what we can't easily buy, so it's doubly worth it to make enough for the year. I made this first and then made the other recipes with what I had left.
Amount made: 2 double batches, which produced 26 1/2-pint jars and 3 pint jars. (Note: if I have 1/2 to 1 cup more tomatoes after chopping in the food processor, I add just it to the recipe. Slightly more tomatoes is okay since they are the acidic part. I keep all the remaining ingredient amounts the same. So sometimes a batch will make more than the yield indicated on the recipe).
Dried Tomatoes Stored in Olive Oil. It takes about an hour to slice enough tomatoes to fill our food dehydrator (I can only fit 3 of our 5 trays in with tomato halves), so this is a good thing to get going while working on other recipes. The drying tomatoes will need watching, turning and removing as they dry (one of the reasons you need to be hanging around for a few days in a row).
Amount made: 1 quart jar + 1 pint jar after drying, dipping in vinegar, and covering with olive oil.
My Favorite Thick Salsa for Canning. This is probably the second most popular thing my family likes to have. We can buy salsa (though we think this tastes better!), so I prioritized the chutney first. I was going to make two double batches to get 1-2 jars for each month of the next year, but I found a box of 2016 salsa I didn't know I had, so I made less with these tomatoes.
Amount Made: 1 double batch which produced 9 pints.
Freezer Roasted Tomato Sauce. I love, love this recipe! First because its so easy to make (start-to-finish in just a couple hours - including cooking time), second because it's versatile and you can add all kinds of other vegetables to it if you have them, and third because it is just plain delicious. This is the recipe to use up all the rest of your tomatoes.
Amount Made: 4 quarts + 1 pint jars, frozen.
Here's a sort of final breakdown for 60 pounds of tomatoes at .69/lb (I'm not going into details about the cost of the other ingredients or lids - this is just a ball park figure out of curiosity if you need to buy tomatoes):
Cost of tomatoes: $41.40 divided by 37 pints (I added all the quarts, pints and half-pints up and divided them into pints to make it uniform)
Total per pint = $1.11 (probably closer to $1 each if you take into account all the fresh tomatoes we ate…)
Not bad for a lot of summer's flavorful bounty all winter long!
Tell me - what would you make first if you had 30 or 60 pounds of tomatoes?
Wondering if water-bath canning is doable? I promise it is - here's a full tutorial to prove it to you: