Tomatoes are a staple fruit in most homes, but fresh tomatoes have a very short shelf life. Luckily, these ways to preserve tomatoes are easy enough anyone can do them! Save money and eat healthier by learning how to preserve tomatoes.
It can be a chore finding fresh tomatoes that aren’t bruised or full of genetically modified ingredients if I can’t grow great tomatoes one year for some reason. That hasn’t been an issue lately though since I started buying heirloom seeds from Mary’s Heirloom Seeds.
Ya’ll my tomatoes look amazing, but that left me with a whole lot of tomatoes on my hands!
Which led me to finding different ways to preserve tomatoes grown in my garden. Because let me tell you, I can only put up so much pasta sauce.
Why Should I Learn to Preserve Tomatoes?
The simple truth is that right now the global food supply is going through some crazy things. After the pandemic shortages of 2020, I am not certain any of us really trust that what we need or want will be at the store when we go shopping.
Learning to preserve food is a great way to make sure you will always have the food you need to feed your family; when you need it.
It’s also a great way to save money on food since having it already preserved means you have zero need to pay full price for that food item when it is no longer on sale.
Are Tomatoes Hard to Preserve?
No! Not at all! In fact, I would go as far as to say that tomatoes are one of the easiest foods to preserve period. Unlike meats or other fruits and veggies, there are at least five different ways to preserve tomatoes.
No matter how you dehydrate your tomatoes, if stored properly and kept dry, they will keep for years.
How to Store Dehydrated Tomatoes
The enemy to food storage is air, light and moisture. Because of this, dehydrated foods must be kept dry and cool in order to reach their maximum shelf life. For dehydrated foods, the best way to do this is to store dehydrated foods in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers.
This method keeps them in the dark and cool while keeping the dehydrated food dry from air and moisture.
Water Bath Can Tomatoes
Knowing how to can foods is incredibly important for those wanting to learn how to preserve any kind of food; tomatoes especially. Another quite simple way to preserve tomatoes for long-term storage is to water bath them in a boiling water canner.
When water bathing tomatoes, you can learn to can whole tomatoes, how to can diced/sliced tomatoes, make home canned pasta sauce , or even home canned salsa. You could even make homemade tomato sauce or homemade tomato paste and process it.
One thing about water bath canning tomatoes is that you will need to add acid to the mixture in the form of lemon juice or citric acid to make them safe to be shelf stable. If you do not, you must pressure can them.
Canned tomatoes will last years on the shelf provided the seal is good and they are stored in a dark, cool room that does not freeze.
Pressure Can Tomatoes
Unlike most foods that must be either water bath canned or pressure canned, tomatoes are able to be canned both ways. The same storage rules apply to those that have been water bath canned.
If your tomato recipe has meat in it, you must pressure can it for safety. Meat processes at different times than plain tomato products.
Pressure canned tomatoes do not need the addition of an acid like water bath does. This is because the pressure and heat inside of a pressure canner gets hot enough to kill any bacteria, including botulism. In a boiling water canner, these temperatures are not certain to be reached.
Preserve Tomatoes in Oil
While I have never done it, tomatoes can be preserved in oil. This is often how sundried t0matoes are preserved. Olive oil is typically used to preserve tomatoes. Kept on the shelf, they will typically last around a year. Kept in the fridge, they will last approx. 18 months.
Finally, the simplest way to preserve fresh tomatoes is to freeze them. Yes, you can freeze tomatoes so they last longer.
Freezing tomatoes does require that they be blanched so it’s not as simple as tossing them in the freezer. Blanching means to partially cook the food. You do this by boiling for 2-3 minutes at a full rolling boil then plunging the tomatoes into an ice water bath to stop the cooking process.
If you’re freezing tomatoes, you will also need to remove the skins. This is done by cutting an “X” into the top layer of skin before blanching. During the blanching process, the skins become loose allowing you to simply peel them away after they have cooled in their ice bath.
Frozen tomatoes may be the simplest method to keeping tomatoes fresh, but it is also the one with the shortest shelf life. Frozen tomatoes should be used within 3 months to preserve their flavor and nutrition.
Bonus: Store Tomatoes in a Root Cellar
If you don’t intend to preserve your tomatoes for long-term, you can still help them to stay as fresh as possible by storing them in cold storage or a root cellar if you have one. Ideally, the tomatoes should be placed in the cellar when they are green. This will give you the maximum shelf life for them; 1-2 months.
Tomatoes that have ripened already don’t usually do any better in a root cellar than they do in your kitchen. Ripened tomatoes will get a maximum of 7-10 days in a cellar or cold storage.
Preserving home grown tomatoes is the only way to ensure you have fresh tomatoes all year long. I personally grow several varieties including Roma tomatoes, Amish paste tomatoes, and others. We use them so often that I just can’t help trying new heirloom tomato varieties!
Do you grow your own and preserve them?