Tuesday, December 3, 2013

50 pounds of tomatoes - what to do with them?

Canning season around here lasts a really long time... from the early spring peas and strawberries, to the late fall season pumpkins.  My oldest and I truly LOVE to can - be it water bath canning or pressure canning! (I *still* have not attempted oven canning.)  We also enjoy dehydrating.  Tomatoes give us the best in both worlds.

One of the many benefits of our CSA is the opportunity to buy fresh local produce in bulk.  Since our tomatoes were so incredibly pitiful this year (as in virtually nonexistent), we bought fifty pounds of tomatoes from our CSA.  What in the world were we going to do with SOOOO many tomatoes?  Sun-dried tomatoes, canned diced tomatoes,  and tomato paste were all on the list.

For those unfamiliar with canning and/or dehydrating, let me further explain the how-tos....

1. Get a large pot of water at a rolling boil and carefully place rinsed tomatoes in the water.  Let boil for 30-45 seconds, remove, and place into ice cold water.  This process is known as blanching.  The quick boil helps the skins easily peel off, while the ice bath stops the cooking process.

2.  Gently peel off the skins, placing in a bowl, set to the side.

3.  If making sun dried tomatoes, slice the tomatoes into thin slices and place on a dehydrator sheet.  Sprinkle with olive oil and italian seasoning mixed with a touch of salt and pepper.  Once all your trays are full, dehydrate for about 12 hours at 135 degrees, or until dried but still pliable.  I then place my dried tomatoes into a gallon freezer bag and throw them in the freezer for later use.

4.  If making canned diced tomatoes, dice the tomatoes and throw them into a large pan.  Once your pan is full or you are out of tomatoes, add water to around the height of your tomatoes and bring to a boil.  Get your jars, lids and rings ready for canning.  If you are using pints, add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice - if quarts, add 2 tablespoons.  Add hot tomatoes, making sure there are no air bubbles and that you have left a generous 1/2 inch of headspace.  Place your lid and ring on, and process in a hot water bath canner for 40 minutes for pints, or 45 minutes for quarts.

5.  Now those skins..... After your "sun dried" tomatoes are done, clean your trays and lay the skins, with the outside skin part down, on the trays.  Dehydrate until dried at 135 degrees.  Once dry, pull the now fragile skins off and pulverize in a food processor, blender, or vitamix (I used the latter).  Store in a glass jar.... whenever you need tomato paste, mix equal amounts of tomato skin puree with water :)