Last week we had an article about how to plant and grow the tomatoes, today is how to harvest and store the tomatoes. Tomorrow I will post my salsa recipe. If anyone has some excellent salsa recipes, please feel free to share them in the comments tomorrow.
Pick tomatoes when they are a deep red. There is no need to pick a homegrown tomato early, so let them ripen on the vine; however, before pulling the plant at the end of the season, pick all ripe, partially ripe, and large green tomatoes. Place them one layer deep in a box and lay a few pieces of newspaper on top or in a paper bag folded at the top. Check them frequently and throw out any that show signs of spoiling.
Tomatoes can be preserved by freezing or bottling, but bottling produces a better end product.
To freeze, wash and core the tomatoes. Then, place them on a cookie sheet in the freezer until they are frozen and pack in bags. You can also blanch and peel the tomatoes before freezing. They can be slightly thawed to put in salads, but don’t wait too long or they turn mushy.
To dry tomatoes, wash, core them and cut to ¼ inch (7 mm) thick, and then dry in dehydrator at 120 degrees F (50 degrees C) for 8 to 10 hours or until crispy. You can also use a conventional oven at 120 degrees F (50 degrees C) turning the slices a few times. To sundry the tomatoes, dry in the sun for 1 to 2 days until crispy, making sure you bring them in at night or if it is going to rain. Put in airtight containers.
*To make the Italian sun-dried tomatoes, you can pour boiling water over dried pieces to partly hydrate them. Then, put in clean jars and fill with extra-virgin olive oil. Use within a few months.
Prepare tomatoes for bottling by running the bottles in the dishwasher on a warm setting, and leave them going until they are ready to use. Also, place some water on the stove on the low setting to warm the lids.
Blanch tomatoes for 30-60 seconds to loosen skins. Then, transfer them quickly into a bowl of ice water to cool.
1. Peel tomatoes and you can then either cut in half, or put in the bottles whole.
2. Fill the bottles until ½ inch head space and then pour in 1 tablespoon for pints and 2 tablespoons for quarts of lemon juice to help preserve. Then, ladle in hot water until ½ inch head space, and use a plastic or wood spoon along the inside of the bottle to press out any air bubbles.
3. Wash the outside of jars, including the rim. Get lids ready; place the lid on and screw on the ring, snugly, but not overly tight.
4. Process in a boiling water canner for pints 35 minutes and quarts 40 minutes.
5. After they are cool, check each jar lid to see if it has a proper seal by pressing on the center for any give. You can also gently pull up on the lid to double check.