Sunday, September 13, 2009

LOTS of Tomatoes, OH MY!!

Well, I experimented with growing tomatoes this summer, after several dismal failures some years back.

This year, for whatever reason, the Vegetable Gods smiled on me, and my tomatoes took off! We've been enjoying
them, but now that school and work have started, I'm again pressed for time, and faced with way WAY more tomatoes than a family of four can deal with.

Yes, the Internet is full of wonderful "What-To-Do-With-Tomatoes" pages. And they are very good suggestions, but most involve time-consuming peeling, seeding, sauteeing, chopping, canning and standing over a stove as your sauce simmers. Projects I, sadly, don't have time for...

However, with a little thought and research we were able to make use of the entire tomato harvest and not take long hours doing so.
Here's my easy busy-day tomato ideas:

The large tomatoes were quartered and a batch cooked in the slow cooker/crock pot every night, run through the food mill to remove seeds and skin the next AM, resulting in 8 cups of lovely tomato sauce for the freezer (I don't have
time to can, sorry!) for each pot-full.

I'm on my 4th round of this and will probably do a few more. Lots of cheerful, tomato-red freezer bags lining my freezer! Use whatever tomatoes you have, beefsteak, plum, Marzano, yellow, striped, black, red...

Slow-Cooker Tomato Sauce
10 - 12 medium-sized tomatoes (or as many as will fit in your size cooker)
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 onion, chopped
1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
1 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano
1/2 to 3/4 cup red wine (preferably Cabernet Sauvignon)

Wash and stem tomatoes, cut into quarters, add to slow-cooker with rest of ingredients. Cook overnight or up to 12 hours (depending on how juicy the tomatoes are) on low in crock-
pot/slow-cooker WITH LID CRACKED so steam escapes and tomatoes cook down (I run the
vent- fan in my stove hood to keep my kitchen from steaming up and smelling super-tomato-y).

Turn off heat, allow tomatoes to cool a bit. Pour into food mill or ricer and process
until all skins and seeds are removed and you're left with smooth sauce. Season sauce to taste with a bit of salt, pepper or whatever you prefer.

Freeze in zip-loc freezer bags. (I fill quart-size half-full and lay them on cookie sheets until frozen, then stack them like pretty red bricks.) This basic sauce can then be seasoned, cooked down more to thicken more if you want, use it any time you need tomato sauce!!!

I use sauce from the freezer all winter; preserving 'guides' recommend using in 3 - 6 months for best flavor, but we have never noticed a problem even after a year!


We have gallons of cherry tomatoes just falling off the vines, and even though we eat them like candy, there's only SO many cherry tomatoes a person can eat.

So we cut them in half and dehydrated in a low oven overnight. Store them in olive oil, and they taste JUST like
those expensive "sun-dried" tomatoes from the specialty store. They also perk up soups and sauces and add a whole lot of tomato flavor with just a few tomatoes...

Oven-Dried Cherry Tomatoes

6 - 8 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
1 tsp Kosher salt or flaked salt

Spread tomatoes, cut side UP, over a foil-lined, lightly oiled cookie-sheet.

Sprinkle with salt.
Place in a low (150°) oven overnight or as long as it takes to dry tomatoes not QUITE to a crispy

They should be a bit leathery, like raisins, but not moist.
Remove and cool.

Store in zip-loc bags in the freezer or pack in a sterile pint jar and fill jar with olive oil and keep refrigerated.
(The oil will solidify but doesn't hurt it's quality any).


Catherine said...

I should totally pick up a bunch of tomatoes from the Farmer's Market and try your oven-dried tomato trick! I love sun-dried tomatoes on pizza, and it would be great to use homemade!

P.S. I freeze everything, too -- no time to can, and I hear, freezing preserves more of the nutrients in the food, too! Woo!

T said...

Oh man, those sun-dried tomatoes look awesome! You're going to be happy you have those when winter rolls around. Lucky that the garden gods smiled on you this year!

Mihl said...

Wow, the sauce sounds delicious and the dired tomatoes...what a fantastic idea! And they look beautiful.

Anonymous said...

I am SO jealous of your tomatoes--they look gorgeous and delicious!


Bianca said...

Yum! I wish I had luck growing tomatoes. I've had a few failed experiments as well. Maybe I'll get lucky next year.

Sal said...

good idea to cook the sauce in the slow-cooker!! i'll have to try that.

Veg-a-Nut said...

Thank you for the wonderful ideas. I had so many tomatoes that I stuck in in freezer bags whole. Now i am going to get some out and make your wonderful sauce!!!!

Patty said...

Hi Tofu Mom! I found your blog while searching for vegan recipes online. I need to make a family-friendly vegan meal for a friend who is having her second baby next week. I don't know where to start... would you mind recommending a yummy, not-too-difficult recipe on your site? The only thing this family doesn't eat is eggplant. I would like to bring dinner over to my friend's house in the afternoon, so that she (or her husband) can heat or reheat it at dinnertime without too much effort. thank you so much!! love your blog!

Tofu Hunter said...

DO you have any good ideas for green tomatoes? Looks like I'm going to have a bunch that aren't going to ripen in time for fall... I know they will continue to ripen on the kitchen counter, but would love to use them in their green state too. So far I've only done the obvious, which was baked "fried" green tomatoes. Would love to see your ideas too!