Preserving Tomatoes and One-Dish Dinners

When preserving tomatoes, you get more bang for your buck with plum tomatoes (meaning more can be put in a jar, but I can a mix of tomatoes, whatever I need to preserve.

When preserving tomatoes, you get more bang for your buck with plum tomatoes (meaning more can be put in a jar, but I can a mix of tomatoes, whatever I need to preserve.

For gardeners who love tomatoes, tomato season is both a joy and a burden.  It's a joy because nothing beats a fresh tomato as a snack, as an add-on to a sandwich, as a quick sauce for pasta, as a side dish, sliced and topped with a drizzle of oil and vinegar and a sprinkling of salt.  As we walk through the garden, we pop cherry tomatoes in our mouths, almost without thinking.

The thinking part does come.  What to do with all those tomatoes?  Whether all those tomatoes will be enjoyed fresh or whether they will be canned, I have a recipe for you.

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101 One-Dish Dinners is filled with recipes that bring dinner to the table quickly, with a minimum of fuss.  There are a lot of my family favorites contained in those pages, a lot recipes that are streamlined for speed and ease.  These are the recipes that my husband makes when I am out of town and my adult kids make for themselves and their friends. 

The one ingredient that makes a lot of these recipes sing is the tomato—fresh in one-dish salads, canned in soups and stews you might want to make when the weather cools.  In fact, I counted 22 out of 101 recipes that use tomatoes in one form or another. 

So, let's say you might want to make one of these recipes every two weeks or so.  That means you'll want to put up 26 quarts of tomatoes.  But, of course, just about everyone is going to want to make some form of spaghetti—with meat sauce, with sausage, or with a simple tomato sauce—every two weeks, so that's another 26 quarts of sauce or puree you'll need.  Homemade pizza is so much better than the greasy store-bought or delivery pizza, so add another 14 quarts of sauce or puree.  That's 64 quarts of tomato products.  And I haven't even thought about ketchup or salsa yet.

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While I am in a calculating mood, let me add that a lot of recipes in 101 One-Dish Dinners and elsewhere call for a 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes.  That's equivalent to a quart of home-canned tomatoes (mine weigh in at anywhere between 25 and 40 ounces, depending on the variety and how much I managed to squish in).  Another way to look at equivalents is that a 28-ounce can holds 3 cups.  So you can drain your home-canned tomatoes (save the juice), measure, and return enough liquid to make 3 cups.  Or just figure that your quart of home-canned tomatoes is equivalent to a 28-ounce can and don't sweat the difference.

Tuscan Tuna Salad with White Beans -- served with a sourdough biscuit from  The Backyard Homestead Book of Kitchen-Know-How.

Tuscan Tuna Salad with White Beans -- served with a sourdough biscuit from The Backyard Homestead Book of Kitchen-Know-How.

Now I have to go—I have more tomatoes to can.  And when I'm done, I'll whip up a dinner with a recipe from One-Dish Suppers.  Last night I made a Mediterranean Tuna Salad with White Beans and the night before it was Antipasto Antipasta Salad.  Quick one-dish meals make life so much easier when you are busy.




Our tomato crop is abundant.  While others around us have had diminished yields due to blight and drought, our garden has never been better.  And it has never been better tended.  My son dug new beds this year, added plenty of compost and manure, and tested and balanced the soil nutrients and pH.  He watered faithfully til the plants started to fruit.  It all paid off.


A few of the rosy-blushed, yellow pineapple tomatoes have weighed in at more than two pounds. And are virtually seedless.  What an amazing tomato!  

We have Black Cherries, Red Currant Tomatoes, Sungolds, and Super-Sweet One-Hundreds.  We have Yellow Taxies and Purple Cherokees, Indigo Rose, Nyagous, Roma, Black Crim, and Amish Paste.  And we have plenty of Anaheim chiles.  Obviously, it is time to make salsa.

And more salsa.

Chipotle Salsa

But back to those tomatoes: Here’s a partial report.

As always, the cherries were earliest and continue to produce.  The Black Cherries have a very interesting, very rich flavor – very umami one might say. They are big – a two-bite cherry. Sungolds and Super-Sweet Hundreds – classic, super-sweet, great snacking tomatoes, very prolific. Red Currants –  need to be fully ripe for full flavor, really pretty in some salads, but just not worth the labor to harvest, though amazingly prolific.

Yellow taxi was early.  That is the strongest praise I can give this otherwise low-acid, low-flavor tomato. 

Can’t tell the Amish Paste from the Romas.  A paste is a paste is a paste – but always good, especially for cooking and canning.

The Nyagous, another “black tomato” also has that umami, that mysterious rich flavor.  The Indigo Rose tomato did not win my heart.  It is fully black when unripe, then goes to green, then red.  It spends too much effort on changing color, not enough on developing flavor.  We won’t plant it again.

There comes a point in the tomato harvest when we are doing less tasting and comparing varieties and more thinking about how and when to preserve.  That’s where I am right now.  Since I am doing a lot of demos and classes on making pickles, mostly I am throwing the tomatoes into bags and freezing – to be cooked into salsas and sauces when I have the time.

Here’s a favorite canned salsa recipe.  It’s from The Pickled Pantry, and I’ll be taking it to some of my tastings and demos.  It has been a house favorite for years!  I made more today.


Salsa and chips

Chipotle SalsaMakes 4 to 6 pints
Chipotle chiles (smoke-dried jalapenos) add a lick of fire to this otherwise simple salsa.

24 cups quartered ripe tomatoes8 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole2 to 4 chipotle chiles2 cups distilled white vinegar2 onions, finely minced1 cup finely minced fresh green chiles1 cup finely minced sweet bell pepperSalt

1.  Combine the tomatoes, white vinegar, and chipotles in a large saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer until the tomatoes are very soft, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes.

2.  Process the tomato mixture through a food mill, discarding the seeds and skins.

3.  Return the strained mixture to the saucepan and add the onions, fresh chiles, and bell pepper.  Boil gently until the salsa has reduced to a nice thick sauce, 1 to 2 hours.  Season to taste with salt.

4.  Ladle the hot salsa into clean hot pint jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.  Remove any air bubbles and seal.  

5. Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes, according to the directions for canning on page 000.  Let cool undisturbed for 12 hours.  Store in a cool dry place.

Kitchen Notes
* For a milder salsa, remove the seeds of the chipotle and fresh chiles before adding to the salsa. 
* Your yield will vary depending on the juiciness of the tomatoes.  Plum tomatoes tend to yield more than salad tomatoes because they have a higher flesh to juice ratio.
Recipe adapted from The Pickled Pantry by Andrea Chesman.  ©2012 Andrea Chesman.  All rights reserved. 

Gratitude for Garlic

Of all the vegetables that I plant, of all that I tend, of all that I harvest, of all that I cook, I am most grateful for garlic.Garlic in basket. Photo by Lauren Slayton

As a garden crop, garlic is a prize-winner.  It is planted in late October, when most of the other garden chores are over.  There is time – time to work the bed, time to mulch before the weeds threaten, time to put away clean the garden tools and put them away for the winter.  Time to rock back on my heels and appreciate how rewarding the garden can be.

Then, if I’m lucky, the snow comes and buries the garlic for months.  The garlic is safe, and I am done with it. Come spring, garlic will sprout up first—a significant part of the garden all set for the growing season.

This year, like most, the garlic harvest came after the peas and spring greens were spent and before the green beans were really coming on.  I’ve been stealing a bulb here and there for cooking, but not worrying about the garlic at all. 

You have a much wider window of opportunity for harvesting garlic than most plants.  Yes, if you wait too long, it could rot in the ground, or at least the outer skins could rot away, leaving the bare, unprotected cloves.  But generally you can wait for a nice sunny day for the garlic harvest.  

Just harvested garlic left to dry

Of course, I am grateful for the flavor garlic brings to food.  Neither Italian nor Chinese foods would tantalize like they do without garlic.  Without garlic, there would be no Jewish half sour pickles, no French aïoli (garlic mayonnaise), no Italian spaghetti aglio e olio (pasta with garlic and oil), no Spanish gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp), nor Greek skordalia (a dip of potatoes and garlic).

Finally, I am grateful for any reason to cool myself in the river where I wash my bulbs.  I sit in the river, rub the dirt from the bulbs, and plunk them into a-five gallon bucket.  And then I think to myself, work doesn’t get any better than this.
The river where I wash my garlic

Marcella Hazan has a perfect recipe for spaghetti with garlic and oil, with a variation that includes tomatoes.  

Spaghetti with garlic, oil, and tomatoesI followed her version fairly faithfully, using 1 pound of vermicelli, ½ cup good extra virgin olive oil, and 4 cloves garlic.  A little basil to garnish, salt and pepper.

Yellow Taxi tomato, black Nyagous tomatoes, and Romas, with garlic and basil First the oil goes in the bowl, then the garlic, then the tomatoes. Add the hot pasta and toss. Garnish with basil. Simple.

 That’s it.  I doubled the tomatoes, however, and didn’t bother to peel and seed them.  It is summer, after all.  Who has time to peel tomatoes?  The river calls.