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Let's geek out about tomatoes

Any tomato lovers out there? I'm planning the garden for this year, and need some ideas and advice for my tomato patch.

What I really want to do this year is to reproduce some of the commercially made products I love, like dried tomatoes in oil, tomato sauce, tomato puree, chopped canned tomatoes.

Is there one kind of tomato that can do all that? Or two kinds?

I'm guessing a roma variety might be best, or something fleshy. I don't know. What do you think?

Also, how do you make dried tomatoes in oil NOT have the texture of hard, dry tomatoes and oil? The ones from the store taste amazing with a soft, chewy texture. The ones I make are just bla-boring. Could be I'm using the wrong kind of tomatoes, but probably my method sucks (put dry tomatoes in jar, cover with olive oil).

In conclusion: What variety of tomatoes should I grow this year? What's the most versatile variety/style of tomato? What are some of your favourite recipes for preserving tomatoes?

trampledbygeese is a trusted home cook.

asked almost 2 years ago
37 answers 782 views
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Pegeen

Pegeen is a trusted home cook.

added almost 2 years ago

Ahhh, the lure of seed catalogs during the dark days of January and February. Can't you spend hours looking at them?

Mike McGrath is one of my favorite resources on organic gardening. Here are some general tomato tips: http://www.gardensalive...

And I remember reading this article on SeriousEats.com on what tomatoes to use for fresh sauce: http://www.seriouseats...

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trampledbygeese

trampledbygeese is a trusted home cook.

added almost 2 years ago

Yes, I do love those seed catalogues. My grandfather use to start his tomatoes today (Feb 1st), every year. A couple of weeks early in my opinion, but it's got me thinking about tomatoes.

Last year I grew a tiny tomato called Wild Cherry. It was fantastic. All the flavour of a big tomato crammed into the size of a marble. Perfect tomato for cooking, just toss a handful into whatever is on the stove. However, the ones I dried have loads of flavour, but terribly tough skins.

This year I'm excited to try something new. Something that preserves well.

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Pegeen

Pegeen is a trusted home cook.

added almost 2 years ago

In case you don't know about them, Seed Savers.org:
http://www.seedsavers.org...

About the Wild Cherry tomato you liked so much... what about canning them or pickling instead of drying?

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trampledbygeese

trampledbygeese is a trusted home cook.

added almost 2 years ago

I adore seedsavers. I think they are absolutely amazing and it's thrilling to see people dedicated to preserving different varieties of food crops.

Sadly, shipping seeds across the 49th has had a bit of trouble this last year or so. A lot of seeds are 'accidentally' damaged as they pass that line (both ways). For the most part, importing seeds small scale, poses no big legal issues, but perhaps they have some new processing equipment that crushes/irradiates? I'm hesitant to order seeds from The US because of this new problem.

However, a great thing happened last year. Our local library decided that in addition to lending books, they would also lend seeds. With the seeds came free garden and seed saving training. You 'borrow' seeds like the Wild Cherry Tomato, grow them in the garden, then return the seed you save from your crop.

If you get a chance to grow the Wild Cherry Tomato, I highly recommend it. It only takes two plants to fulfill all your household, your friend's households, their friends... &c tomato needs for the summer. Early setter (ripe 10 days earlier than greenhouse tomatoes) and last to stop producing in the fall. The only downside is that they are about 50/50 seed/flesh and I think that I would really like something a bit more fleshy this year.

Never canned tomatoes before, but am looking forward to trying it. Do you have a favourite recipe? What is a pickled tomato like?

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Pegeen

Pegeen is a trusted home cook.

added almost 2 years ago

In case you don't know about them, Seed Savers.org:
http://www.seedsavers.org...

About the Wild Cherry tomato you liked so much... what about canning them or pickling instead of drying?

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added almost 2 years ago

TBG thank you for the inspiration to think about sun-warmed red fruit in the midst sof this dreary NW day. My favorite tomato for drying is Principe Borghese, prolific yield, great taste, thin skin. Plus, it's an heirloom and you can save seeds year to year if you are so inclined. I haven't tried the tomatoes in oil (I have a "thing" about botulism ;-) so I'm looking forward to what the F52 community recommends. I faithfully follow the tomato pruning recommendations foundation the Tauntoan Press site which has archived articles from their Kitchen Gatden magazine. A little more work, but big results in my climate where our first tomatoes ripen in... August!

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added almost 2 years ago

Sheesh.. Found on the Taunton Press site... Kitchen GARDEN. Not sure what a Gatden is.

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trampledbygeese

trampledbygeese is a trusted home cook.

added almost 2 years ago

AUGUST!?! you poor, poor thing! I wish I could ship you some of my fresh tomats in midsummer.

Love the look of this Principe Borghese tomato. Looks like a nice bush variety with minimal care and space requirements (according to the seed catalogues). I'll keep an eye out for it at Seedy Saturday.

I'm also looking forward to hearing what people here have to say about tomatoes in oil. It's a pre-fridge technique, so I imagine there must be minimal risk WHEN done correctly. Now, how to discover what correctly entails.

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added almost 2 years ago

For versatility, I really like Amish Paste, which I've grown the last two years. It's an heirloom variety (seed is widely available) with the oblong Roma/San Marzano shape, but much bigger than standard Romas and juicier, too, with less mealiness than most paste-type tomatoes. It's one of the few paste tomatoes that can work as a slicer, and it's very good in fresh salsas.

For dried tomatoes, I've found that good-tasting cherry tomato varieties work well, although admittedly it's a pain to halve dozens/hundreds of itty bitty fruits. Sungold and Sweet Million are favorites for that. They're both very prolific, so there are times when you've got to do something to prevent being inundated with them.

I have to say that, here in the dead of winter, it's hard to believe that not many months ago an excess of delicious tomatoes was a problem. Wish I had such a problem all year!

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Pegeen

Pegeen is a trusted home cook.

added almost 2 years ago

trampledbygeese, thanks for sharing info about your library's seed exchange program. What a fantastic idea and great way to get kids involved in planting food. I plan to check with my local libraries on whether they've looked into similar programs.

As far as canning goes, I was thinking that canning might be a way to avoid the tough skins you're concerned about with your Wild Cherry tomato. The Ball company's Blue Book of Canning is a classic. http://www.freshpreserving... and I'm sure there are more.

Of course, you wouldn't usually pickle tomatoes with which you plan to make sauce but they are delicious. Will look up a couple references.

Now I want it to be August!

8bbce907 3b5e 4c8c be5c c64e6c780d63  birthday 2012
luvcookbooks

Meg is a trusted home cook.

added almost 2 years ago

Hi, I think geeking out about tomatoes is a great idea!! I can tomatoes, oven roast and freeze, and make ketchup. By products: tomato water from the guts when canning. Let them drain in a colander while you are busy canning. When you take a break, you have tomato wTer. At the end of the day, make a delicious Bloody Mary. The skins of the tomatoes can be dried in the oven and make a kind of paprika looking flavoring. Ambitions: tomato jam, sauce. I like fat tomatoes for canning. Roma's aren't that flavorful to me. I live Green Zebras. For slow roasted tomatoes, cherry tomatoes are quick. If you slow roast them w olive oil, garlic and thyme but not til dry, them stick them in a freezer bag, you have better than store bought dried tomatoes, IMHO.

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trampledbygeese

trampledbygeese is a trusted home cook.

added almost 2 years ago

Great advice. Those green zebras look very interesting.

I don't know if you get it in the US but here we have a drink made from tomato juice, clam juice and spices called Clamato. It's the most amazing drink. Add vodka and a celery stick to it and you get a Caesar (drink not salad). Your bloody mary reminded me of how yummy that is... I wonder... how hard would it be to make my own Clamato Juice? Where does one even get clam juice?

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ktr
added almost 2 years ago

Slow roasting with garlic and olive oil is how I make "sun dried tomatoes" as well. I have found that cherry tomatoes or other small tomatoes work best for this. I canned a couple different tomato sauces this year. At the beginning of the summer (well, actually more like the middle of it before I had tomatoes to can), I made tomato sauce by peeling the tomatoes and then cooking them down on the stovetop with spices. By the end of the summer, I got lazy and couldn't stand the thought of peeling more tomatoes. I found a recipe online for tomato sauce made without peeling the tomatoes. I just filled up a baking sheet with tomatoes cut in half (or quarters for the really big ones) and roasted them with olive oil, garlic and whatever herbs I happened to have around. Then I put them in my blender and blended them until they formed a smooth sauce. If you don't have a high powered blender you will likely have to strain your sauce after blending them. We have found we actually like the unpeeled sauce better than the peeled version. I have dreams of some year canning enough diced tomatoes to last us all year, but I know that I will get sick of all the peeling and end up just making more sauce.

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added almost 2 years ago

ktr, a food mill makes quick work of separating cooked tomato pulp from the skins (and the seeds), and the resulting puree has more texture than tomato sauce put through a blender--a good thing, in my book.

A good tool for many other kitchen tasks where you want to separate soft pulp from hard or fibrous matter, too.

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ktr
added almost 2 years ago

Good point. I forgot about the food mill. My parents use one when canning. I like not having to cook my sauce down though and I need to get rid of things in my kitchen, not add to it, so I'll probably stick to the method I've been using but I can see how the food mill would produce a different texture.

8bbce907 3b5e 4c8c be5c c64e6c780d63  birthday 2012
luvcookbooks

Meg is a trusted home cook.

added almost 2 years ago

I have a related question. I followed recommendations to add citric acid to each jar of canned tomatoes for food safety, but felt that the tomatoes had a weird chemical acid taste. Any thoughts?

A9dfb40a 4837 42e7 a725 dec4d3e9e715  hillaryreeves 14
added almost 2 years ago

Hm... I've never done that for tomatoes. Just sanitized jars, tomatoes, a bit of salt and then a final boil. I use typical glass Mason jars.

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ktr
added almost 2 years ago

I add lemon juice to my tomatoes. My mom doesn't add any to hers but she pressure cans her tomatoes and I water bath mine.

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added almost 2 years ago

I add lemon juice rather than citric acid, Prefer the bottled organic variety for its consistency across the bottles.

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added almost 2 years ago

I meant bottled organic lemon juice for consistency across the canned jars of tomatoes

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trampledbygeese

trampledbygeese is a trusted home cook.

added almost 2 years ago

Why are we adding acid to tomatoes when canning? Is this something to do with boil canning or for pressure as well?

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ktr
added almost 2 years ago

This explains it pretty well: http://www.foodsafety.wisc...

A9dfb40a 4837 42e7 a725 dec4d3e9e715  hillaryreeves 14
added almost 2 years ago

My best friend is from Sicily and every summer her family orders crates & crates of roma tomatoes from a farm in New Jersey for canning. They use those tomatoes year-round at her father's restaurant. They definitely set me up to believe that romas are the best for this kind of thing! Fewer seeds, easy to peel...

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added almost 2 years ago

Get the Fedco catalog (or order from them online). For a canning tomato, I have had good results with Opalka. I also like Granadero, a paste type sold by Johnnys Selected Seeds. Their Juliet, a kind of small Roma, is also versatile and will come through in even a cool summer. I do like their Jasper for a cherry type---better than Sungold and the rest as it is crack-resistant. And then there are all of the regular eating tomatoes, any of which can be made into oven-roasted tomato sauce. For sauce and puree, you do want a "paste" tomato, of which there are many varieties other than the Roma.

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added almost 2 years ago

Apart from canning tomatoes and making relish, I set aside the firmer fruits (berries?) aside to oven dry them over a bed of salt. Quarter the tomatoes length wise. line a baking sheet with parchment and pour out an even layer of coarse sea salt, lay the tomatoes cut side up and oven dry them at 225 F for a couple of hours.

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added almost 2 years ago

trampled... I found this post by a blogger who researched sun dried tomatoes in oil and wound up in my backyard! She cites Jan Roberts-Dominguez ( trusted Corvallis, OR food/preservation columnist) writing about sun dried tomatoes in oil. In a nutshell, treating the tomatoes with vinegar is the key. More details here: http://anoregoncottage... . I look forward to additional input from other Food52 members.

Two other tomato varieties I've enjoyed -- a big, colorful paste type "Berkeley Tie-dye" and the darkly mysterious and flavorful "Black from Tula". Check out www.tomatofest.com, too!

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trampledbygeese

trampledbygeese is a trusted home cook.

added almost 2 years ago

Thank you VERY MUCH. Great link, especially the first one. I'm totally geeking out over that one.

8bbce907 3b5e 4c8c be5c c64e6c780d63  birthday 2012
luvcookbooks

Meg is a trusted home cook.

added almost 2 years ago

Arcane54, thanks for the vinegar info and the varieties. Tbg, I added the citric acid to hot water bath canned tomatoes since I was advised that acidity is not always uniform. The acid environment is inhospitable to botulism. Will try lemon juice, since the citric acid tSted so bad. Apparently bottled lemon juice is safer since acidity varies among lemons as well. Another option is buying a pH meter, might be worth it. Never dreamed I would geek out so hard. My mom and I water bath canned for decades without a thought for pH but now that I have reD about the question of low acidity I am afraid not to pY attention.

8bbce907 3b5e 4c8c be5c c64e6c780d63  birthday 2012
luvcookbooks

Meg is a trusted home cook.

added almost 2 years ago

Canning for a New Generation by Liana Kisselgoff is the reference for tomato preserving. Great book and has a section on preserving quinces. Is anyone interested in geeking out about quinces? I want to plant a tree but only have room for one and am torn about variety.

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trampledbygeese

trampledbygeese is a trusted home cook.

added almost 2 years ago

What are all the different methods of preserving tomatoes?

I've tried:
Drying
Drying and covering with oil
Freezing

Haven't tried yet but want to:
Canning (sauce, chopped, whole, puree, salsa, ketchup, soup)
Fermenting

Anything I missed? I'm especially interested in pre-canning preservation methods.

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added almost 2 years ago

One of my favorite ways to preserve tomatoes (darn you Dan Quayle, I always second-guess my spelling of the plural) is to roast halved tomatoes (350-375F) with onion wedges, garlic cloves, herbs and salt of course, until everything is nicely collapsed and soft and a bit charred in place. Then I slip the skins from the tomatoes and garlic, buzz the tomato skins in the food processor for a bit to break them up and then add all the rest of the juicy goodness. I freeze quart-sized portions to use in sauces, as a soup base (excellent!), etc. Sometimes I add a bit of orange juice in which case thyme is an especially lovely pairing.

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added almost 2 years ago

Here is another great source for heirloom seeds,including Borghese tomatoes for drying: http://www.seedlibrary... The Hudson Valley Seed Library was created literally in my local library ans has since grown to an independent business.

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trampledbygeese

trampledbygeese is a trusted home cook.

added almost 2 years ago

Going back to drying tomatoes and storing in olive oil. After bumming about on google and reading the fabulous links you guys provided, here's what I think I'm doing wrong.

1. Using cherry or juicy tomato.

I need to grow a fleshy tomato, preferably with a thin skin. Or I could water the plants more so that they don't fourm so tough a skin. Also field tomatoes usually have thinner skin than greenhouse ones (at least in my garden - again probably watering issue).

2. Drying until crisp, leaving seeds in.

This year, I will scoop out the seeds and only dry until rubbery.

3. Just add oil

This year I want to experiment with adding dry herbs, coating tomats in vinegar, and heating the oil until I discover which one tastes the best for me.

So what are your thoughts? Did I miss anything?

Some people add salt to their dried tomatoes in oil. Is that for flavour, or to discourage the unpleasant invisible beasties, or both?

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added almost 2 years ago

You might also want to check out tomatofest.com to see what varieties might interest you. They have a section on paste tomatoes. While I have grown some paste types (I've grown different types but any black tomato type is my preference), but generally grow all types and use them as they ripen in a variety of ways (what suits me at the time). In terms of preserving, I make ketchup, tomato soup, relishes, sauce -- preferring freezing to canning. Happy there are so many tomato geeks to hear from....

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added almost 2 years ago

One more thought..... Since I live in Montana, I grow or purchase my tomato plants before setting them out. The local farmer's market is a great source for plants, including heirlooms not found elsewhere.