If you, like many people including myself, planted a few too many tomatoes in the garden and now find yourself with a tomato surplus, then this post is for you. Sadly, fresh tomatoes do not keep, so it’s important to preserve them in this state of perfect ripeness so that we may savor the flavor of a garden tomato on cold winter evenings. A little work now makes for a lot of enjoyment later – trust me, it’s worth it!



Oven-Roasted Tomatoes

One of my go-to methods for tomato preservation is oven-roasting and freezing them – and as a bonus, it’s also a great way to warm up the kitchen during these cooler end-of-summer days. Paste tomatoes are the standard for preservation methods like this, but big, juicy heirlooms are delicious when prepared in this way too. And in fact, I prefer them since the flavors are so complex and the sweetness is unmatched by any paste. Once the tomatoes are roasted and frozen they are versatile – they can become a quick and simple tomato soup or cook them down with herbs, garlic, and onions to make an amazing tomato sauce.

Ingredients
tomatoes
olive oil

Optional Additions:
cloves of garlic
fresh herbs (rosemary, basil, oregano)

Process

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Wash and slice your tomatoes in half length-wise if using paste tomatoes, or in large chunks if you are using heirlooms.
  3. Drizzle a shallow baking sheet with olive oil and arrange tomatoes in a single layer, cut side up. Drizzle slices with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Roast until the skins become wrinkly and browned on the bottom. Much of the liquid will roast off, so the juicier tomato variety you are using the longer the roasting process will take. Plan for sometime between 50 minutes and 2 hours.
  5. Let tomatoes cool and then slide them into a container for freezing. Freezer bags, mason jars, or tupperware containers will work– whatever you have the room for. Be sure to leave about an inch of headspace for expansion if you freeze them in a mason jar.

Additional Tips:
-Lining your baking sheet with parchment paper makes clean up easier.
-You can puree the tomatoes before you freeze them, or you can just puree them when you thaw them and are planning to use them.

Dehydrated Tomatoes

Another easy way to preserve tomatoes is by using a food dehydrator. I find it’s easiest to dry smaller tomatoes. I grow a tomato called Juliet, which is a large grape tomato, just for the purpose of drying.

  1. Slice cherry or grape tomatoes in half length-wise. Place on dehydrator rack cut side up if using cherry or grape tomatoes.
  2. Set the dehydrator to 135-140 degrees and let them dry. Check them regularly, rotate the dehydrator trays as needed, and remove the pieces that dry before others. The average time is about 8 – 12 hours total. Dried tomatoes will be reduced in size, shriveled and leathery, but not tacky. Remove tomatoes from the dehydrator and allow them to cool thoroughly. Store in an airtight container.

*Note: You can dry larger slicing tomatoes, but you’ll need to coat the dehydrator racks with vegetable spray or olive oil to keep them from sticking and slice them into ¼ inch thick slices.