I have been so busy with tomatoes this year! For as poorly as our peppers produced, our tomatoes made up for it! My husband loves tomato and mayonnaise sandwiches, so he is a happy camper! We make our own spaghetti and pizza sauce each year. This year, because we have a bumper crop of tomatoes, we are going to try some new recipes as well!
My mom and I work together to make sauce and can or freeze it, which is a large part of the reason we have so many tomatoes. We like to just do a big batch of sauce once, and not have to worry about a bunch of little batches throughout the late summer. But, we ran into issues with this. Tomatoes do not ripen all at once. And if they did, it would be overwhelming! So, a few years back, we came up with a solution!
As the tomatoes ripen, we begin the process of cooking them down. We core the tomatoes and cut them into chunks. Then, we cook them down over low to medium heat, skins, seeds, and all. I like to cover the bottom of the pot with water, to help prevent the tomatoes from burning fast to the pot.
Cooking time for the tomatoes varies. Depending on the time I have, I may cook them a little longer to save time when we actually make the sauce. If I have all day, I like to cook the tomatoes down, and then keep adding fresh tomatoes until the sauce is pretty thick.
Once the tomatoes have cooked sufficiently (the tomatoes at least need to be soft), I run them through a food mill. This removes the skins and seeds. I know some people who blanch and peel the tomatoes before cooking them. I prefer not to do that for two reasons: I do not care for seeds in my sauce and I do not like blanching and peeling tomatoes! However, if you enjoy peeling tomatoes, go for it!
The sauce needs to cool after it has been run through the food mill. I try to let it cool for at least two hours, but it usually takes longer than that, just because of the sheer amount of sauce in the bowl!
And now, here is our helpful hint! We scoop the tomato sauce into gallon freezer bags, seal them, and lay them flat in the freezer to freeze until we decide to do our big batch of sauce! This way, when we go to make our sauces and other tomato-based goodies, a good portion of the work is already finished! Plus, this allows us the freedom to choose the weekend when we cook sauce and does not confine us within the time constraints of ripening tomatoes.
We still have quite a few tomatoes to cook down in the garden, so I am going to be working on this first step for a while yet! It is amazing the amount of fruit each tomato plant can produce!
I hope you find this tip helpful, especially if you struggle to keep up with canning tomatoes as they ripen in your garden. Check back in a few weeks for several tomato recipes you’ll want to try!