What is better than fresh salsa, homemade gazpacho, or perfectly crafted pasta sauce? Tomatoes are in season and ready to be brought to the table, but what happens when you have too many? We talked with Minnesota Grown member Jodi Brown from Brown Family Farm in Big Lake about preparing and canning excess tomatoes.
Jodi recommends starting by picking tomatoes which are plump, bright in color, and firm. To measure firmness, a good tomato should have some give under the pressure of a light squeeze, but not risk collapsing inward. They should be free from bruises and blemishes. The tomato should be dense, which is an indication of its juiciness. Tomatoes do ripen after they are picked but may not develop optimum taste. Therefore, look for the words “vine-ripened” when shopping.
If you have excess tomatoes, there are many preservation methods you can use to enjoy local tomatoes all year long. Blanch the tomatoes to ensure easy removal of the skin. To start, remove the core of your tomatoes and place them in boiling water for 3-4 minutes. “It is better to leave them in the water too long than to take them out too soon,” Brown mentioned. After the tomatoes are done boiling, take them out of the water and immediately place them in cold water to cool them down. Once they are cool enough to touch, remove the skin. After the tomatoes are peeled, dice them for use in a number of dishes or canning recipes.
“I like to make marinara sauce or salsa with my excess tomatoes,” said Brown. “It does not take long to can after the tomatoes are in the jars.” The University of Minnesota Extension has some great recipes and other resources around canning, including a helpful acidification chart. For more canning ideas, check out this month’s Pickling Beyond Cucumbers article. Looking for tomatoes to enjoy? The Minnesota Grown Directory has 84 farms who are ready to provide you with this nutritious fruit!