Preservation and Preparation – Roast Tomatoes
You may have noticed that we have been getting tomatoes…
Our CSA farm grows many fields of tomatoes, well aware that this is something the Customer Likes. We even got tomatoes the year Blight hit the Northeast badly – by some luck (and some good planning) they’d just brought new fields under cultivation which had not been infected!
We eat them in salads. We eat them with feta and peppers. We eat them with bean tacos. I make salsa and clafoutis and Health Salad. I cut them up and add them to sauteed dishes as the liquid to finish. We enjoy every one of them, knowing the season is limited. And we still have tomatoes…
We have other wonderful seasonal foods, too… Rich brought home pounds of peppers the other day, both hot and sweet. I just chopped and froze some, I sauteed others to freeze all ready to go. I’m pureeing and freezing herbs, one batch at a time. I have more celery, and carrots have been sitting there being ignored in favor of more perishable foods, so mirepoix will happen. And big pungent scallions (getting a bit strong for a salad) – I’ve pickled them, in the past, but also just cut them up and froze them to use during the year in Asian soups and stir fries. That worked amazingly well,so I’ll do it again.
And back to the tomatoes… The classic thing, of course, is to can them, especially if you have plum tomatoes. I don’t really have that many, though, and I’ve been able to get some very good canned tomatoes to use during the year, so that doesn’t seem to make sense for me. (And, well, for me there is still the whole issue of not embarking on a big complex job that I can’t stop in the middle…)
Besides – what I really want to preserve is the fresh flavor. Last year, when I was suddenly inundated with cherry tomatoes, I froze some – and then, during the winter, tossed a few into casseroles, or frittatas, where they gave me a little burst of summer. That clafoutis is going to happen again… The other day, I just washed a pint of pear tomatoes, dried them thoroughly, and put them into a quart freezer bag. Then I spread it out and lay the bag flat, so they froze individually – I will be able to add more later, if we don’t get a killing frost.
Then I took the big basket of other tomatoes… I put aside the heirloom slicing tomatoes – I save them for salads where we can fully appreciate them. I did have a few green paste tomatoes, though, and used them. Otherwise, most of them were the size of a small ball (golf ball, maybe? I don’t play golf…) with some plum and others mixed in.
I decided to roast them. The process dries them (though not to the point of dehydration) which both intensifies the flavor and shrinks them down considerably. I cut most of them in half, a few in quarters, trimmed cores, and set them out on a baking sheet in a single layer. (I covered the sheet with parchment, first, to prevent sticking and make cleanup easier – that step is optional.) I also drizzled a little olive oil over them all, mixed them up to coat them in it, and then spread them out again in that single layer. You can add a little salt, or other seasoning, at this point if you want to – I wanted these unseasoned, to keep them more versatile.
Then I popped the sheet into a 350° oven, and ignored it for an hour… Timing is going to vary considerably, because different tomatoes have more or less juice, and large pieces will take longer than small pieces, and really, I have to tell you to start checking at one hour but it will probably take longer. Possibly quite a bit longer.
In fact, since these were very juicy tomatoes and I’d kept the pieces on the large size, it took two hours. I could have taken them out 5-10 minutes earlier, if I didn’t want the caramelization – but that was fine with me. Make sure, though, that it doesn’t cross over into actual burning. I did that one year, roasting at a higher temperature, and, while they were still useable, it wasn’t quite what I’d had in mind…
Now, you can just use them right away like this. In fact, the day after I roasted these, a friend posted pictures on Facebook of tomatoes she roasted – and the pasta she then tossed them with, that night, for dinner. But I put them in another quart freezer bag, and froze them flat… I can fit this much in my apartment freezer, and again – we’ll really appreciate these flavors next winter.
Obviously you don’t need to do any of this. If your time and energy are tight, you may not want to – and if you don’t have a source of good seasonal local vegetables, there’s not so much point. In the Planning For Meals context, a jar of pesto and one of sundried tomatoes gives you much (though really – not all… I do use them, too) of the flavor. And, while I still do recommend sauteing and freezing aromatics to make cooking easier, you can do that all year, whenever it is convenient.
But if you do have a large basket of juicy tomatoes that you can’t possibly eat this week…
An easy way to preserve tomatoes in small batches - workable in an apartment - to carry summer flavor over to mid winter.
10 minPrep Time
1 hr, 30 Cook Time
- Fresh, ripe tomatoes
- Olive oil
- Take the best, ripest, freshest tomatoes you have. Wash them carefully. Cut them in half, at least, smaller if it makes sense, and remove any hard core.
- Spread them out on a baking sheet in a single layer (to be sure they all fit.) Drizzle a little olive oil over them, and toss in the oil.
- Bake at 350 for at least an hour, probably more. After the hour, check every 10-15 minutes to see if they are done - you want them to shrink and dry quite a bit, without burning. When the edges start to caramelize, remove them from the oven, and let cool.
- Eat at once, if you want, or package in a freezer bag for later use.