Feature

The art of preserving tomatoes

Green Lifestyle magazine

With an end of summer tomato glut, it's time to get creative with the art of preserving them for a year-long supply.

tomato-glut-story

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Tomatoes! Oh how we love them. All through spring we wait and hope, stewarding our seeds carefully to flowering bush, and then all of a sudden they’re everywhere. Which is wonderful, as long as you’re prepared.

After we’ve had home-grown tomatoes as the primary ingredient of 12 meals straight, the preserving bug tends to kick in. Partly because we want the goodness of tomatoes with us through every season, and partly because there’s buckets of them everywhere.

Last year during tomato season we threw ourselves into passata making. Passata is basically crushed tomatoes with the skins and seeds removed and (according to which Italian nonna you talk to) perhaps also reduced over heat to thicken the mix.

Passata making is a wonderfully messy business, and results in a kitchen splattered with tomato in every direction. Not that that is a bad thing, but it is definitely part of the process, which is why (so I’m told) the preferred family passata making spot should be the garage, as it’s easiest to hose out the walls and floor afterwards.

So that was last year. Masses of passata, everywhere we looked. We bottled it up, preserved it all, and we finally polished off the last bottle in December.

This year, we’re heading for a simpler method for preserving the majority of our tomato crop – diced tomatoes. No machines, no murder scenes, just chop them up and plunk them in jars, seeds, skin and all.
Once in jars, the tomatoes go through the same sterilisation process as the jars of passata did, and there you have it - shelves of preserved diced tomatoes.

One of the biggest advantages for us of this preserving technique is that everyone can process the tomatoes simultaneously, and we’re only limited by the amounts of chopping boards, knives and willing hands. Before you know it, it’s all in bottles and boiling away in the preserving vats.

The other thing I like about the diced tomatoes option is that all the goodness makes it to the jar – if we’re talking home-grown tomatoes here, all those seeds and skins are packed with vitamins and minerals, and those are part of what I want to be feeding my family in the dead of winter – summer in a jar, literally.

Lastly, jars of diced tomatoes look beautiful. Row upon row of preserved food is becoming our primary kitchen aesthetic these days, and I love it. Shelves full of spring, summer and autumn sit there like an edible calendar, reminding me all year round of the goodness that each season in the garden can bring.

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Kirsten Bradley, with her partner Nick Ritar, owns and runs Milkwood Permaculture, www.milkwoodpermaculture.com.au.