As the last fresh tomatoes ripen on the vine, here are my favorite ways to make the most of them before they’re gone.
Every fall for the past several years, I’ve taught a tomato canning workshop with the Prairie Mountain Folk School. I set up an outdoor production kitchen, and we process over 80 pounds of tomatoes in jars.
Canning tomatoes is a fall ritual, one that is better with company. I love the experience of scalding, peeling, jarring and boiling those tasty tomatoes, the easy conversations, the shared labors.
Not this year.
The past few cold nights have turned my tomato plants to golden. Time to face the fact that fall is here and the window on tomato season is quickly closing.
When You Don’t Have Time for Canning
This morning I got up early because I have a box of fresh tomatoes in my basement. I ordered them with the intention of canning them. But then, so many things got in the way.
A whole box of fresh produce is such a luxury. But it’s also a responsibility to process it at its freshest. Everyone who cans has a sad tale of the box of cucumbers, peaches or tomatoes that sat around for a day too long.
Yes, canning is my number one. But when I can’t squeeze it in, here are my favorite ways to reap the benefits of fresh tomatoes before they’re gone for another year!
Make any of these recipes in bulk now and freeze them for later.
7 Ways to Use Fresh Tomatoes
This technique is my favorite short-cut method for preserving tomatoes for the freezer. It makes the best tomato soups, tomato sauce, ratatouille and meat and vegetable braises, so it's worth having lots on hand.
This recipe is all about the tomatoes. They must be vine-ripened with a nice balance of acidity and sweetness. Here’s the test: if it’s great eating raw, it will be perfect for your batch of “stewies.” As for the toast, I do not butter it because I prefer to use my allotment for the stewed tomatoes instead. My Dad always butters his toast. Do what you will but be sure to have sufficient toast for wiping out your bowl when you’re done.
I make this recipe from home-canned tomatoes or roasted whole tomatoes. You can substitute a 28-ounce can whole peeled or, preferably, roasted tomatoes. Serve with cheese toasts or grilled cheese for dipping for a simple weeknight supper.
Once you have a batch of confit cherry tomatoes, there’s no limit to what you can do with them: toss with cooked pasta and fresh herbs, serve on toast or freeze in storage bags for later use. For these tartlets, the oil from the confit is used to layer filo dough into muffin tins. Be as sparing as you can with the oil for the best results. These are terrific appetizers or a late-summer lunch when served with a salad.
Since my cookbook self-destructed, this is my recollection and reproduction of Madhur Jaffrey’s original recipe. It is onion-y, slick with olive oil and all you need for a simple supper. As you can tell, it comes together very quickly. I serve it with flatbreads for dipping.
Make meatballs any day of the week with this streamlined technique by cooking the meatballs right in a simple tomato sauce. Once that’s done, you can take this any direction: meatball subs, baked ziti, with sauteed spinach or make a comfort classic: spaghetti and meatballs. I like to make small meatballs so they cook quicker and we all eat less meat.
This savory tomato jam is for far more than toast. Try it with goat cheese for a cracker spread, over roast pork or on a BLT. This makes a small batch, which you can increase proportionately for a bumper crop of cherry tomatoes.