Preserving tomatoes

Michigan Fresh tomatoes can be frozen or canned.

Michigan Fresh tomatoes are becoming available in gardens and at your local markets. Michigan grown tomatoes are one of my favorite vegetables and we are watching ours ripen in our garden. Michigan State University Extension recommends that you wash your hands before preparing any fresh produce. The fresh produce needs to be rinsed well with lukewarm water before any further preparation takes place.

Recommended storage and use tips for your fresh tomatoes include the following tips:

  • Wash hands before and after handling fresh produce.
  • Store ripe tomatoes in the refrigerator’s vegetable crisper. They do not need to be bagged. Ripe tomatoes will usually keep two to three days in the refrigerator.
  • If tomatoes need to ripen, place them in a loosely closed paper bag at room temperature. Check daily.
  • For best flavor, bring tomatoes to room temperature before serving.
  • Wash tomatoes using cool running water before preparing or eating.
  • Keep tomatoes away from raw meat and meat juices to prevent cross contamination.

Preserving Tomatoes

Select only disease-free, preferably vine-ripened, firm fruit for canning. Slicing varieties are good choices for making juice and crushed and whole tomato products. Paste tomatoes are good for making sauce, ketchup and purees. Yellow tomatoes are not really any lower in acid than red; they contain more sugar and, therefore, have a sweeter taste.

Do not can tomatoes from dead or frost-killed vines because they have a high microbial load that you don’t want to consume. Green tomatoes are more acidic than ripened fruit. You may can them safely with any of the following recommendations.

Acidification: Tomatoes must be acidified before canning them. To ensure safe acidity in whole, crushed or juiced tomatoes, add two tablespoons of bottled lemon juice or 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid per quart of tomatoes. For pints, use one tablespoon bottled lemon juice or 1/4 teaspoon citric acid. You can add lemon juice or citric acid directly to the jars before filling with the product. Add sugar to offset acid taste, if desired. Four tablespoons of a 5-percent acidity vinegar per quart may be used instead of lemon juice or citric acid. However, vinegar may cause undesirable flavor change.

Canning

Tomatoes – whole or halved – no added liquid

Raw Pack – Wash tomatoes and dip in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds or until skins split. Then dip in cold water, slip off skins and remove cores. Leave whole or halve and trim off any bruised or discolored areas. Add bottled lemon juice or citric acid (see acidification directions above). Add 1/2 teaspoon salt to each pint jar; one teaspoon salt to each quart, if desired. Fill jars with raw tomatoes, pressing until spaces between them fill with juice. Leave 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe jar rims. Adjust lids and process. Process:

  • In a boiling-water bath: Pints or Quarts for 85 minutes at 0-1,000 feet altitude.
  • In a dial-gauge pressure canner at: 11 pounds pressure at 0-2,000 feet altitude—Pints or Quarts 25 minutes
  • In a weighted-gauge pressure canner at 10 pounds pressure at 0-1,000 feet altitude—Pints or Quarts 25 minutes

Let jars sit undisturbed while they cool from 12 to 24 hours. Then remove rings, wash jars, label, date and store.

Freezing

You may freeze tomatoes whole, sliced, chopped or pureed. In recipes, do not try to substitute frozen tomatoes for fresh tomatoes. Freezing causes their texture to become mushy. Season tomatoes before serving rather than before freezing. Freezing may either strengthen or weaken seasonings such as garlic, onion and herbs.

Freezing whole tomatoes with peels: Select firm, ripe tomatoes with stems removed. Wash each tomato with water. Rub its surface, rinse it with running water and dry it with a paper towel. Place the tomatoes on cookie sheets and freeze. You do not need to blanch them before freezing. Once frozen, transfer them from cookie sheets into freezer bags or other containers. Seal tightly. Label and date the bag or container.

Freezing peeled tomatoes: Wash tomatoes as directed above and then dip into boiling water for about 1 minute or until skins split. Remove tomatoes from boiling water, and immediately place them in ice water. Then peel and freeze.

Be sure to check out all of the Michigan Fresh fact sheets with recipes, gardening tips and preservation techniques for over eighty Michigan grown foods available for free online. The goal of Michigan Fresh is to help you and your family eat, preserve, grow and learn about all that’s Michigan Fresh. It’s Michigan Fresh…for you!

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