Gardening Diary: Preserving Tomatoes by Freezing, Oven Drying & Canning

cherry tomatoes ripening on the vine

My garden will never produce as many tomatoes as I’d like…even though I’m getting full bowlfuls every couple of days, it is never enough! Tomatoes are the perfect food. I adore them!

I’d love to someday grow enough tomatoes so I’d never have to purchase another can/carton of commercial tomatoes again, but that is not a reality this year, but I’m trying to make the best of what I have.

So, I have been learning about the many ways to preserve fresh garden produce for consumption in colder months.

I’ve made a lot of tomato sauce, sometimes with eggplant and peppers. I’m slow-cooking in the oven or in my crock pot. Then storing in freezer bags in my freezer.

I tried something new the other day and I think it’s going to be a favorite.

I was watching the Dehydration class over at breadbeckers.com and it inspired me to learn more about dehydration in the oven. I was thrilled to find out that my oven offers very low temperatures, as low as 100° so I experimented with a batch of cherry tomatoes.

sliced cherry tomatoes before oven drying

It took over 24 hours, experimenting with different temperatures (135-150°) depending on the time of day – it’s helpful if you use an oven thermometer to make sure oven temps aren’t off. The tomatoes dried to little jewels of sugary-flavorful-goodness!

oven dried cherry tomatoes

oven dried cherry tomatoes - close up

Then I spread them on a large plate, and flash-froze them, then bagged them in a quart freezer bag for freezer storage. I know it could be possible to maybe store in a jar, or in olive oil, but I figure that the freezer would be the safest method for now.

I finished drying a second batch yesterday morning, and they went into the freezer as well.

Next, I’m going to try some good ole fashioned canning! I haven’t decided if I’ll do a raw-pack or maybe stewed. I suppose I could try both!

I know I will not have enough of my own tomatoes, so I might be buying some “seconds” tomatoes at the local farm. One farm is selling 7 lbs for $5.99 while supplies last.

I’ve been pouring over canning cookbooks for the last week or so, trying to learn all I can (haha, no pun intended) and I hope that I love canning enough to keep doing it all year long. I have dreams of applesauce in the fall, and orange jam in the winter.

Exciting!

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