What can I do with so many tomatoes?
September 1, 2013 6:02 PM   Subscribe

After years of gardening failure, our tomato plants are producing like crazy this year. We've been eating tomatoes raw, making spaghetti sauce, and having bruschetta with about half our meals. For breakfast, I had an egg inside a roasted tomato. I've been having tomato and cheese sandwiches for lunch. Every day after work I've been eating a whole, raw tomato. Despite all these efforts, we just can't eat the tomatoes fast enough. What can we do? Please suggest ways to consume more tomatoes now as well as things we could make now and eat later.
posted by Area Man to Food & Drink (29 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Home made ketchup. It's delicious and requires a ton of tomatoes.
posted by Dynex at 6:04 PM on September 1, 2013

Best answer: You can make and freeze tomato sauce and tomato paste (freeze in ice cubes).
posted by charmcityblues at 6:12 PM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Dry them in the oven. "Sun" dried tomatoes can keep a long time if you store them right and are very tasty.
posted by xingcat at 6:12 PM on September 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Canning tomatoes isn't that hard, if you want to try. A case of pint canning jars would take care of 20 pounds of tomatoes in one go, and costs less than 20 bucks - and you can use the jars over and just get new tops next time.

But you can also freeze whole tomatoes easy as well - wash, drop in a freezer bag, freeze. Done. You can't use them raw after you thaw them, but they'll work for sauce or soup - just pull a tomato out of the bag and thaw. Slip the skin off after about 20 minutes just 'cause, and let it thaw in a bowl to catch the juice.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:20 PM on September 1, 2013 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Make shakshuka!
posted by asterix at 6:26 PM on September 1, 2013 [8 favorites]

Agree on canning. Lots of options: quarts of marinara sauce or tomato soup, pints of salsa (not equipped to search at the moment, but look for "canning Annie's salsa" and that's a good recipe for starters). I imagine you only have so much freezer space, so give canning a try. You don't need a pressure canner for tomatoes.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 6:30 PM on September 1, 2013

Yep, canning is easier than you think. Don't bother with a water bath for sterilizing the jars, just wash and put in the oven for half an hour at 200F. Dump lids in a bowl of just-boiling water and leave 'em in there until you cap your jars. Easy.
posted by Specklet at 6:35 PM on September 1, 2013

Rural Va. here, same story. Were visiting, and I've eaten more tomatoes in the last two weeks than during the entire last year.
We dried a good bunch in the oven and covered them with olive oil. We've also been cooking two enormous kettles of tomato sauce and canned it, after straining out the seeds. Nicely concentrated, with Basil. Wonderfully enough, the insane tomato pile here is now shrinking.
The basic technique, no matter what you do, is to cook/eat/dry/preserve as many tomatoes as you want to manage, and to give the rest back to nature. It's just the way of things.
posted by Namlit at 6:41 PM on September 1, 2013

If canning is intimidating, seriously the bag and freeze method will ensure you enjoy fantastic chili and spaghetti sauce well into the winter months. I sometimes throw in a few cloves of garlic and two handfulls of roughly chopped basil and parsley to make a sauce starter bag.

If you decide to can, a water-bath canner is relatively cheap and canning tomatoes is actually quite easy (if a little messy.) Salsa is also a great way to use up lots of produce. I recommend the Ball preserving cookbook if you're interested in getting started: lots of recipes for water-bath canning!

If you'd rather eat and not save, I make ratatouille in large batches. After a few days it gets better and it freezes like a dream if you need to.
posted by absquatulate at 6:45 PM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

You can just freeze tomatoes, without even blanching them. They freeze up like billiard balls, but when you defrost them the skins come off like they've been blanched.

I freeze individual tomatoes on a cutting board and then double-bag them the next day.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:52 PM on September 1, 2013

we just had a tomato thread recently. of course you could give some away if you just can't eat them all.
posted by wildflower at 6:55 PM on September 1, 2013

Could you put them in a box in a shady area near the road with an "on your honor" money box and charge maybe a quarter a tomato? I eat the things like apples and I would clean you out in a weekend. I was going to suggest free, but then someone will just take the whole box and the tomatoes will likely rot in their kitchen instead of yours.
posted by tllaya at 7:04 PM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Tomato season was a Thing when I was a kid, because my family grew precisely three million times more tomatoes than can possibly be eaten fresh. We made and canned lots of spaghetti sauce to use over the winter, but my grandfather also made and canned a sweet tomato chili sauce (this recipe looks similar). If you are willing to get into canning, this stuff could become your condiment of choice for all foods. Seriously, it was all I put on hamburgers or hot dogs as a kid. Ketchup was for chumps.
posted by pemberkins at 7:07 PM on September 1, 2013

RedBud (Mrs Mule) spends time in a community garden here in our little town. They take the food they grow to various senior centers, and such, in the area.
posted by mule98J at 7:08 PM on September 1, 2013

Tomato jam appeared in Bon Appetit and I was sort of intrigued.
posted by wintersweet at 7:18 PM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

I wish you could give them to me! Tomatoes here at the moment are these insipid greeny-orange things that look like plastic and probably taste like it too. Bleah.

Anyway, caprese salad, heavy on the tomato. I frequently use baby bocconcini and don't bother with the layering unless I'm trying to impress. Fresh salsa, I make up my own recipe but it includes lots of tomato, a bit of onion, minced garlic, minced chilli, lime juice and zest. I loathe coriander but you can definitely add it. It doesn't keep as long as jarred salsa, but keeps for some and is great to add to grilled cheese sandwiches, on top of fish, stir through pasta, etc as well as more traditional Mexican type uses.
posted by Athanassiel at 7:25 PM on September 1, 2013

Chilled Fresh Tomato Soup


Makes: Serves 4 | Difficulty: Easy


2 pounds tomatoes, cored
1 shallot, sliced thin (or equivalent amount of sweet onion*)
2 garlic cloves, unpeeled (or 1/2 to 1 tsp bottled minced garlic*)
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1/8 teaspoon sweet or smoked paprika (optional)
Pinch fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tsp Salt
Celery salt optionally
3-5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil *
1 teaspoon sherry ( or balsamic *)vinegar
Optional: reduced balsamic vinegar as needed for drizzling on top
*LRK adaptations

WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS: To create a chilled tomato soup recipe that produced a dish with complex flavor, we used a combination of fresh and roasted tomatoes. This gave us a dish with bright, tangy freshness as well as a deep, sweet flavor. We also used a small amount of tomato paste and lightly roasted garlic and shallot to boost the chilled tomato soup’s flavor.

In-season, locally grown tomatoes and good-quality extra-virgin olive oil are ideal for this recipe. Serve the soup with Garlic and Burrata Crostini or Frico.

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with heavy duty aluminum foil and lightly spray with vegetable oil spray.

2. Cut 1 pound tomatoes in half horizontally and arrange cut side up on prepared baking sheet leaving empty space in center. Arrange shallot or onion slices and garlic cloves (or minced) in single layer over center of baking sheet. Roast for 15 minutes, then remove shallot and garlic cloves. Return baking sheet to oven and continue to roast tomatoes until softened but not browned, 14-15 minutes longer. Let cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

3. If using whole garlic cloves, peel them, and place garlic in blender with roasted shallot or onion and roasted tomatoes. Cut remaining 1 pound tomatoes into eighths and add to blender along with tomato paste; paprika, if using; pepper; and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Puree until smooth. With blender motor running, drizzle in olive oil through hole in blender top in slow, steady stream; puree will turn orange in color.

4. Blend in vinegar. Cover and refrigerate (easiest to chill in blender pitcher) until well chilled and flavors have blended, at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours. (can put blender pitcher in freezer to speed chilling but do not freeze!)

5. To serve, re-blend soup to recombine (liquid separates on standing). Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and vinegar, as needed. Ladle soup into chilled bowls, and if desired, drizzle each bowl sparingly with reduced balsamic vinegar. Serve immediately.


My primary adaptation was not straining. ...unnecessary to do so when well puréed. Texture wonderful, creamy but airy without using thickeners.

Easier to remove onions and garlic from oven if they sit in oil sprayed tinfoil "bowl" in middle of foil lined baking sheet

Adapted from: http://www.cooksillustrated.com/recipes/detail.asp?docid=37567
posted by Lylo at 7:28 PM on September 1, 2013

Seconding just throw them into a freezer bag and pluck them out as needed for cooked recipes.

I also suggest slicing, dousing with olive oil and herbs, and roasting until they're chewy. Then you just scrape the results, oil and all, into freezer containers and use them to deepen flavor in sauces all year long. I do this and then blend it in with store-bought canned tomatoes for sauce or soup.

You could also try pickling cherry tomatoes. I had some on a salad at Barbette recently and they were a revelation--I decided that this winter, I'll pickle the inadequate grocery store cherry tomatoes before eating them, rather than having them "fresh".

Because they're acidic you don't need special equipment to can pickled tomatoes (or any tomatoes), just a big enough stock pot to cover jars with water. I'd do them in little half pints myself.

You're local to me so I could loan you the large stock pot as well as a food mill if you want to make and can sauce, and a medium level of canning expertise but nothing you can't get off any university extension website.
posted by padraigin at 8:04 PM on September 1, 2013

Best answer: If you are super lazy you can just wash them and freeze them whole. Come winter when you want some nice tomato flavour in a stew or whatever. Run the tomato under hot water and the skin pops right off and then throw it into the pot to cook down. Freezing whole changes the texture a little to more like that of a cooked one so it doesn't take much to cook down as it's mostly just defrosting. I make the worlds easiest tomato sauce that way.

Or I just oven roast great trays of them, just rinse them, chop them in half, I just roast the cherry ones whole, roast until the skins just start to darken but the tomatoes are still pretty juicy, run through a food mill and/or sieve to remove seeds and skin and pour into freezer bags for delicious tomato sauce (or you can can, water bath canning is super easy). So good and it really concentrates down the natural sweetness of the tomatoes and I think tastes better than sauce reduced on the stove top.
posted by wwax at 8:35 PM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Smoke them, if you have a smoker. The skins slip right off after and you can freeze them whole. Smoked tomatoes are my secret ingredient in many things.
posted by KathrynT at 9:34 PM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

You can also make your own tomato juice. Drink it fresh or put it up in glass jars.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 10:23 PM on September 1, 2013

I've thrown them whole and washed into Ziploc freezer bags and used them as needed in soups and sauce. The texture is goopy, but at that point they'd be goopy anyway if they were coming out of a can of crushed tomatoes or something, and the flavor is still really good.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:21 AM on September 2, 2013

Ha! I nearly posted a similar question yesterday after receiving a big bag of tomatoes from a friend's garden (and with the additional problem of a teeny freezer space, and having eaten tomato salads and tomato with pasta and tomato sandwiches and tomatotomatotomato all summer, so feeling a bit jaded). So far I've decided on making tomato confit (via gudrun, in another tomato thread) to store in the fridge for a couple of weeks (though I read it can be frozen, too), and in the short term, tomato pie from this recipe which seems pretty close to a much beloved, but lost, recipe from the pre-digital era. I also came across a tomato pie recipe from the late, fabulous Lori Colwin (scroll down for description followed by recipe) that could be my missing precious.

I'm also thinking about tomato chutney (alternative, more complicated recipe here, which also has good tips for jarring) for storing, and Turkish "Ezme" (1, 2) for gobbling.

Sadly, I can't get grits, but if I could, this recipe for Hot Tomato Grits would probably be my complete undoing. (Though maybe I can manage to undo myself with some Fried Polenta and Tomato Basil Sauce.)

Also, here's an earlier thread about tomato sauces and sauce-likes that might be helpful.
posted by taz at 2:50 AM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm actually going through my Annual Tomato Ordeal (a local farmer has a "canning special" where you can buy a big box for $15, and I get that once a year and spend the weekend canning) and can attest that about 6 pounds of tomatoes makes up about 3 and a half pints crushed, plus one pint juice. So while I'm waiting for a batch to get out of the canner, have a quick-and-dirty guide to canning:

You will need a big stock pot, deep enough to hold the pint jars with a couple inches of headspace; about half as many pint canning jars as you have pounds of tomatoes, and then two more just in case; tongs; either bottled lemon juice or citric acid, whichever is easier for you to find; a collander; a second big pot; two big bowls; a clean sink; and a lot of ice.

Take the lids off the jars - your canning jars should be the kind with the lid that's in two pieces (a flat piece and a screwtop ring). Put as many of the jars into the stock pot as will fit. Fill the whole thing with enough water to cover the jars by two inches. Start heating that. (If it comes to a boil before you're ready with the tomatoes, just turn the heat off and let it sit; there will be a chance to turn it back on and get it boiling again fine.)

Fill the sink with cold water and dump in the ice. Fill the second pot with water and start that boiling. These two things are what you will use to peel the tomatoes. While you're waiting for the water to boil, put the collander over one of the bowls, and put the second bowl next to it; put both next to the sink full of ice water.

When the water in the second pot starts boiling, drop in a bunch of tomatoes (enough to just cover the bottom of the pot) and let them boil/simmer/whatever the water does for a minute. Scoop them out and immediately put them in the sink. Wait a few seconds. Then, working over the collander, use your fingers to slip the skin off the tomato (it should come right off) and dig the core out. The seeds will also ooze out. Drop seeds, peel, and core into the collander; drop the rest of the tomato meat into the second bowl. (Warning - this is a very messy step.)

When you've peeled all the tomatoes, use your hands to squish the tomato meat in the second bowl. Dump the water out of the pot you used to boil the tomatoes, then dump the squished tomato meat back into that pot. Bring it to a boil for five minutes. (if you had to turn the water with the jars off before this, this is about the time you should turn it back on.)

When the crushed tomatoes have boiled for 5 minutes, turn the heat off and start fishing jars out of the stock pot, dumping water back into the pot as you do. Drop either 1/4 teaspoon of citric salt, or a tablespoon of lemon juice, whichever you're using, into each jar; then fill up each jar with the tomatoes, leaving about a half inch of room. Wipe the rim of each jar off.

Take the lids apart, and use the tongs to dip one of the flat parts into the boiling water in the stock pot for a couple seconds. Put that flat bit on one of the full jars. Then screw the ring part on, just until it's "fingertip tight" (meaning, you don't need to really screw it down hard, just tight enough that your fingertips can tighten it). Repeat for all the other jars. Now - carefully, with the tongs, put the full jars back into the stock pot (which should still be boiling). Once all the jars are in the stock pot, wait for the water to come back to a good boil, then set your timer for 35 minutes. (You can either use this ensuing 35 minutes to clean up, or to give the seeds-and-peels-and-googe in the collander a stir, or to make yourself a martini, as you like.) When the timer goes off, turn the heat off under the stock pot, but leave the jars in for another five minutes to chill out a bit. Then take them out and set them somewhere to cool for 12 hours.

Keep going until you run out of tomatoes. If you end up running short on tomatoes (i.e., your last jar is only half full), just put that in the fridge - it will not can properly. Use that first.

When you're done with the tomatoes, now turn back to that collander over the bowl; a whole lot of juice should have strained down into that bowl. Pour that into the last couple jars you have, put the lids on the same way you did with the tomatoes, and process the same way (boil 35 minutes, wait 5 minutes, fish out and let cool 12 hours). Use any leftover tomato juice to make yourself a bloody mary.

There are fancy-ass tools that can help you with a couple of these steps (i.e., a "jar lifter" which can help you get a better grip on the jars as you're fishing them in and out of the stock pot, a magnet on a stick that can help you pick up lids without touching them, etc.) but the first time I canned tomatoes I used only the tools above and it worked fine. I got a jar lifter and that does help, but that's about it. You can add some salt to each jar as well, if you like, or if you like pre-herbed canned tomatoes, you can add one sprig of oregano to each jar, or one leaf of basil - but no more than that (any more than that would run the risk of altering the chemistry of the jars and that's not good).

This will help cope with an immediate tomato overload, and will get you through the time of year when the tomatoes are long gone because you realize that wait you have a jar of really good tomatoes in your cupboard which you can use for your spaghetti sauce yay.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:47 AM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you everyone. I'm going to stick some of them in the freezer today and then figure out what to do with the rest. You've given me some great ideas.

Padraigin, thanks for the offer, but we've already got a big stock pot.
posted by Area Man at 9:38 AM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would recommend consulting with a more authoritative source for more detailed canning instructions. I've basically given you the right steps, but some of the quantities of things or details may vary (you may have more or less jars-per-pound-of-tomatoes, for instance) and it's safer if you check with a more certified authority.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:47 AM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Juice them and use it to make a Bloody Mary. So much better than using canned juice.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:05 AM on September 2, 2013

I'm hoping to make ketchup. I've already made salsa, barbecue sauce and bruschetta. By the end of tomato season, I throw the juice into quart jars and can them as a base for tomato soup.

EmpressCallipygos has linked you to a very reputable site (National Center for Home Food Preservation); check it out. If you pull recipes from the web, please make sure they are tested, like those that appear in "The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving" or on agricultural extension websites.

That said, here are some great ideas for canning tomatoes.
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:51 PM on September 2, 2013

It's football time again. Giant pot of chili this Sunday is in order, with some fresh salsa.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:46 AM on September 3, 2013

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