Can it ripen?
August 18, 2021 8:15 AM   Subscribe

So, I'm late to the bandwagon, but I want to try to can tomato sauce. I was given a lot of tomato plants and they are doing very well. I've read a lot, I'm assembling equipment, but I don't understand how to inform the tomatoes to all ripen at the same time. How do you manage different ripening schedules? I just picked a huge tomato. But all of the others are green. Help?
posted by papergirl to Food & Drink (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Unfortunately this is the nature of tomatoes, indeterminate varieties especially. You can't really make them all ripen at once. You can speed ripening sometimes by cutting back on watering, or putting picked tomatoes in a bag with an apple, but that doesn't really solve your particular problem.

How much freezer space do you have? One way to deal with this problem as a home grower is to freeze tomatoes whole as they become ripe, and then process them into tomato sauce after you've assembled a large batch of frozen ripe tomatoes.
posted by Knicke at 8:19 AM on August 18, 2021 [9 favorites]

I'm not really aware of a way to "force" all your tomatoes to ripen at the same time - but it is still kind of on the early side for tomatoes, so I would simply treat that big tomato you got as an early present, and wait a little longer.

Because odds are you will have PLENTY of tomatoes to make sauce from eventually.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:20 AM on August 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

So, there are two types of tomatoes: determinate and indeterminate. Determinate tomatoes grow to a certain height and then produce all their fruit at once - everything on the plant ripens around the same time, which is nice for canning. Indeterminate tomatoes keep growing and produce fruit over a longer period of time. Also different varieties of tomato ripen at different times, so if you have more than one variety of plant, that comes into play as well.

Now, you might just have one early fruit on a determinate plant, in which case they will still mostly ripen around the same time. But if your plants are indeterminate, they're just not all going to ripen at the same time, and you can can as you go or freeze and can as Knicke suggests.
posted by mskyle at 8:22 AM on August 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

You go back in time and start with determinate tomatoes.

However, all is not lost. You will find that a lot of your green tomatoes will ripen at the same time; this one flower got off to an early start, which also explains why it is gigantic (all the resources were going to the only growing fruit). My indeterminate tomato plants yielded a small early harvest, a big first flush, then nothing for awhile (because I under-fertilized!) and now a second harvest.

You can also keep ripe tomatoes on the vine for a week or so while its buddies catch up.
posted by goingonit at 8:22 AM on August 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I just throw them continually into Ziploc bags in the freezer until there is enough to can, or until it's cool enough to can. Preferably both.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 8:28 AM on August 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

Actually now that I'm thinking about it I don't even bother with the Ziploc bags anymore...
posted by A Terrible Llama at 8:29 AM on August 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: We freeze all our canning tomatoes even if we are going to can them the next day because it is the easiest way to remove the skins.
posted by Mitheral at 10:17 AM on August 18, 2021 [4 favorites]

And ya, we just lay them out on wax paper on a jelly roll pan, bagging not really required if they are only going to be in there for a few weeks.
posted by Mitheral at 10:21 AM on August 18, 2021

Best answer: We roast them down before dumping in a big container of roasted tomatoes in the freezer. When that gets full, we thaw the block and make sauce.
posted by rockindata at 10:43 AM on August 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

Just in case this is part of why it's mystifying - a lot of people buy their canning tomatoes and save the homegrowns for eating fresh. Farmers' markets (and some produce vendors) will set aside canning tomatoes by the bushel or box for people on special request. This is often a good way for them to hand off slightly blemished tomatoes - blemishes don't show up in sauce.
posted by Miko at 2:52 PM on August 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

Your climate can also affect this to some extent. Tomato blossoms won't set if the day temperature doesn't reach or exceed 70 degrees f. or the night temperature doesn't get lower than 70 degrees.

I live in the Old South and this limit means that at a certain point in the summer, perfectly handsome plants no long set fruit. If you can nurse them thru the hottest part of the summer, they will set fruit again in the fall. Then, if there is to be an early frost, I'd pick 'em green and let them ripen inside. I've had a few beautiful tomatoes for Thanksgiving dinner.
posted by tmdonahue at 5:46 AM on August 19, 2021

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