How to Preserve Tomatoes for Winter

Freezing, canning or drying – these seem to be the three main ways of preserving your tomatoes for those long cold winter months.

Which one is best though?

Well, they all have their place in our kitchen and work best in different situations, so why not try all of them and decide which one suits your cooking style best?

Freezing, canning or drying – these seem to be the three main ways of preserving your tomatoes for those long cold winter months.Freezing

Freezing tomatoes is most likely the easiest and least time-consuming way of preserving them for later. So how to properly freeze tomatoes?

  • Carefully wash them in cold water.
  • Let them air dry, ideally by spreading them on a large sheet of kitchen paper or a clean tea towel… you can help them dry quicker by gently patting them all over with some extra kitchen roll.
  • Finally, spread them out on a large baking sheet and simply pop them into your freezer but make sure they are not touching each other.
  • After 12 hours or so, move your tomatoes from the baking sheet and pop into a freezer bag or an airtight container, label and put back to the freezer, ready for depths of winter! Simple.

Freezing, canning or drying – these seem to be the three main ways of preserving your tomatoes for those long cold winter months.

Canning

When you think about tomatoes in jars, the possibilities become endless, various flavours, sauces, ketchups and concentrates, but today we want to focus on the simplest ways of preserving them in jars.

  • Wash, peel and roughly chop your tomatoes.
  • Place them into earlier prepared (cleaned and sterilized) glass jars, filling up to the neck (you need to leave some space, at least 1cm at the top of the jar) and slightly squashing them down in order to get rid of any “dead space” and air bubbles. Secure the lid tightly.
  • Put a kitchen cloth at the bottom of the largest cooking pot you have so the glass jars will not touch saucepan directly, then place the jars into the saucepan and fill with cold water up to ¾ of the height of the jars. Bring it all slowly to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Whilst the jars are cooking find a couple of large bath towels or small blankets and fold one up and place on a shelf or worktop that is safe from knocks or curious kids. It needs to make room for all the jars to sit comfortably on it.
  • When the time is up, remove the jars from the boiling water with some oven gloves, turn upside down, and place on your folded towel. Cover completely with the second thick towel or blanket making sure there are no gaps you want them all snug in there. Allow to rest in this position until completely cool (it might take 24-36h).

Freezing, canning or drying – these seem to be the three main ways of preserving your tomatoes for those long cold winter months.

Drying

The drying process can be achieved by air drying, oven drying, dehydrating and my favourite sun drying! There is nothing better than the taste of sun dried tomatoes during the winter! So how do you sun dry tomatoes?

  • Wash and dry tomatoes.
  • Cut them into your desired size. I personally prefer drying cherry tomatoes and I just cut them in half.
  • Place them on a metal baking tray, skin side down, then cover with some cheesecloth, muslin or some sort of fly net… if needed you might want to construct some risers so the cloth doesn’t rest on your fruit directly.
  • Place in the full sun and watch them shrink!

Here, in temperatures around 30C, my tomatoes are ready within 3 days.

 

I hope you enjoyed this short guide to dealing with tomatoes. After drowning in cucumbers for a while, now we have an abundance of tomatoes and aubergines so more recipes and ideas will follow shortly, I am sure!

Freezing, canning or drying – these seem to be the three main ways of preserving your tomatoes for those long cold winter months.

 

Pickled Cucumber Sticks

Crisp with a lovely vinegary bite and a slight chilli kick, these pickled cucumbers sticks will light up any meal.

When we started our veggie patch in the spring, with no previous experience whatsoever, we were hoping that eight cucumbers plants will give us enough fruit for everyday use… well, we were wrong… we are drowning in cucumbers…  So far we have collected more than 70kg of them and we are nowhere near the end of the season looking at all the freshly formed flowers popping all over the plants. As there are only so many cucumbers you can eat in a day it was time to get creative and start thinking about jarring them for winter.

Crisp with a lovely vinegary bite and a slight chilli kick, these pickled cucumbers sticks will light up any meal.

This recipe is similar to my Honey Pickled Cucumber Slices posted earlier but with some key differences. The slices are good for sandwiches or burgers and the like where as these sticks are a better shaped for chopping into salads. The other difference is the absence of any sweet honey but the addition of a cheeky chilli giving a kick to the pickle, it works and it is divine.

The batch below will allow you to make five 0.72l jars (if you pack the cucumbers pretty tight).

Ingredients:

  • ~3.5kg cucumbers
  • 500ml filtered water
  • 500ml 6% vinegar
  • 125g sugar
  • 1.5tbsp salt
  • 5 allspice

Additional per jar:

  • 1 chilli
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 10 mustard seeds
  • 3 cloves

Crisp with a lovely vinegary bite and a slight chilli kick, these pickled cucumbers sticks will light up any meal.Method:

Fill the cooking pot with water, add vinegar, sugar, salt and allspice and bring it to boil. Make sure everything is dissolved.

Wash your cucumbers, then cut them in half (lengthways). With a spoon carefully remove all seeds, then with a sharp knife cut into sticks around ½-1cm thick and to a length that will match your jar height. Removing all seeds with allow you to pack your cucumbers much tighter into the jars and they will be much crisper once eaten later on.

Crisp with a lovely vinegary bite and a slight chilli kick, these pickled cucumbers sticks will light up any meal.

Pack the cucumber slices into sterilised jars… remember the tighter the better but don’t overdo it so you end up crushing the pieces.

Once the cucumbers are in, add chilli, garlic, mustard seeds and cloves, finally fill the remaining space with earlier prepared brine and close the lid tightly.

Place your jars into a large cooking pot. Add a kitchen cloth to the bottom, so none of the jars touch the pot directly. Fill with water, covering ¾ of the jar height and boil for 5 minutes. Do not over boil… this will make them softer.

Crisp with a lovely vinegary bite and a slight chilli kick, these pickled cucumbers sticks will light up any meal.

Somewhere on the worktop make temporary resting den for the jars… they will have to stay there for about 24h. Place a thick towel or two on the worktop, using thick kitchen gloves remove jars from the boiling water, check the lids and put to rest in an upside down position. Once all jars are placed cover with a few more towels or a blanket and let them stay like this until totally cool.

Move to their long term storage place and enjoy as needed.

Crisp with a lovely vinegary bite and a slight chilli kick, these pickled cucumbers sticks will light up any meal.

Honey Pickled Cucumber Slices

Crisp, sweet yet at the same time slightly tart with a fantastic aroma and just a hint of a vinegary bite these honey pickled cucumber slices are the perfect way to preserve them for winter time.

Crisp, sweet yet at the same time slightly tart with a fantastic aroma and just a hint of a vinegary bite these honey pickled cucumber slices are the perfect way to preserve them for winter time.The recipe below is from my Mum. She has been preserving cucumbers this way for years now and everyone who tries them always complements her on their taste. They aren’t your standard pickled cucumbers; that sharp vinegary taste is replaced with a sweeter, honey based brine, which puts a totally new spin on your pickled cucumbers… Try it and you will not be disappointed.

The batch below will allow you to make five 0.72l jars (if you pack the cucumbers pretty tight).

Crisp, sweet yet at the same time slightly tart with a fantastic aroma and just a hint of a vinegary bite these honey pickled cucumber slices are the perfect way to preserve them for winter time.

Ingredients:

  • ~3.5kg cucumbers
  • 750ml filtered water
  • 250ml 6% vinegar
  • 150g white sugar
  • 1tbsp salt; heaped
  • 5 whole allspice or 1/4tsp if using grounded one
  • 5tbsp honey

Additional per jar:

  • 1 garlic clove
  • 10 mustard seeds
  • 3 cloves whole

Crisp, sweet yet at the same time slightly tart with a fantastic aroma and just a hint of a vinegary bite these honey pickled cucumber slices are the perfect way to preserve them for winter time.Method:

Fill a cooking pot with the water, add vinegar, sugar, salt and allspice and bring it to a boil. Make sure everything is dissolved (well all but the allspice that it). Put aside to cool, then add the honey and stir well till dissolved.

Wash your cucumbers and slice them into about 1cm thick slices. Too thin slices will make the final pickled pieces to soft and wobbly 🙂

Now, it’s time to pack the cucumber slices into the clean jars… pack them tightly, the tighter the better.

Once the cucumbers are packed in, add garlic, mustard seeds and cloves, and finally slowly pour the earlier prepared brine into the jars until they are full. Put the lids on and close tightly.

Take a large cooking pot and test to see how many jars you can fit comfortably inside, you may need to do the cook in batches. Remove the jars and add a wet folded kitchen cloth to the bottom of the pan, return the jars to the pot making sure none of the jars touch the bottom and the side of the pot directly. Fill with cold water until the jars are covered to ¾ of the jar height and bring to a boil, once boiling cook for 5 minutes. Do not over boil them… the longer you boil them the softer the final slices will be we are after a pasteurising effect here to kill off any bacteria not to actually cook them.

Crisp, sweet yet at the same time slightly tart with a fantastic aroma and just a hint of a vinegary bite these honey pickled cucumber slices are the perfect way to preserve them for winter time.Whilst they are happily bubbling away, somewhere on the worktop make a temporary resting den for the jars… they will have to stay there for about 24h. Place a thick towel or two on the worktop. When the five minutes of boiling are up, using thick kitchen gloves remove the jars from the boiling water, check the lids are still tight and put to rest on the towels in an upside down position, yep stand them on their lids. Once all the jars are placed on the towel then cover with a few more towels or even a blanket and let them stay like this until the next day.

Move to their long term storage place and enjoy as and when needed.

Crisp, sweet yet at the same time slightly tart with a fantastic aroma and just a hint of a vinegary bite these honey pickled cucumber slices are the perfect way to preserve them for winter time.

Home-Grown Food – From Meadow to Veggie Patch

Creating a garden, or a veggie patch to be precise, from scratch isn’t a picnic… it’s a whole load of hard work but it is work which at the same time as being hard can also be surprisingly satisfying.

Creating a garden, or a veggie patch to be precise, from scratch isn’t a picnic… it’s a whole load of hard work but it is work which at the same time as being hard can also be surprisingly satisfying.

When we were buying our new house we knew that a part of our land would be made into usable garden space with eatable thingies growing in it. As it ended up our new home had no dedicated garden space at all. The former owners of our place didn’t grow anything besides tons of beautiful flowers including about 100 bushes of roses. They did, however, support the local bee population by having some well-developed wild meadow… All good but we needed to make the room for our veggie patch 🙂 The plan became obvious, we had to turn part of our meadow into a veggie patch!

Our preparation work began in autumn. Luckily for us, a local man in our village called Ivan owned a mini tractor and plough and was kind enough to come to us with his tractor and plough our designated field. Then nature and the harshest Bulgarian winter in 65 years did their job. Over the winter months under piles of snow, the soil began breaking down and all the wild plants and grasses turned to mulch… super, everything so far was on course for getting ready for spring.

Once the snow melted it was time for step two… rotovation. But things aren’t always going to go according to plan. The snow melted, the sun came out to play but with it came also the rain. We were told that Ivan will be able to come on the 4th day after the last rain, so we waited… One day with no rain, two days with no rain, then the rain came… and so the countdown resets and begins again… after waiting for almost 2 weeks without the needed 4-day dry stretch we decided to start to clean up the soil by hand. It was a hard task, especially for two unfit people who have never done any gardening and had spent most of the last winter chilling indoors by the fire recovering from all of last years’ stresses. But day after day, meter by meter we slowly progressed… Until finally last Thursday at about 9am the doorbell rang, it was Mimo with the good news, Ivan is on his way as today was the 4th day pass the last rains. Around an hour later of precision driving and our entire patch was all turned and cultivated.

Time for step three – root removal 🙂 After Ivan had finished rotovating the soil this task became much easier. It took us a further 3 full days to finally finish our patch. We stood at the edge and looked upon our huge area of lovely brown crumbly soil set within a backdrop of wild meadow and marvelled at the transformation and felt deeply satisfied, it was a good life moment.

At this point, we were ready for marking the veggie plots out and the essential pathways. After some arguments and lots of running about with a measuring tape, a giant ball of string and an armful of marking sticks we had completed the task and created 9 even(ish) plots plus a 10th designated for root vegetables. Happy times!

One would think that this was it, but evidently no… after we marked out our plots, it was time for the final clean-up of the soil. I was not convinced and must admit to a fair amount of whining about unnecessary extra work but Mark started turning the soil over with a spade in one of the plots, I sank to my knees and started picking up anything that shouldn’t be there. I still mumbled about the stupidity of our actions till I tried to tug a root that wouldn’t move. I blamed my exhausted arms for their lack of power and asked Mark for help. He couldn’t pull it either, so being a bloke and refusing to be beaten by a mere root he started digging, and digging and then more digging. Turns out my little root was attached to a medium sized root that was in turn attached to a giant root that finally ended in a tree stump! 2 hours of digging and pulling and just a hint of swearing and the root was out. Mark turned to me and simply said: “A waste of time hey…” I resumed picking up old roots and didn’t mutter a word. Then, at last, all the remaining roots had been picked, we raked until all was flat and smooth and we were done! All we have to do next allegedly is plant our seeds.

I don’t know if you have any experience with gardening and growing veggies but if you do, please tell me, does it get any easier? Because right about now the concept of going to the local supermarket and buying a basketful of veggies is making an awful lot of sense. We were told this is the hard part and that now until next spring it is easier, but at this point, it is really hard to believe in it.