It’s August and you are trying to take advantage of summer’s bounty; tomato coffers overflowing! But it’s so hot and traditional tomato canning methods take a lot of time, heat, and can be awfully intimidating. This low-fuss method of “putting up” tomatoes for winter sauces is truly simple, mostly hands-off, and sets you up for fresh-tasting tomato sauces and soups all winter long.
Tomatoes – any variety, any amount
Garlic or onions – whatever is on hand
Peppers – optional; I usually use a mix of sweet and hot peppers, but whatever is on hand
Fresh or dried herbs – I recommend oregano, basil, thyme, marjoram
Salt and pepper
Good olive oil
Champagne or red wine vinegar, optional
Exercise Your Knife Skills
Start by washing and coring your tomatoes. This recipe is great for any tomatoes that are too soft for slicing, but you can really use any ripe tomatoes. Half, quarter, or chop the tomatoes so that they are all the same size; 2-3 inch pieces are good.
For each pound of tomatoes, use approximately half a medium sized onion or 4 garlic cloves. Slice your onions into ½ inch thick half-moons. Peel and trim garlic cloves and smash them.
I will include peppers if I have them on hand, and include them at about a 3:1 ratio (tomatoes to peppers). De-seed and de-stem peppers. Chop sweet peppers into slices like the onions or 1-2 inch pieces. Mince the hot peppers so that they will be well distributed in the mixture.
Stage Your Sauce
Combine your chopped tomatoes, onions and garlic, and peppers into a baking dish (or multiple dishes) so that there isn’t too much overlap. Really you want to avoid more than 2 layers of tomatoes so that the sugars in the onion especially have an opportunity to caramelize and not just stew.
Pour in a few glugs of olive oil and a splash or two of vinegar, sprinkle in some salt (I use 2-3 teaspoons of salt per 9×13 baking dish) and half that of black pepper, and then add the herbs. For fresh herbs, use 2-3 sprigs of what you have per baking dish. For dried herbs, a teaspoon or 2 will do.
Toss everything with your hands and make sure the fruit and veg are well-coated. Add more olive oil if necessary.
Go Back in Time
If you read ahead, preheat your oven to 275-300F if you have a few hours at home and air conditioning. If you don’t, preheat to 350 degrees F.
If you didn’t read ahead, it will take a little longer, but turn your oven on to 300-350 degrees F based on the above time recommendation. Put the baking dish in, it is not an issue to start in a cold oven. Roast for at least an hour and longer if you have time. I like to make sure my tomatoes are bubbling, at least half the onions have signs of caramelization, and my whole apartment smells like I need to put water on for pasta right this moment.
Put Up a Little Bit of Summer
Allow the mixture to cool and then pack into freezer safe jars or bags. Label with the date of preparation, the ingredients used (peppers or not, onions or not, etc), and the amount in each container so that it’s easy to use in recipes months in the future. Freeze!
When it is cold outside and you are ready to use those summer tomatoes, move the container from the freezer to the fridge to thaw the day before. When fully thawed, puree in a blender and use as you would any tomato sauce. To make tomato soup, simply combine 3-4 cups of your tomato sauce prep with 2 cups of vegetable (or chicken) broth, heat, and puree. To make it creamy, add cream (or oat or full-fat coconut milk) to taste. Thank your summer self for putting up these fresh tomatoes for this gray day.