BY LYN DEARDORFF
PHOTOS BY LYN DEARDORFF & JENNA MOBLEY
Nothing says summer like fresh tomatoes! When ripe, juicy tomatoes start to appear in farmers markets, I know warm weather is here to stay. We plan picnics, dine alfresco and take road trips to the north Georgia mountains with food baskets in hand. Our menus are laden with tomato salsas, veggie pizzas with fresh-cut tomato slices, Mediterranean tomato sauces, grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches—a never-ending list of uses for tomatoes.
Here in the Atlanta area, we are lucky to have a long tomatogrowing season. But when it ends, how can we hold on to that succulent summery taste all year long? Canning allows us to capture this freshness and flavor in a jar—loading our pantry with 12 months of goodness. No more flavorless tomatoes off-season.
I choose organic tomatoes because they are grown without pesticides and have the best flavor since they need to be picked close to ripeness. This means they will usually need to be canned within a day or two of harvesting. You can choose any kind of tomato for canning. While Roma is often suggested, I choose with my nose. If it has a great aroma, I find it usually tastes great, too! Ripe, juicy tomatoes often produce a lot of liquid in the jar. Full of flavor, this liquid can be used right along with the pulp in sauces and stews.
Our first recipe is for canning fresh tomatoes—whole, halved or crushed. I often do all three because my uses vary throughout the rest of the year. Surprisingly, perhaps, canned whole tomatoes are excellent sliced on a veggie pizza in the middle of January or diced to make a fresh salsa—they taste just like they did last summer.
Another great use for canning fresh tomatoes is a savory tomato jam. If you haven’t tried or tasted tomato jam, you’re in for a treat. This is not sweet like most jams so it lends itself to complementing strong cheeses like brie for an appetizer or sandwich, as a condiment for hamburgers, a side dish for scooping onto meat loaf or a dressing for roasting pork, beef or other meats.
Lyn Deardorff is a 40-year canner, starting with her grandmother making sauerkraut and dill pickles in her basement. She teaches canning workshops in the Atlanta area and has produced and sold organic preserved fruits and vegetables. For more information please visit preservingnow.com.