It is full-on tomato harvest season at our organic farm in Central Italy, and has been for over a month. After we've eaten tomatoes for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily it's time to start preserving them for winter so we can enjoy their deep rich flavors long after the garden is gone.
This year we scaled it back a bit and had only a couple hundred plants in about 12 varieties, each day yielding kilos of fresh ripe juicy pomodori prime for the picking. Endless meals are devoured with this harvest of tomatoes, their flavors as diverse as their names; ranging from the classics like San Marzano, beefsteak & cherry tomatoes to rare heirlooms such as the egg yolk, Ukrainian pink pear, zebra and my favorite the black princess.
Doctor Gaggi & Jason planted the majority of the rows in May using starters from our dear friends Beppe & Caroline, then we had two days of heavy frost and killed our entire production. Luckily we had wonderful guests from Texas in town & they all chipped-in and helped us replant the garden. Jason spent the time this spring to painstakingly trim back the plant's leaves giving the fruit plenty of sun. And boy did they get sun! After one of the hottest summers on record and near drought conditions the tomatoes are plump, warm & ready to be jarred. Here's our simple jarring process:
Time Saving Tip: There is no need to peel the tomatoes first. When you open the jars to use them - pass them through a food mill.
Here's how we jar/preserve our tomatoes in Italy:
The most common tomato used for jarring is San Marzano but we use a mixture of our heirloom tomatoes with the San Marzanos.
1. Pick tomatoes when ripe. Leave in a cool dry place to deepen in flavor & mature for a couple days. Once they are nice & soft, deep red it's time to jar.
2. Wash well. Slice in half & scoop out most of the seeds (if they are large, cut in half again or into chunks.) Toss into a colander to drain.
3. In a clean jar pack in your tomatoes nice & tight - using a wooden spoon to push out all the air between the tomatoes. This process is very important - be thorough. When jars are full to the top add a pinch of salt and tightly close the lid.
4. Wrap jars in newspaper (to prevent banging around in the pot). Place jars in the biggest pot you have - it must be deep enough to fully submerge the jars. ONLY if your pot is tall enough - you can add a rack on top of your jars & add a second layer. DO NOT stack jars without a rack.
5. Fill the pot with water 1 inch above the jars. Bring to a boil and continue for 30 minutes. Then shut off the heat, keeping the jars in the water to cool completely before removing.
6. Store jars in a cool dark place for up to a year and half.
Enjoy your tomatoes all year round!
Photos by: Stephanie Hua @ www.Lickmyspoon.com