Preserving Tomatoes

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Vine ripened tomatoes are one of my favorite fruits to preserve.  There is nothing that brings you back to summer than using preserved tomatoes during the winter.  The sweetness backed by the acidity can be preserved easily in order to complement all of your winter stews and chili. You can even use them to make fresh salsa and gazpacho that tastes just as fresh as summer.

Tomatoes are a good source of vitamin a, c, b6, potassium, niacin, and folate. They are also known to be packed with lycopene. This carotenoid has been found to help prevent heart disease and a growing list of cancers including colorectal, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung and pancreatic cancers.  There are other benefits which include lowering cholesterol and drinking or using tomato juice can actually reduce blood clotting tendencies and is a natural anti-inflammatory.

Knowing all of these rich health benefits, it’s no wonder we go to such lengths to preserve them and use them during the winter.  One thing to remember is that organic tomatoes have been tested to have higher vitamin levels and a larger amount of lycopene especially when picked ripe off the vine. I encourage you to try to grow your own tomatoes next year or buy them locally from your farmers market.  Many “organic” tomatoes that you buy at the grocery store are still picked green and shipped across country or from neighboring countries.

Besides all of the wonderful benefits, tomatoes taste amazing.  The best thing about preserving our harvest of tomatoes is that their freshness can be preserved and taste just as fresh as summer in all of your dishes or juices that you use them for.

Below are a couple of ways I preserve my tomatoes for the cold winter months.

Freezing Tomatoes

Tomatoes from my garden and boxes from the farmers market

Freezing tomatoes is hands down my favorite way to preserve tomatoes.  Why? Because it’s easy and I don’t have to spend the time needed to can them in a hot water bath.  In order to freeze tomatoes all you need to do is rinse them off, put them in a plastic bag and into the freezer.  Really… it’s that easy!  Tomatoes do not need to be blanched before frozen.

The reason I love this method so much is that when you are ready to use them, all you need to do is let them thaw out, and when they start to defrost, their skins slip right off.  A large percentage of the tomatoes lycopene is in the skin. When freezing tomatoes you have the option to blend them whole with the skin to make your sauces or gazpacho.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve turned quite a few people onto freezing tomatoes.  Once they see how easy it is, they’re hooked.  I actually learned this method about 4 years ago from the one and only Rick Bayless.  I was able to participate in a cooking class with Rick Bayless and it was there that he introduced us to this method.  Rick Bayless allocates a HUGE freezer to his restaurants La Frontera Grill and Topolobampo which he specifically uses to preserve locally raised, vine ripened, tomatoes.  An advocate and supporter of small, local and sustainable farms (Frontera Farmer Foundation), Rick Bayless uses these preserved tomatoes for both of his world renowned restaurants during the cold frigid months in Chicago.  My hero!

Canned Salsa


Yes, you can use frozen tomatoes to make salsa, however, I still enjoy to make a good batch of canned salsa to use specifically for Mexican rice.  It gives it a complex flavor and is there at hand when I need it.

Canned tomato salsa is a recipe I was a little hesitant to share.  Tomatoes fall right on the line of having enough acid to can but others say that it may not be enough to prevent food borne pathogens.  In order to remedy this and for my own sanity, I add extra lemon juice to increase the acid level.


  • 10 cups, peeled, cored, chopped tomatoes
  • 6 cups, seeded, chopped peppers (including jalapeno) (WEAR GLOVES)
  • 4 cups, chopped onions
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 1 cup, chopped cilantro
  • 3-4 tsp salt

This process is set up to move in batches.  One batch at a time, boil your tomatoes (about 12 at a time), remove skins, chop.  Boil your second batch, remove skins, chop.  Boil your third batch and so on….  The process of doing this one batch at a time is important because what we are attempting to do is save the reserved juices and cook it down in one large pot while we are continually chopping and adding more juice to the large pot.  This should give us a nice thickened base for the salsa.

1. Remove tomato skins.  In a large boiling pot of water, add enough tomatoes to fill and boil for 45 seconds.

2. Immediately plunge into a bowl filled with ice water or running cold water.  The skins should slip right off.
3. Chop up your first batch of tomatoes and place in a colander over a bowl to reserve the juices.

4. Squeeze out as much juice as you can from the tomatoes in the colander.  Place the tomatoes in a large bowl and pour the juice into a large pot.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat to about medium and simmer.

5. Repeat steps 1-4 another 2 or 3 times adding more juice to the large pot.  
6. While the sauce is still simmering and thickening, chop the peppers, onions and cilantro and add to the large bowl of tomatoes.
7. Add the lemon juice and salt.
8. Once the tomato sauce on the stove has thickened, add the entire contents of the large bowl and mix through.

9. Bring to boil, lower the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

10. Ladle into clean and sterilized pint size canning jars leaving 1/2″ of headspace.

11. Process in a hot water canner: 15 minutes at 0-1,000 feet altitude, 20 minutes at 1,001-6,000 feet (this is my area), 25 minutes above 6,000 feet.

Lacto-Fermented Salsa

The benefits of fermenting your salsa (read here for an explanation of lacto-fermentation) is that it creates lactic acid bacteria which increases vitamin levels and aids in digestion.  These beneficial organisms produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anticarcinogenic substances.

The process is super easy!  You can either use the exact same recipe as above or my pico de gallo recipe.


Using one of those recipes, fill a quart sized jar with the vegetables and tomatoes.  To the quart sized jar add 1tbls salt and 4tbls whey.  Mix thoroughly and set at room temperature for 2 days before transferring to the refrigerator.  That’s it!

For more preserving techniques and recipes make sure to check out my canning and preserving section.

    21 Responses to "Preserving Tomatoes"
    1. Foy Update - Garden Cook Write Repeat says:

      I wish I had the space to freeze tomatoes whole. As it is, I just barely have the space to dehydrate and then freeze them. Freezing whole seems much easier.

    2. Julie says:

      Wow, I never really thought about freezing tomatoes like that, probably just because everyone warns against refrigerating them… wish I had room to try it! Do you throw out your skins from peeling tomatoes for salsa? I've been dehydrating mine and making tomato powder; apparently it can be used to make tomato paste, though it takes a while to collect that way.

    3. foodandstyle says:

      This is a wonderful post! Preserving tomatoes is so worthwhile. Whenever I do it, it always connects me to my ancestors. It is good to re-connect with such simple and wholesome activities. Your salsa recipe is beautiful!

    4. Mexico in my kitchen says:

      This is the best season for tomatoes. I wish they were on season all the time. :(

      Great entry. Love the pictures.


    5. Belinda @zomppa says:

      Great to know! I didn't know if you could just stick them in there. Thanks!

    6. Sense of Home says:

      I enjoyed reading about the health benefits of tomatoes and feeling good that I took the time to garden and preserve. Unfortunately some of my tomatoes had to be picked green, but it was that or let them go to waste, I chose the better option.

      I have frozen tomatoes often and I like the results, this year I am short on freezer space so all the tomatoes have been canned.


    7. Melynda says:

      Thanks so much for this information packed post, I especially appreciate the added links for the recipes.

    8. Lori Lynn says:

      Hi Diana – Rick is our hero too! Congrats on advancing to the PFB next round! Buena suerte!

    9. Patricia in Toronto says:

      Hi Diana,
      This is my first time lacto-fermenting and I am trying your pico de gallo salsa. The sealed jar has been on my counter for 24 hours. The salsa keeps floating up and I'm concerned the vegetables are not entirely covered with liquid and so will spoil. I added a bit of water but again, the salsa floated up. Any advice? Thank you.

    10. Diana Bauman says:

      Hi Patricia πŸ˜€ What I would do is take a wooden pounder or meat hammer and press it down to make sure that the liquid is covering it. I'm sure 3 days is going to be perfect for the salsa. so I wouldn't worry too much. Once the fermentation process is done, you can skim the top and throw it away. Let me know how it turns out πŸ˜€

    11. moonglowgardens says:

      What a gorgeous tomato! You had me there! Today is a gazpacho kind of weather.

    12. Patricia in Toronto says:

      Hi again Diana,
      I wanted to let you know that the fermented pico de gallo turned out fine and my daughter gobbled up most of it! Thanks for the advice. I guess the idea is to push the veggies down into the jar in order to pack more in so that everything is tightly packed to avoid floating. I'm going to do the same with your beans and radishes recipe.

    13. Andhra Style Recipes says:

      Great post good blogging.
      thanks for share.

      Best Regarding.
      Andhra Style Recipes

    14. CindyC says:

      I love your blog. I am new to making salsa from scratch and was wondering if you can give me an idea of just how many jalapenos would make this a “mild” type of salsa. I am guessing the rest of the peppers are green bell peppers or green sweet peppers as they are sometimes called here in NC.

      • Diana Bauman says:

        Hi Cindy. I’m thinking for the quantitiy, 2 tops. If you’re really sensitive, I would discard the seeds. The rest are sweet peppers. Hope that helps πŸ˜‰

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