4 of the best ways to preserve tomatoes
The taste of fresh tomatoes in summer is unrivalled. When they’re in season and grown locally (or even in your own garden), all you need is a little salt and pepper for peak enjoyment. But good, ripe tomatoes are a bit like buses – you wait ages for them, then suddenly you have more than you know what to do with. Fear not – I’m here to show you how to capture that tip-top tomato flavour for the months ahead with four different preserving tomatoes techniques.
I’ve always loved tomatoes. If there’s a punnet of cherry tomatoes in the kitchen, I’ll snack on them like popcorn while I’m cooking. I do try to grow my own most years too, even on my tiny north-facing balcony in a London block of flats – although that does admittedly result in more green, clinging-on-for-dear-life tomatoes than I’d care to admit.
As soon as British tomatoes are in season, I can’t resist buying big crates of them. These days we can get tomatoes easily year-round, but fruit shipped from overseas are always picked before they’re fully ripe to extend their shelf life. While they’ll ripen during transit, the fruit can’t develop in flavour like it would naturally, resulting in those watery, tasteless tomatoes that do a disservice to the real deal. Those grown in the UK, left to fully ripen on the plant and kept away from cold storage taste completely different; properly sweet and rich in flavour. The bulbous fluted tomatoes are my favourite for thinly slicing in salads, especially the crimson variety with a green hue in the seeds. And the small, torpedo-shaped cherry tomatoes are my go-to snack (always with plenty of oil and salt).
Preserving: sweet or tangy
Whether you grow your own or not, a weekend spent preserving tomatoes is always a joy. There are so many ways to enhance their flavour in ways that mean you can store them for longer, but here I’ve focused on the two main methods: slow-cooking (via confit and semi-drying) and increasing acidity (through pickling and creating vinegar-based ketchup).
Preserving with sugar
Slow-cooking enhances a tomato’s natural sweetness and draws out a richer base flavour, so it’s perfect for tomatoes that are at their absolute peak ripeness. Confit tomatoes are submerged in oil, then slowly, gently poached to lock in moisture, whereas semi-dried tomatoes gradually lose their water content in a low oven. The difference is texture – confit tomatoes still burst in your mouth, whereas semi-dried gain that seductive chew and intensity.
Preserving with vinegar
Less-ripe tomatoes benefit from a slightly harsher treatment: acidity. Instead of amplifying the sweetness and umami found in tomatoes through slow-cooking, pickling tomatoes or processing them into chutneys and condiments shines a light on their tangy taste and natural acidic flavour.
The actual recipes for preserving tomatoes using these four methods are all relatively simple (the hardest part is usually waiting for them to finish pickling or cooking), so the process is quite therapeutic. Do give it a go – I promise there are few things more satisfying than making a bacon sandwich using your own homemade ketchup!
Four ways to preserve tomatoes
Confit means to cook in oil – a method that’s great for locking in moisture and boosting flavour.
If you’ve never pickled tomatoes before, you’re in for a treat. The method keeps the tomatoes juicy and balances their natural sweetness with lip-puckering sourness.
Heinz tomato ketchup has gone up in price significantly with food inflation so now is a great time to think about making your own. Our easy recipe will show you how.
We might not have the weather to dry tomatoes in the sun like they do in the Mediterranean, but you can still make semi-dried tomatoes at home – and boy it’s worth it.
Tomatoes on toast, four ways
Once your tomatoes are in the jar, how do you make the most of them? Let them do the talking and serve them simply with these twists on the classic Spanish tapas dish, pan con tomate.
- Confit tomatoes on toast with tinned sardines and fresh dill
- Pickled tomatoes on toast with soft goat’s cheese and lemon zest
- Tomato ketchup on toast with crispy pancetta and rocket
- Semi-dried tomatoes on toast with whizzed up white beans and basil.
Subscribe to our magazine
Food stories, skills and tested recipes, straight to your door... Enjoy 5 issues for just £5 with our special introductory offer.Subscribe
Unleash your inner chef
Looking for inspiration? Receive the latest recipes with our newsletter