The end of tomatoes is near. Despite the tomato blight that destroyed much of the tomato crop early in the season throughout the Northeast, we were fortunate enough to have had a good tomato crop on the farm this year. Not the best but considering the awful weather, we were very lucky to have any tomatoes at all.
The best way to preserve the flavor of fresh tomatoes is to can them. On the farm we tossed away criminal amounts of tomatoes since fresh tomatoes, especially heirloom varieties, do not have a long shelf life, and they are very easily bruised or damaged. I had very little time to can this season but I did manage to save a few crates of badly damaged tomatoes from the compost and now have some jars of wonderful bursts of summer for a cold winter day.
Heirloom tomatoes are especially wonderful to can since the flavor is so intense and the thin skin makes peeling unnecessary. I usually roast the tomatoes to release the liquid since tomatoes are mostly liquid. I cut up the tomatoes in big chunks and throw them into the oven for about half an hour or until plenty of liquid is released. The roasting also intensifies the flavor and adds another layer of depth. I scoop out the tomatoes with a slotted spoon and place them in a jar, follow basic canning directions and voila, summer in a jar. The remaining liquid could also be canned and used in soups, braising, cooking rice dishes or simply drinking. The color of the heirlooms are also wonderful. I canned orange, yellow, red, and striped varieties that look so enticing, it will take some will power not to crack those jars right away.