Fire Roasted Tomatoes

Although farm-fresh tomatoes are pretty scarce in the Northeast this summer, there are still some out there and they are as delicious as ever. While inexpensive, local, heirloom tomatoes are probably a pipe dream this year, now more than ever it is important to support your local farmers as they battle with the devastation of tomato, and possibly potato, crops ruined by late blight. With that in mind, I’ve bought a couple of 10-lb batches of tomatoes, in addition to what we are receiving in the CSA, and put them by for the winter.

Fire roasting is a lovely way to preserve tomatoes. The charring of the skins and the short roast of the flesh adds a subtle but delicious carmelized flavor to the tomatoes, enhancing their natural sweetness. The skins slip off easily and there is no fumbling with slippery tomatoes bouncing around in boiling water. Also I find this method to produce a much meatier, less watery/seedy canned tomato. Yield is lower than canning tomatoes whole, but the end product is that much more delicious. Once you have these put by you’ll find an endless variety of uses for them: soups & stews, a quick pasta sauce, pizza topping, bruschetta base or chicken cacciatore. Last year I thought I had put up enough to last me the year but I ended up running out in January! This year’s batch of canned roasted tomatoes will be all the more special because of their very scarcity; I shall have to come up with some fantastic recipes to do them justice.

Adapted from various tomato canning recipes in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, J. Kingry & L. Devine, and from Leda Meredith’s Fire Roasted Tomatoes

Fire Roasted Tomatoes

INGREDIENTS

  • 10 lbs tomatoes, any variety other than cherry
  • lemon juice, vinegar, or citric acid

METHODS

  1. Prepare canner, jars and lids.
  2. Pre-heat the broiler of your oven. Alternatively, you could use a gas or charcoal grill. Core and halve tomatoes, trimming any bruised or cracked bits, and give each half a light squeeze to remove much of the liquid & seeds. Place the tomato pieces, skin side up, on a large rimmed sheet pan. Slide pan under the broiler and allow to roast until the skins are nicely blackened, about 15 – 20 minutes.
  3. Remove the pan from the oven (replacing with a fresh pan of cut tomatoes) and cover tomatoes with a clean kitchen towel. Allow tomatoes to cool, and steam slightly under the towel, until they are cool enough to handle, but still quite warm (the warmer they are, the easier it is to slip the skins off). Pluck off the skins and transfer the tomato meat to a clean, heat-safe bowl. Continue in batches until all the tomatoes are roasted and peeled.
  4. Drain excess juice from the tomatoes in the bowl. Roughly chop up larger pieces of tomato, in the bowl, using tongs or two forks, such that the final texture is chopped or crushed. Transfer chopped tomatoes to a colander, suspended over a bowl, to drain off most of the excess liquid. Strain liquid to remove seeds and reserve for another recipe.
  5. To each clean, hot pint jar, add 1/4 tsp of citric acid OR 1 tbsp of lemon juice. For quart jars, use 1/2 tsp citric acid or 2 tbsp lemon juice. Using a jar funnel and tongs, add tomatoes to the jar allowing a generous 1/2-inch of headspace. Push the tomatoes down with the handle of a wooden spoon, ensuring that juice covers all the fruit and that there are no air bubbles. Wipe rims, affix lids, and process pint jars in a boiling water bath for 40 minutes (quart jars for 45 minutes).

Ten lbs of tomatoes yields approximately 4 to 5 pints.

OPTIONS

  1.  Cut and prepare tomatoes as quickly as you can, in batches, as once tomatoes are cut the exposure to air activates a natural enzyme that begins breaking down the pectin in the fruit and causes the liquids and solids in the tomatoes to separate. Heat inactivates this enzyme, so the sooner you get your cut tomatoes under the broiler, the better your end product will be (less separation of liquid & solid).
  2. Be diligent with the chopping step to ensure safety in water-bath canning: raw-packed whole or half tomatoes packed with no extra liquid require 85 minutes of processing time, vs. the 40 or 45 minutes required for chopped tomatoes above.
  3. Tomatoes can be safetly packed without added acid in a pressure canner. I don’t use a pressure canner but the National Center for Home Food Preservation has instructions.

STORE

Canned, in a cool, dark spot for up to 1 year.

SEASON

Summer.

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27 comments

  1. Kim

    oh when I was at Jenkens I noticed they were selling homemade peanut butter sweetened with raw honey. Picked up a small container- it was v. tasty, but a tad sweet. Very suited to desserts though and ultimately snackable!! Try it next time you’re down there.

  2. Oh yes! I so want to try this. The tomatoes in the pacific NW are pretty slow in coming this year, thanks to our spring like weather (I’ve got over a dozen plants and have only had 2 ripe cherry tomatoes so far!)…but when I get my hands on some ripe tomatoes, I plan on trying this recipe.

    Thanks!

  3. This looks great! I’ve decided to try to avoid canned goods as best I can with all the talk of BPA these days. I saw another recipe where the author suggests freezing the tomatoes in an air tight freezer bag. Do you recommend this?

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  6. Looks great! How many tomatoes did you roast at a time–all 10lb? I roasted a bunch and the steam set off the fire alarm so I’m trying to figure out the upper limit here…

    • Well, yesterday I got 9 pints so I’m guessing it was a half-bushel or close to 20 lbs. But I only do one tray at a time, and rotate them through: otherwise whatever tray is not directly beneath the broiler does not get blackened enough. The 20 lbs took me, I think, 6 trays in total? So, yes, it’s a somewhat lengthy process, but by the time I core & slice a new tray, pluck the skins from the old tray and chop the tomatoes, the one in the oven is close to done, so it all goes in a smooth process.

  7. Taryn

    Hi! I was hoping to make these this tonight but I’m a little confused by the processing time. Are these not considered raw packed because they’ve been roasted, even though the jars probably won’t be filled until the tomatoes have cooled? I always thought that the 85 minute processing time for tomatoes with no extra liquid was because it takes longer for heat to penetrate to the center of the jars (due to cold tomatoes), not because the tomatoes are big/not chopped. Just wanted to clarify! (Also, sorry if my wording is confusing, been staring at tomatoes for too long.)

    • Hi Taryn,

      In the Ball book, the processing times for raw-pack & hot-pack tomatoes are the same: the differences come in with whole vs. crushed, or water vs. tomato juice (or no added liquid) packing. Therefore the difference in the processing time is to compensate for the higher density of tomatoes packed in either tomato juice or with no added liquid (their own tomato juices). Whole tomatoes in juice require more time (85 minutes) than crushed tomatoes (35 – 45 minutes) in order to ensure that heat penetrates to the center of each tomato.

      Does that help?

      • Taryn

        Yes, that does help! I always assumed that crushed tomatoes process for less time because you boil them for 5 minutes, but your answer makes more sense. I canned these last night and really look forward to them in a batch of winter chili. Thank you for responding!

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    • I try to use the jars up within 2 years, but essentially, as long as the seal does not fail, storage time is indefinite. I store mine in a cool room-temperature, dark spot, with any bands off of the jars.

    • Adding roasted garlic would change the acidity, and therefore the safety, of the recipe, therefore I would not recommend it. You could add a small amount, say 1 clove in a pint jar or 2 cloves in a quart jar; but I wouldn’t go beyond that.

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