Putting up Tomatoes: The Easy Way


Wash, trim, then dice enough tomatoes to fit your Dutch oven.

Here’s a no-recipe recipe for folks with little time and large palates. Tomato sauces are great to have hanging out in the fridge for impromptu meals. With their high acidic content, they have a lengthy refrigerated shelf-life, at the ready for spooning over, or incorporating into, grain dishes and proteins. The best bottled, freshest tasting tomato sauces, however, can be pricey.

Stir in olive oil, Kosher salt, wine and garlic, if using.

Stir in olive oil, Kosher salt, wine and garlic, if using.

So come September – when I can purchase local, off-the-vine tomatoes for a song – I make tomato sauce by the gallon, freezing it in small batches. I use to grow my own tomatoes, but now purchase them from local farmers for less money than it costs for me to “raise” them from seedlings. Think about it: plants, fertilizer, water, stakes…the plague of possible infestation? Rewarding, yes, but for the past few busy summers, not worth my efforts.

My mother made her own tomato sauce too, but her version took three times as long to make as mine. She’d place the tomatoes, each cut with a X, one by one into boiling water for a few seconds to loosen the skins. Then, with the precision of a surgeon, she’d slide off their casings. Then, bless her heart, she’d seed them, make her sauce, then ladle it into sterilized bell jars.


Simmer several hours,stirring occasionally, until reduced to desired consistency.

Canning? Forget about it. Ball Jar also makes a plastic container for the freezer. In lieu of those, I use yogurt containers, avoiding potential freezer burn by encasing them in freezer zip-locks. Skinning? Do I really have the time, and seriously, do those tiny bits of skin justify the effort it takes? Nah. I dice my tomatoes small enough so the skins aren’t large. I even like their texture incorporated into the silkiness of the tomatoes. If I didn’t, I’d run them through my food processor after cooking them down.

I’ve included a recipe for my sauce below, but basically, all you do is dice enough tomatoes to fill an enameled cast-iron Dutch oven, stir in olive oil and kosher salt and simmer for hours. There are a lot of optional extras in the recipe below, but here’s the hitch: You should use an enameled cast iron Dutch oven to cook your sauce. The acidity of the tomatoes will react  with an aluminum or stainless steel pot to lend a metallic flavor to the final product. Really. Been there.

Package in plastic containers and freeze.

Package in plastic containers and freeze.

I own a Le Creuset Dutch oven and three years ago purchased the Cuisinart brand for less than half of the Le Creuset price at T.J. Max. I’ve heard mixed reviews about the Cuisinart brand, and would never consider purchasing a lesser brand, but I’ve found it measures up to the quality of my Le Creuset. Not dissing Le Creuset, just sayin’…

I will surely use this sauce base for quickie winter Bouillabaisse’s and Cioppino’s. Especially festive recipes for entertaining during the busy holidays – feeling the breath of September in the chill of December.

Tips: ♥ If you’ve a Trader Joe’s in your area, I recommend purchasing their Greek Kalamata Extra Virgin Olive Oil or their President’s Reserve Italian. Italian friends (with vineyards) have informed me that Trader Joe’s purchases first class oils, yet we don’t pay first class prices. The long simmer obliterates the nuances of Maserati extra virgins. ♥ When I’ve leftover wine, I freeze it. Certainly not to drink, but to use in sauces such as this. Or if you’ve a bottle of red that’s been out a few days, that would be a good candidate for the sauce.  ♥ By the way, you know not to ever, ever refrigerate tomatoes, right?

Recipe: Putting Up Tomatoes: The Easy Way


  • Home-grown or locally-grown tomatoes, ripened until juicy; enough to fit your enameled cast-iron pot (12 tomatoes fit mine)
  • Extra virgin olive oil, as needed
  • Chopped onions, leeks or shallot, optional
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, optional
  • Kosher salt to taste (I used 1 tablespoon)
  • Extra virgin olive oil (I used 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil)
  • Red wine (I used 1 cup)
  • Finely chopped garlic (I used 1 tablespoon)
  • Fresh chopped basil, optional


  1. With a sharp knife, carve out stem end and slice off bottom end of each tomato. Cut into 1/2-inch diced pieces.
  2. Heat a tablespoon or two olive oil in the bottom of an enameled cast iron Dutch oven. (See above notes regarding importance of the cooking vessel.) Stir in onion, leek or shallot, if using. Stir in fennel seeds, if using. Cook over medium low heat, stirring, until vegetables are aromatic. Stir in tomatoes, olive oil and wine, if using. Bring to a low boil, stirring occasionally, until reduced to desired consistency. (I simmer my sauce 5-6 hours.)
  3. When sauce is room temperature, stir in basil, if using. Spoon into containers (see above notes) and freeze.

Preparation time: 30 minute(s)

Cooking time: 4-6 hours

Number of servings (yield): 10-12 cups (40 ounces)

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

Tagged: , , ,
More Recipes Filed Under "Fall"

I welcome your comments!(This site was recently transferred but, unfortunately, I did not have privileges to include past comments. I would love to see a conversation started!)

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *