Preserving Tomatoes for Winter – Fermented Tomatoes Recipe

by | Mar 4, 2020 | Preserve, Recipes

We all love that fresh garden tomato taste, and if you’re like us, you wish you could have that amazing flavor year-round. Fermented tomatoes take just a few minutes and you can enjoy that garden-fresh tomato taste all year long.

Glass jars filled with fermented tomatoes.

What’s the best way to preserve tomatoes?

Hands down, it’s gotta be fermentation. What I love most about fermented tomatoes is how quick they are to make, but it’s also super simple to do in small batches. It works well with large batches, too, but you will need to make sure you have your canning jar supply stocked up!

Depending on the year, we’ve had tomato feast as well as tomato famine. But there’s nothing better than taking those tomatoes off the vine as they ripen and fermenting up a quart at a time.

We love using our fermented tomatoes for our favorite raw marinara sauce. (We also love these NOT sun-dried tomatoes!)

Once we discovered how flavorful (and oh-so-easy) fermenting tomatoes can be, this has now become our favorite preservation method.

Woman standing behind three glass mason jars filled with fermented tomatoes.

How to Preserve Tomatoes

  • Canning
  • Freezing
  • Dehydrating
  • Fermenting
  • Making tomato condiments, sauces, and jams

The list goes on and on…

You can even preserve your green tomato harvest, although our favorite is to bring the vines in before the first frost and let the tomatoes continue to vine ripen in the house.

The Benefits of Fermented Tomatoes

  • Easy – just add salt to water and drop in your tomatoes!
  • Fast – it takes just seconds per container.
  • Health benefits – lacto-fermented foods contain probiotics (beneficial bacteria), enzymes, and healthy acids… all of which benefit digestion, immune function, and overall health.
  • Delicious – just blend the fermented tomatoes up raw with some garlic and basil for the most amazing tomato sauce ever!

Fermenting Tips and Tricks

There are a few basics you should always keep in mind when fermenting foods:

  1. Use pure water (no chlorine or other chemicals). Distilled water is fine.
  2. Use unadulterated salt. Table salt and iodized salts contain chemicals that will interfere with proper fermentation.
  3. Use a food-grade fermenting vessel (glass jars or ceramic containers are preferable) and never metal.
  4. Use some method to keep the tomatoes underneath the liquid level at all times. This can be a fermenting weight, a small plate, packing the jar in a way that the food cannot rise, or simply filling with liquid to the brim. Then cap and watch the liquid level closely.
  5. Cover your fermenting vessel in a way to keep out fruit flies and dust, but still allow gasses to escape. A plastic storage lid on a jar (NOT airtight) will work, a lid with an airlock will work, so will any other loose-fitting lid. Alternately, just burp your regularly capped jar (open it slightly) if you notice gas buildup. 
  6. Move your ferment to cool storage after the initial ferment (about 3 weeks for medium-sized tomatoes in a medium temperature kitchen). This could be a refrigerator, but a cool, dark cabinet, cellar, or basement work as well.

Easy Fermented Tomatoes: Step-by-Step Tutorial

(Be sure to watch the video of Carolyn demonstrating this simple fermentation process down below!)

Stop slaving over your stove to can your tomatoes… ferment them instead!

The first thing you’re going to want to do is make sure you have clean tomatoes and clean fermenting vessels. You don’t need to sterilize them, just a good washing under running water for the tomatoes will do and a soapy wash for your fermenting vessel. Be sure to rinse them well.

Next, take a clove of garlic and about 3 tablespoons of salt (for a quart-sized jar) and add about 2 cups of water. Stir to allow the salt to dissolve just a bit.

Woman spooning in salt to a glass mason jar.

Now is when you’ll want to add in any herbs (garlic and basil are a family favorite!) or seasonings to give your tomatoes just a little extra flavor. This is purely optional as garden-fresh tomatoes are delicious all on their own.

Next, shove as many tomatoes into the jar as you can fit (without completely squashing the tomatoes). Cover the tomatoes with a fermenting weight if they won’t stay submerged (see my notes above for other ideas to keep food under the brine).

Woman stuffing tomatoes into a glass mason jar.

Add a loose-fitting lid and let ferment at room temperature for 3-4 weeks, then transfer to cold storage.

And that’s it! Every now and then, as you’re walking past your tomatoes, give the jar a shake or two. This ensures the salt and flavors are well distributed throughout the jar.

Woman turning a jar of fermented tomatoes upside down to redistribute the salt.

If you’re curious about our favorite way to enjoy these fermented tomatoes, take a look at this raw marinara sauce recipe!

Two jars of fermented tomatoes.

Fermented Tomatoes

These fermented tomatoes are a great way to preserve your harvest to use into the fall and winter.
5 from 1 vote
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Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Fermentation Time: 21 days
Total Time: 21 days 5 minutes
Servings: 16 servings
Calories: 5kcal
Author: Carolyn Thomas

Ingredients

  • 1 lb tomatoes (small to medium in size)
  • 3 Tbs salt (good quality sea salt)
  • water (filtered)
  • basil and garlic, or other herbs and spices (optional)

Instructions

  • Gently wash tomatoes to remove any dirt or particles and stem.
  • Start with clean glass jars (or other non-porous non-metal fermenting vessel).
  • Pour salt and a little water into your fermenting vessel, stir to begin dissolving salt.
  • Add several garlic cloves, herbs or spices to the jar, if using.
  • Pack vessel full of tomatoes.
  • Pour more water to cover.
  • Cap jar with lid.
  • Leave out at room temperature for 3-4 weeks.
  • Move to cold storage.

Video

Notes

Fermenting Tips
  1. Use pure water (no chlorine or other chemicals). Distilled water is fine.
  2. Use unadulterated salt. Table salt and iodized salts contain chemicals that will interfere with proper fermentation.
  3. Use a food-grade fermenting vessel (glass or ceramic is preferable) and never metal.
  4. Use some method to keep the tomatoes underneath the liquid level at all times. This can be a fermenting weight, a small plate, packing the jar in a way that the food cannot rise, or simply filling with liquid to the brim, capping and watching the liquid level closely.
  5. Cover your fermenting vessel in a way to keep out fruit flies and dust, but still allow gasses to escape. A plastic storage lid on a jar (NOT airtight) will work, a lid with an airlock will work, so will any other loose-fitting lid. Alternately, just burp your regularly capped jar (open it slightly) if you notice gas buildup. 
  6. Move your ferment to cool storage after the initial ferment (about 3 weeks for medium-sized tomatoes in a medium temperature kitchen). This could be a refrigerator, but a cool, dark cabinet, cellar, or basement work as well.
 
Other recipe tips:
 
  • Storage: These should keep for a few months in cool temperatures and up to 12 months in cold storage.
  • Scaling: This recipe can be scaled up or down… try a pint of cherry tomatoes or a 5-gallon bucket of paste tomatoes. Just be sure to scale the salt up or down as well.
  • To Use: Eat raw, in salads or blend with fermented garlic (or fresh garlic) and serve raw over hot rice or pasta. Makes a great pizza sauce as well!

Nutrition

Calories: 5kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 1310mg | Potassium: 67mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 236IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 4mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?We want to see! Tag @homesteadingfamily on Instagram.

Looking for other fermented vegetables and recipes?

Regardless of your tomato situation this year, be sure to pin, bookmark, or save this post for later– because your tomato bounty will come eventually!

Great to meet you!

It is our goal to encourage you in the path to a more healthy, more secure and free lifestyle by sharing and teaching the skills that lead to greater sustainability and self-sufficiency for you, your loved ones and your community.

– Carolyn and Josh 

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