Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Preserving Tomatoes in Olive Oil

'Husky Red Cherry Tomato'

Tomatoes in my garden were a bust this year... terrible stink bug infestation. The only tomato doing well is a single Husky Red Cherry Tomato plant near the front door, providing a quick munchie coming and going from the house.

No one in the house but me eats fresh tomatoes, and some days there are simply too many ripe cherry tomatoes, so I put up a few in olive oil, vinegar and herbs, refrigerated. They are delicious plucked out of the jar for a salad, and they come with their own dressing! When I go to Charlottesville to house-sit for 10 days in mid-September, I will just replenish the jar with fresh tomatoes and pack it in my cooler.
Tomatoes in Olive Oil, Herbs, and Vinegar

I used fresh herbs from the garden, so the oil will need to stay refrigerated long after the tomatoes are gone. If I had used dried herbs, I'd have no worries about botulism growing in the oil if I had blanched dried herbs in vinegar first, and then the jar of oil (once emptied of tomatoes) was stored at room temperature in the pantry...Hindsight is always 20-20, LOL.

To make some fresh marinated tomatoes, wash enough tomatoes to fill a quart mason jar. Add ¼ cup vinegar and herbs of your choice, shake well, and cover with olive oil. Be sure the tomatoes are fully submerged/covered with oil. Refrigerate. Allow to marinate a few days before using. I don't know how long they will keep... I ate all mine within 2 weeks!

Dried Tomatoes in Olive Oil
I considered lacto-fermented ripe tomatoes, but like fruits, they don't keep well (although lacto-fermented green tomatoes do, and so does lacto-fermented salsa).

To have some marinated tomatoes that keep longer than a couple of weeks, I dried some of my cherry tomatoes and covered them with olive oil so I could leave the whole jar in the pantry all winter, or as long as they last. Here's how I did mine:

Ready to dry. Sorry but the 'after' picture was out of focus
Tomatoes briefly in boiling vinegar bath

To marinate some dried tomatoes (sun-dried or dehydrator-dried) in olive oil (which is one of the many preservation types called a confit), wash tomatoes and slice. Since these were cherry tomatoes, I just cut them in half. Seeding is optional, as is skinning in a boiling water bath; I skip doing either with cherry tomatoes. Dry tomatoes by whatever method you choose, but they must be thoroughly dry to prevent botulism. As an added (and tasty) safety precaution once the tomatoes are dry, dip them briefly in a boiling vinegar bath. Use whatever kind of vinegar you like... I generally use Bragg's raw apple cider vinegar or organic red wine vinegar. (This time I used plain apple cider vinegar, so I could throw it away.)

Scoop out the tomatoes from the vinegar bath and place on paper towels; pat dry.

Put the 'bathed' tomatoes in a sterile jar, add dried herbs and/or spices, and cover with a good olive oil. Store in a cool place out of direct light. You could dress up the jar by using fresh herb sprigs, but be sure to also immerse the herbs in the boiling vinegar bath first to kill any surface bacteria.

Ready to Store in the Pantry
I know folks who prepare tomatoes in this fashion, using heated olive oil, and process/seal them in a water-bath canner for half an hour. My belief is that it may be safer in their minds, but it destroys the enzymes and nutrition in both the olive oil and the tomatoes.


  1. Thanks Dareius, this is great. We have loads of yellow cherry tommies. Can I dry them in the oven, and if so how? (You seem well on your way to achieving your wise woman goal. Congrats!)

    1. Sure, you can dry tomatoes in the oven. Just use a very low heat, like 125-150ºF and leave the door cracked a tiny bit so the moisture has a way to escape. Check them often so you don't burn them though.

      If you have a gas oven with a pilot light, that may provide enough heat although it may take longer.

    2. ps... I put mine in the refrigerator after a couple of days as another safety measure. The olive oil turns solid, so I have to bring the jar to room temp for several hours to use them. They were tasty as a garnish on a variety of dishes, and on winter salads when there were no tomatoes.


I'd love to hear what you think about my posts! We all learn together.