Tomato Wine

My dad grew up in the Depression years, so if anything could be conserved and/or reused, our family did it.  Wasting food wasn’t quite a cardinal sin, but we mourned the occasional demise of a leftover with the regret most people would feel over losing a $5 bill.

I inherited the food-conservation compulsion.

So.  You may recall that Hubby and I grew a gigantic and successful veggie garden this year.  The tomatoes were particularly prolific.  We ate fresh tomatoes with almost every meal, and I canned quarts and quarts of them.  Then I made salsa, ketchup, tomato paste, and green tomato pickle.  I gave away tomatoes to friends, neighbours, and the food bank; and the tomatoes just kept coming.

We still have so many tomatoes that for once in my life, I’ve stopped worrying about wasting them.  (Okay, not really; but at least I’m slightly less obsessive about it.)  So I’m trying something new:  Tomato wine and tomato cider.

It may not be as weird as it sounds; or at least we’re not the first to attempt it.  I have no idea whether it will be tasty, barely drinkable, or vile rocket fuel; but at this point I have nothing to lose but a couple of pounds of sugar and a package of yeast.

Wine-making vocabulary always makes me wonder whether I’m fermenting a beverage or describing some kind of medieval torture: Pitching the yeast, racking off… it all sounds painful and barbaric.  But drinking our tomato hooch might actually turn out to be akin to medieval torture; so maybe the vocabulary is more appropriate than I realize.

Even if it fails, it’s an interesting experiment; and at least I tried to Not Waste Food.  I think my dad would be pleased:  His chokecherry wine was legendary.  (Keeping in mind that ‘legendary’ can be astoundingly good or abysmally bad.  It was definitely memorable.)

Anybody else ever made tomato wine or cider?  Or have more ideas for using another twenty pounds of tomatoes?  Maybe tomato ice cream…?

Book 15 update:  Another good writing week!  I’m in the middle of Chapter 9 with flashing lights and sirens, and Arnie’s found another feline friend.

52 thoughts on “Tomato Wine

  1. We don’t end up with as many tomatoes as you seem to, but quite often we will freeze a tray of them. then, when they defrost they are perfect for making an amazing spag bol or chilli, you don’t even need to cut them up first like when they’re ripe, just chuck them in!
    We also put them out the front with the masses of rhubarb we end up with for people to help themselves to


    • That’s a great idea! Lots of people do that here, too; for free or for sale. There are little “honour stands” all over: A table with some fruit or veggies, and a tin for money. People stop by, help themselves, and leave payment. It really restores my faith in humanity! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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  3. Tomato wine….now that’s a new one. I love tomatoes and am still trying to wrap my mind around them as the basis for a wine. I guess I need to refill my glass of Cabernet and ruminate on that for awhile…:)


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  5. Diane I grew up in a similar family where food waste was not tolerated. They were ahead of the game for now it has become such a worldwide issue..
    I’ve not heard of tomato wine or of it being used as rocket fuel. Perhaps you are on to something. If i see a red streak in the sky I’ll be thinking of you.


  6. My immaturity blocked out everything but “racking off” and “chokecherry” . With “yeasty ooze” still rattling in the back of my brain, it’s time for me to quit sniggering like Beavis, and think about something else.

    Or not..😎


  7. Like you, I never waste food. I hate any kind of waste in general. We sometimes see communal gardens and the fruit and veggies (among which many tomatoes) are just lying on the ground, going to waste. How we wished we could jump the fence and put those veggies to good use!

    How about tomato juice? And, freezing some of it? You probably did that already. I like the Bloody Mary idea of a previous commenter. And, I’m curious to find out how this experiment goes. Splattered tomatoes might be harder to clean off the ceiling than splattered sourdough starter! 🙂


    • That’s true! We already had an ‘oops’ — we were racking off and there was a lot of pulp still in the mix. Our siphon had a major hiccup, and then I got to clean yeasty semi-booze off the floor, wall, and counter. But as long as it doesn’t hit the ceiling, I consider it only a minor setback. 😉

      So sad to see veggies rotting in a communal garden! Around here there are gleaning groups — if you don’t want or can’t use all of your garden’s veggies or fruit, you can phone these groups and they will come and collect the goodies and donate them to the food bank (or compost them if they’re too far gone). I love living on Vancouver Island!

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  8. Aha! Instant Bloody Mary!! Nailed it!!

    Then again, if the result of that experiment proves to be, er, suboptimal, remember that, uh, excess organic material can easily be incorporated back into the soil as, er, enrichment. There. Improving the nutritional profile of your gardening environment. Totally worthwhile, laudable even, and an obviously righteous methodology for, uh, disposing of the evidence. And all without wasting any food at all.

    You’re welcome. 😁


    • LOL! “Beaujo-barb” — even the name makes me shiver. We attempted various wine recipes with rhubarb and never did achieve anything palatable. But trying to create something alcoholic doesn’t technically count as “wasting food”… 😉


  9. If it has alcohol in it then it is drinkable. By someone somewhere. Our growing season is barely long enough to grow tomatoes and some years it isn’t so we have to ripen them indoors after picking. Maybe someday I will live in a more temperate climate.


    • Everyone told us we wouldn’t be able to grow tomatoes here — too cool and wet. But we’re inland by 10 miles or so; and the last couple of summers have been unseasonably hot. I don’t know if our good luck with tomatoes will continue; but I always used to ripen them indoors when we lived in Calgary, too. One way or another, I WILL grow tomatoes!

      And that’s an excellent point about the alcohol content. The trick is to give the guests some high-quality booze first. By the time we bring out our hooch, they won’t be able to tell the difference. 😉


  10. Sun dried tomatoes… always worth a try How hard can that be? The only problem ,after laying the tomato slices on a cookie sheet in the sun, would be keep the chipmunks from stealing them. …but then again drying in the oven might be a better choice.


    • Mmm, I love sun-dried tomatoes! The sun is pretty well gone for the winter here, though — we’re into our rainy winter weather now. The oven is definitely a better option! (Plus it makes the house nice and toasty-warm.) 🙂


  11. Our families were obviously familiar. When crops were particularly prolific visitors to our home were not allowed to leave without a bucket of whatever the crop du jour was.
    Home grown tomatoes? Complete bliss. I happily eat them straight from tne vine. And make chutneys, sauces, relishes. Sadly we haven’t had a bumper crop in years. (Too dry and too hot).
    Tomato wine/cider? Worth a try. You know we will be interested in the results too. Review required in the fullness of time. And depending on the alcohol content fullness might be an entirely accurate description.


    • Yes indeed! The enthusiasm of the review will be dependent on how much I’ve imbibed. 😉

      I love tomatoes, too — like you, I eat them straight from the vine. And I completely pig out on them in the summer because I refuse to buy grocery-store tomatoes during the winter. Those pale, mealy, tasteless things aren’t even worth the trouble of chewing. The garden is a lot of work, but it’s so worth it!

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  12. Is that green tomato pickle by chance also known as chow? (or in some circles, chow chow?) That’s the only tomatoey thing I can still eat. I was also going to suggest soup although I see you prefer canned. But just plain hot stewed tomatoes, with salt and pepper, which is how my mother made it when I was little, is surprisingly good, and so different from canned cream of tomato soup that it’s a whole different thing. Then there’s tomatoes cut in half, sprinkled with parmesan and stuck under a broiler for a minute or two, as a side dish. Or, like we had in university, grilled open face sandwiches of cheese-bacon-tomato. A cooked tomato is so unlike a raw tomato that it opens up new vistas of taste. And what about dried tomatoes? You can even invest in a new appliance just for that purpose! Just what you wanted, no doubt 🙂

    But all those things won’t solve your tomato glut, will they? Tomato wine just might! I hope it turns out wonderfully and you get to enjoy it all winter long 🙂


    • Thank you! I love plain stewed tomatoes, too, and these ones are so sweet it’s almost like eating dessert. I’m still eating Greek salad and Caprese salad, too — I never get tired of them! And maybe I’ll try a version of cream of tomato soup – who knows; it might become our new favourite. 🙂

      I’ve heard green tomato pickle referred to as both ‘chow’ and ‘chow-chow’, but those recipes seem to have a bit more to them than our family’s version. Ours is just green tomatoes, onions, salt, and a bit of turmeric and mustard seed, cooked in vinegar. It’s mouthwateringly sour and tangy! And how interesting that you can eat chow but not ripe tomato recipes. I’ll never understand why our bodies seem to arbitrarily choose one thing and reject another!


      • I think the difference is due to the quantity – if I could eat tomatoes, I’d eat at least one regular size one per meal. But I’d only eat a tablespoon or so of chow and only once in a long while, and it would be mixed in with all the plain stuff I eat, like mashed potatoes 😀


    • Our problem with tomato soup is that we like the flavour of the canned variety; and since it bears only a passing resemblance to anything in the natural world, it’s very hard to recreate that artificial flavour. Sad but true…

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  13. If I were closer, I would gladly have paid to get some decent tomatoes! Salsa would be high on my list (growing the jalapeños and other peppers myself as well), and I have in the past canned tomato pureé since I use it in quite a few concoctions here. I was perfectly happy with a large tomato and salad dressing for lunch.

    I’m not sure about the tomato wine (that’s…interesting? 😁), but my dad was on a kick of making champagne for several years. From grapes, not tomatoes. Every autumn it was the same procedure–he would get the grapes going in the crock, and the basement would always be host to a handful of fruit flies…and that smell! Thankfully once all that mashed stuff was gone and it was down to a liquid, and put in the 5 gallon bottles where it would percolate for months, the basement would return somewhat to normal.

    One amusing anecdote (other than the time my nine year old self “sampled” some of the champagne as he was bottling it, and ended up sitting my bedroom quite plastered afterwards) was the night I’d just gone to bed, and hear some loud bangs, sounding and feeling like they were hitting the bottom of the floor in my bedroom. He had bottled some champagne that night, but since it was running late, he decided he would wire the corks onto the bottles the next day. The champagne had other plans and turned the plastic corks into projectiles. So he was up late that night, dodging the popping corks and wiring up the remaining bottles before they popped.

    He grew tired of that particular hobby, and eventually the last batch just sat underneath the bar, percolating away for years. When we cleared out the house about 15 years ago, I ended up dumping several 5-gallon jugs of what probably was vinegar into the sewer system; I’m sure the fishies and other aquatic creatures out in Lake St. Clair didn’t appreciate that, or perhaps they liked vinegar for their seaweed salads. I counted at least ten five gallon bottles (these were formerly water bottles), and twelve cases of used champagne bottles that we eventually gave away.

    Dad was one of those Depression-era children as well, and aside from his other cheapskate habits, he never let food go to waste. Even the undesirable leftovers would be consumed. And unfortunately I inherited some of that myself. It bothers me to toss away edible food, even if I can’t stomach eating it myself.


    • I’m chuckling, because there are many times I’ve forced down truly awful-tasting concoctions that anybody in their right mind would have thrown away. They were failed recipes that were completely safe to eat; they just had revolting flavours or textures. But down the hatch they went!

      Your dad’s champagne experience rang a very familiar bell. It never happened to my dad; but Hubby’s dad used to make wine, too, and once he made the mistake of bottling before the yeast was completely inactive. He had stored the wine in glass gallon jugs, and when the first one exploded it set off a chain reaction in all the other highly-stressed vessels. Hubby said they went off one after another, ping-ping-ping-ping! I guess that’s a mistake he only made once. 😉

      And yes, we grew all our own hot and sweet peppers this year, too. Hubby’s got a 5-gallon pail of jalapenos out in the garage right now. We’ve already pickled and frozen all we need, so these ones might end up getting dried on a string. At least they’re ornamental, with all their lovely bright reds and greens!


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