Three little words are all you need to know to boost the flavor of your winter soups and sauces.
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There's something very special about fresh, locally-grown produce. There is nothing we love more than spending a morning wandering around our local farmer's market, hand-picking the perfect heirloom tomatoes to go into our tomato pie. Unfortunately, buying fresh and local means working with the constraints of the season. And while the wintertime yields a wonderful bounty of its own (we can't get enough of butternut squash and hearty greens), there are certain things that you just won't find—like gorgeous fresh tomatoes.

When fresh produce is unavailable, canned food is our best friend. Canned tomatoes are a reliable, shelf-stable product that we keep stocked in our pantries year-round; they add body and richness to so many of our favorite sauces and stews.

While canned corn and tomatoes can't quite compete with the fresh farmer's market bounty, they still make a dang good succotash that you can enjoy all year round. And we're taking a cue from culinary historian Jessica B. Harris in learning how to revive those canned tomatoes, giving the shelf-stable product new life.

When it comes to cooking with canned tomatoes, it's all about the technique. Canned tomatoes don't have to be watery and slimy—it's all about how you prepare them. And in her recipe for Any-Season Succotash, Harris sheds light on how to maximize the flavor of canned tomatoes.

The Three Words You Need to Know

Three words: Save the liquid. When cooking with canned tomatoes, you might be tempted to strain out the liquid they're canned in. And while we do recommend straining the tomatoes, be sure to reserve that canning liquid—also known as liquid gold. Think of this liquid as tomato juice that's concentrated with flavor; it can be used to help thin soups and stews while also infusing your dish with a boost of slightly-salty tomato flavor.

How to Cook With Canned Tomatoes

When cooking with canned tomatoes, you'll want to first separate the tomatoes from the liquid (ensuring that you save this liquid). Canned tomatoes are not fully cooked, so sautéing the tomatoes on their own helps them cook through and release any water they've retained. Cook the tomatoes for three to four minutes until they've softened and caramelized. Once you've thoroughly cooked the tomatoes, go ahead and add back in the liquid. Cook for another three to four minutes to let the water evaporate and the liquid reduce.

Sauteing the canned tomatoes first, then reintroducing the juice brings even more tomato flavor. Now that you know how to maximize the flavor of your canned tomatoes, find tonight's dinner inspiration from these canned tomato recipes.