Tomato Savings Time
We grow a lot of the food we put by for the winter, so most of the relevant posts here start in our own back yard. But as I was just saying on the radio, you don’t need to have a garden to take advantage of seasonal abundance; there’s plenty of it at farm stands and farmers markets. And it’s a bargain. When the fields are yielding full tilt, locally grown produce is not only far more delicious than the stuff in the supermarket, it’s also far less expensive.
Seasonal, however, is the magic word; if you want to eat well in the winter you have to stock up when the stocking is good. It’s easiest if you have a big freezer but even if your freezer is small and already full of pizza and ice cream, saving great produce for winter is not difficult.
Winter squash, for instance, will keep at cool room temperature for months. Dried peppers, mushrooms and tomatoes all last indefinitely as long as they’re stored airtight in the dark. And canning is a lot less hassle than you might think. More about what can go where is at Putting Food By, but for now let’s concentrate on
We do can them, mostly as Intensely Delicious Roast Tomatoes, the world’s quickest pasta sauce, but most of our crop is frozen, either as puree (Bill puts them in the blender skins and all) or just as they come from the garden.
To Freeze Whole Tomatoes:
Choose unblemished fruit, size doesn’t matter and they don’t have to be uniform.
Rinse and dry them – or just wipe them off with a damp cloth if you know where they came from and they’re already pretty much clean.
Put them on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer. Put the sheet in the freezer. That’s basically it.
Freezing takes anywhere from a couple of hours to overnight, depending on the size of the tomatoes and temperature of your freezer. As soon as they’re rock solid, transfer them to freezer bags. They will remain separate and can be removed individually. Very handy; sometimes you just want one.
Using Frozen Tomatoes
Think of them as puree-in-a-skin, a primo ingredient for soups and sauces and stews, but not usable in salads and sandwiches. (Freezing busts all the cells, so the fruit collapses when thawed. Some people put partially thawed cherry tomatoes in salads. Some people will do almost anything to prove a point.)
I always start by peeling them: dip the frozen tomato in hot water for about 10 seconds; the skin will split and slip right off. Cold water works too, actually, it’s just less comfortable.
Then I put the tomatoes in a shallow bowl and let them thaw to sherbet texture. At this stage they’re easy to core, which I do. They get chopped at this stage too, if I’m in a hurry to get them thawed. otherwise they can simply sit there (or be added as is to whatever you’d be pouring regular canned tomatoes into if you were reduced to using regular canned tomatoes).