Introduction: Freezing Summer Tomato Crop
There's noting like the taste of an in season, vine ripened tomato. This is a quick and easy method to preserve those late summer gems. With a little effort now you can enjoy that unbeatable taste all winter long while the less fortunate dine on those insipid tinned versions of the real thing. Walk right on by those reddish waxed rocks in your supermarket selling for $3.99. You've got a freezer full of delicious tomatoes preserved at their peak.
Step 1: Tools and Ingredients
The following is a basic list of tools you'll need for the project:
• Ladle for filling freezer bags
• Tomato Shark (see picture) or small paring knife for coring tomatoes
• Zip-Loc Freezer bags' - 1Qt bags are good if you are going to make sauce later on
• Bench/Pastry Scraper (See Picture) for cleanup of tomato carnage (optional but great)
• Stockpot for blanching tomatoes, the bigger the better
• Large bowls for cooling blanched tomatoes and holding tomatoes. Stainless works best.
• Long Handle Strainer (See Picture) to pull tomatoes out of boiling water. Small strainer works too.
• Paring knife for everything else
Tomatoes for freezing and enjoying later. Almost any variety works. However, Roma's and Brandywines are great for making into sauce later.
I've found it takes about 2 lbs of raw tomatoes to make one 1Qt frozen. 20lbs = 10 Qt's in the freezer. You can often find really good deals at your locals farmers market in late August/Early September. I recently paid as little as $20 for 25lbs of organic Heirloom Roma's. It pays to buy in bulk.
Step 2: Overview and Prep
There are just a few simple steps in the process:
1. Blanching and Cooling
2. Coring and Peeling
Fill your stockpot 2/3's full of warter and put on the stove over high heat. You want acheive a solid rolling boil before blanching. This will take a while if your using a large pot.
Clean and prep the largest work surface you have in your kitchen. You’re going to want lots of space for multiple bowls and such.
Fill your largest bowl with Cold water and set the nearest you can to the blanching pot. You will be transferring the hot tomatoes in here to cool and loosen their skins.
Set a couple more bowls out on your work surface, your going to want one bowl to hold blanched tomatoes, one to hold processed tomatoes and one for the skins and scraps.
You will also want a couple of clean dishcloths handy as stray juice tends to build up and will need mopping up during the process.
Now you’re ready to go.
Step 3: Blanch and Cool
This step is not intended to cook the tomatoes at all, it is simply meant to ease the process of peeling. Be careful not to over blanch as it will turn the tomatoes to mush and loose that fresh flavor your trying to capture.
Once your water is at a rolling boil:
Quickly and gently (careful of splashing) drop enough tomatoes to fill your stockpot while maintaining a boil (6-12 depending on pot and tomato size)
After about 30 seconds begin removing tomatoes from the stockpot and placing them in your bowl of cold water and continue until all tomatoes from this batch are removed. The cold water plunge will split and or loosen the skins making it a breeze to peel them.
After a couple of minutes remove the tomatoes from the cold water and place them in a bowl in our work area. They are now ready to be peeled and cored. If you have a helper they can start the next step while you continue blanching and cooling the next batch.
Step 4: Coring and Peeling
Time for the fun part. You should now have a bowl of cooled tomatoes with very lose skin in front of you. Let's get them ready to package.
If you have a tomato shark you probably know how to use it. So get to it and core those tomatoes. If you don't own one, get one they are a couple of bucks and very handy. Try here. In the mean time, take a sharp paring knife and insert the tip a half inch (Careful not run it through and stab yourself) or so next to the outer edge of the stem part of the tomato. Angle the knife blade towards the center. Rotate the tomato until the knife cuts a full circle around the stem. You should now be able to pop the core and stem out.
Now grasp the tomato firmly in one hand and apply some downward pressure. The skin should slip right off. If it is difficult to remove the skin, try blanching a little longer.
Transfer the cored and peeled tomatoes to a bowl for packaging. Repeat until batch is done.
Step 5: Packaging
Time to fill the bags. I've found setting the empty bag in a small container helps hold it while you are filling it with tomatoes.
1. Quarter the tomatoes with a pairing knife (optional)
2. Using the ladle scoop the tomatoes into the empty freezer bags until it's about 3/4 full.
3. Wipe the seam with a clean dishcloth and seal.
4. Wipe the outside of the bag down.
5. Use a sharpie to label your bag with tomato type and date.
6. Throw those bad boys in the freezer.
7. You’re done!
Now don't you feel superior? You will, when you’re eating fresh tasting tomatoes in February.