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Frugal Mom's Guide to Once a Month Cooking

Once a Month Cooking book

Step-by-step instructions, forms and over 70 delicious recipes for making and freezing dinners for fast, easy cooking throughout the month.

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Simple Life Tips and Articles

How to Freeze Tomatoes

How to Freeze Fresh Tomatoes,
the Quick, Easy Way

Fresh TomatoesIs your garden overflowing with ripe, red tomatoes? Would you like an alternative to canning?

Don't waste another minute of these last days of summer. Use this quick, easy and very effective method to freeze those tomatoes.

 

The things you'll need:
Fresh, ripe tomatoes
Colander or strainer
Sharp knife
Cutting board
Freezer bags
Indelible ink pen for marking freezer bags

Tomatoes rinsing under faucet waterStep 1. Put tomatoes in a strainer and rinse thoroughly under fresh running water.

 

 

 

 

Step 2. Select tomato for cutting and inspect and rinse it again individually. You don't want to freeze any little bugs or dirt specs so be sure they are rinsed away.

 

Slicing stem off tomato on cutting board Step 3. Core or slice off the tomato stem and discard.

(See tips below if you prefer to remove the skins, otherwise, carry on to Step 4.)

 

 

 

Tomatoes sliced into wedges on cutting boardStep 4. Cut the tomato into thick (about 1/2") slices. Cut each slice in half to make a wedge. There is no need to remove the seeds or skin unless this is a personal preference. See tips below.

The tomatoes are cut into wedges, instead of frozen whole, because the best use of the frozen tomatoes will be to add the frozen wedges directly to your already simmering sauces or in the saucepan of your recipes in cooking progress. They will thaw and cook in faster and any pieces of skin will merge in to the dish.

 


Sliced tomatoes in marked freezer bag
Step 5.
Mark your freezer bag. At a minimum write "Tomatoes". Noting the quantity and date is very useful, too. Don't skip this step ... they may not be easily identifiable in the bag once they are frozen. You don't want to have to dig the bag out of the freezer and inspect it just to know that it is indeed a bag of tomatoes.

Note: As you cut the tomatoes, you can put them directly into the freezer bag or, if you want to freeze them in precise quantities, you can load them into a measuring cup and then put them in the freezer bag as you fill the cup. If you have specific recipes to use these in, then measure the quantity for the recipe and mark the bag with the quantity. Otherwise, load the bags in approximately one cup or two cup quantities.

Step 6. Squeeze out excess air and seal the freezer bags. Be vigilant about this step; the less air in the bag, the longer the tomatoes will store in the freezer without loss of flavor or nutrients. Double check that the seal is tight. You can now place these directly in the freezer.

If you prefer a square or flat shape to the bag, then place the bag in the freezer in a loaf pan, casserole dish, or on a small cookie sheet (whatever will give you the desired shape) and freeze overnight. Next day, remove the pan or dish and stack the bags.


Step 7. When you are ready to use the tomatoes, just remove from the freezer. Tomatoes frozen with this method can be used to make delicious soup, juice, sauce, or tomato paste, and can be used as an ingredient in dishes such as chili, burrito sauce, and spaghetti sauce. You can even use them to make your own catsup!

These frozen tomatoes make wonderful tomato soup. Watch for the recipe soon.


Notes and Tips for Freezing Tomatoes in Freezer Bags:

Blanching and Peeling
Many instructions for freezing fresh tomatoes have a step for removing the skin from the tomatoes. Most cooked, simmered, or baked recipes using tomatoes do not require that the skin be removed. If you are using the tomatoes to make chili, mexican meat fillings such as tacos, spaghetti sauce, or any recipe where the tomato based sauce will be simmered for length of time, the tomato skins will simply cook into the sauce and add extra nutrients and flavor. While I have seen comments that the skin will be chewy or tough, I have never experienced either one. For the most part, the skin is delicately thin and just disappears into the sauce as the sauce is simmered.

If you prefer peeled tomatoes, then after rinsing and cutting off the stem, drop the tomatoes in a large pot of boiling water. Boil for 15 - 60 seconds (test one or two to see how long your batch will need) then plunge the tomato in cold water. The skin should effortlessly slide of and may, in fact, begin to slide off as you remove it from the boiling water.

Note that the skin will also easily peel off after freezing. If you want to freeze tomatoes for peeling later, then in step three (#3) above, just leave the tomatoes whole or cut them in half and continue with the rest of the freezing steps. After freezing, you can either use the hot water plunge method, or you can run warm water over the frozen tomato and the skin will slide off.

If you are going to use these tomatoes for tomato soup or any other recipe that will later require simmering the tomatoes and then straining, then don't bother removing seeds or skin before freezing. The skin and seeds will remain behind when you strain the tomato pulp.

Removing Tomato Seeds

If you want to remove the tomato seeds, then first cut the tomatoes in half and scoop or scrape the seeds out with a spoon. Alternatively, you can try gently squeezing the halved tomato. Most of the seeds will easily plop out, but you will also lose some of the juice.

As with the skins (see above), if you are going to use the frozen tomatoes in a recipe that calls for straining the cooked tomatoes, then there is no need to remove the seeds before freezing.

I rarely remove the tomato seeds before cooking. As with the skin, the seeds either blend in unnoticeably or just disappear in the simmering process. The tomato seeds have fiber, protein, and other nutrients.

Storage Times for Frozen Tomatoes

Frozen tomatoes keep their rich, red color and flavor for up to a year in the freezer. Like most frozen foods, they are at their best when used within 30 days. However, I often am just using up the last year's frozen tomatoes when I start harvesting the current year's fresh tomatoes.

Type of Bags to Use

If you do plan to store the tomatoes in the freezer for long periods of time, then use the heavier freezer storage bags. For using with a week or two, the regular food storage bags work well. The regular bags are usually cheaper than the freezer bags.

One caution: the regular bags will tear easier in the freezer than the ones labeled freezer bags, so also keep this in mind when deciding what type of bag to use. The freezer bags are thicker and seal better, which keeps air from seeping into the bag for a longer period of time. This is also an important consideration.

Remember that air is an enemy of the frozen tomato and will greatly shorten storage time in freezer. Squeeze every possible bit of air out of the bag before storing.

Use Frozen or Immediately After Thawing

Frozen tomatoes should be used frozen or immediately upon thawing. Rinsing and freezing (even blanching) does not remove or destroy all potentially harmful organisms, although they will be greatly reduced. Storing the thawed tomatoes allows the organisms to begin to multiply.

I usually just cook the tomatoes from the frozen stage (no thawing, just put the frozen tomato chunk right in the saucepan and let it thaw as it cooks). Pre-measuring before freezing helps immensely in this case.

Frozen Tomatoes are Very Different in Texture from Fresh

Do note that freezing tomatoes will completely change the texture. (The texture in this case would be watery mush!) Frozen tomatoes cannot be substituted for fresh tomatoes in salads, salsas or other similar dishes. They are suitable only for cooking and baking.

 

Written by Patti Tokar
Photos by Patti Tokar

Copyright 2008 - 2016. All Rights Reserved. Do not duplicate without permission.

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Resources:

Nutritional Evaluation of Dried Tomato Seeds - Scientific paper

Joy of Cooking - Irma S Rombauer and Marion Romauer Becker

Carla Emery's Old Fashioned Recipe Book - An Encyclopedia of Country Living