Freezing Tomatoes

Posted by Tracey Vowell on

The summer is so fleeting, and as the light starts to noticeably change, I always feel the hoarder in me rising up. To that extent, I have been roasting, or pureeing and reducing tomatoes, jarring them up, and putting them in the freezer.

I use two methods, and hopefully will put away enough that I never even consider a walk down the aisle at the grocery, looking for any tomato product.

I freeze cherry tomatoes all mixed together, whole, in a large container or plastic bag. Unless damaged they will not stick together, and I have the option of using 1 or 10 without compromising any of the others.

But big tomatoes, I process a bit...

Roasted: Turn on your broiler, and using a sheet pan with sides, or a shallow roasting pan, line the bottom with tomatoes. 

Maybe I am a little bit OCD, but I always put the stem side down first. Set the pan under the broiler and roast until the skins are well blistered and somewhat blackened.

Sliding the sheet pan to one side or the other, as it broils, will ensure everything roasts. Remove the pan from the oven, and using tongs, or a large spoon, gently turn the tomatoes over, possibly pouring off some of the juice if much has collected on the first side.

Return the pan to the oven, and continue, looking for that blackening and loosened skin, all the way across the top of the tomatoes. We are talking, probably 12-15 minutes on each side. Remove the pan and allow to cool a bit. Remove the skins, and any cores (if you were using heirlooms, these can be substantial) and place in a well sealing jar, leaving a little bit of room for expansion at the top of the jar. Refrigerate overnight, then freeze in appropriately sized jars for your needs. I generally do pints and quarts on these.

Puree: I set my stock pot on the hottest burner I have, and turn it all the way up. 

While the pan heats, I start cutting tomatoes into quarters, removing any core.

I place into a blender jar and blend thoroughly, remembering that the majority of the nutrition in tomatoes, like so many vegetables, is in the skins, so I want that to really be pulverized.

I set a coarse strainer over the heated pot, and pour the blended tomato through it, using a ladle to push every bit of juicy goodness through. The first few seconds can be vigorous as the puree hits the hot pan, so careful about having your hands straight over the pot. I like the heated step, because it adds some caramelization to the puree, developing flavor.

Once I have all the puree in the pan, I reduce the heat to medium, and let it boil. Depending on quantity, this can take a little while, so set a timer for every 15 minutes or so, each time returning to the pot and checking consistency while giving everything a good stir. I tend to let mine get pretty thick, so as I notice texture really coming up, I reduce the heat to prevent scorching as it continues to thicken. Once reduced, I allow to cool a bit, place in jars, this time, much more likely half pints and pints, cool in the fridge, and freeze the next day. Again, remember to leave a little bit of expansion space in the jar!

Having things like flavorful tomato available in the winter months is such a great thing, when all the big summer flavors have gone. Honestly, given my occupation, winter is when I do the majority of my real cooking. It would be a shame if I couldn’t set aside some of my own product to use when I actually have time to do something with it.

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