Thursday, February 15, 2007

Using the harvest, part 3 (tomatoes)


picture: Tomatoes taken directly from the freezer and put into the crock pot. These were cleaned, dried, and placed into the freezer to be used with skins intact and stems removed. More pictures below.

How about red for a cold February day? A red soup fit perfectly with our "HEART"-y meal. Back to my using up the harvest series...

rank number one for garden canning endeavors and as a high acid fruit they can be processed in a water bath canner. They are the veggie I grow the most of, but as far as canning I usually find that when all the tomatoes are ripening I am to busy dealing with all the other garden produce. I learned from a fellow long-time farmer's market vendor (age 65 +) how she deals with the tomato abundance in September - October. ... she just wipes off the fruit to remove dirt and put them in the freezer to use when she was ready. I have done this also for several years. To begin I freeze them in a single layer using a pop flat box (this way they don't mash), then I place them a common grocery store plastic bag to keep them from falling all over my freezer until I am ready.

Tomatoes in recipes usually require 1 - 14.3 oz can or 1 - 28 oz can of tomatoes. I calculate that one pound of fresh (or frozen) tomatoes with skins removed is the amount for a 14.3 oz can recipe. To save time my tom's are usually in a cheap plastic grocery sack and from experience I consider a 1/2 full grocery sack is somewhere around six pounds. A quart size bag of medium tomatoes is the equivalent of a 16 ounce can (or 1 lb) and a sparse gallon size freezer bag of tom's equals the amount in a 28 ounce can, however I use the medium and large size ones which require more "air space" to make it more like a 28 ounce can in recipes. I did actually weigh them for a few years, but then I got to the point where I could eyeball a pound or two pretty well.

FAQ's about freezing tomatoes
Freezer burn ... Since I mentioned that I put them in a common grocery store (thin, cheap) bag, I bet that is what you are wondering. When I intend to make large batches of pasta sauces, BBQ sauce, tomato soup, etc I will have them used up by February. Since these foods are well seasoned I have never really noticed anything awry. I did go to the time and expense of using gallon size freezer bags one year and when I opened four or five at a time it seemed like such a waste. The farmer woman who gave me this advice said she just kept them in the box, she never even bothered bagging them or covering them. Again I stress that we used them up within six months and they were never defrosted and froze again at any point which is usually the reason for ice crystals.

Diced canned tomato similarity? The helpful farmer woman said she made soups and salsa with her freezer tomatoes. I like a chunky style salsa (which a frozen tomato cannot do), so I use them for soups and sauces only. The frozen tomato does not offer body, just flavor and volume. I cut the frozen tomato up when it is still frozen using a paring knife and acting quickly so my hands do not freeze or after it is in a cooking soup and thawed, then I use my kitchen scissors and chase after the tomato body cutting it into bits and pieces (sorry for the graphic description).

picture #2 above:
I let them cook on low overnight. You can see the the tomatoes are actually floating in a potful of clear tomato liquid. Unless pureed or the skins are removed and the tomato body is chopped the texture is not good at this stage, but it does maintain all of the tomato flavor. However you must remember when you buy them form a can salt is added and sometimes acidic preservatives are added, so this fresh tomato pot will not taste the same unless you doctor it.

Picture #3 above:
I used a hand blender to emulsify the tomato body and liquid together. I have a powerful kitchen aid hand immersion blender that works wonderful, and in this picture you can see it brings a bright red color that is basically a tomato puree with the consistency of what you would open from a can but without the salt or other preserving acids. Because my hand blender is powerful you cannot tell the skins are in this. Next I added the other ingredients required of TOMATO SOUP (link to my recipe) and let it cook on low while I went to work. When I came home I pureed again and ate tomato soup for supper with sandwiches. I personally like a red tomato soup that I add some dill or basil to right before eating, however I have known some who like a creamy, pink soup I guess you could add plain soy milk or pureed silken tofu to it if you desired.

Once the soup is pureed with the flavoring I could pour them into pint jars and further process with my pressure canner. Because I have low acid foods in there (carrots, onions, etc) I would process them for as long as the food that takes the most time. With this soup because I added no legumes I would process at 45 minutes for a pint, but then if I also needed to process tomato based pasta sauce of which I add mushrooms and TVP (a legume product), I would go ahead and place these jars with the others and process for 1 hour 25 minutes because that is what is required for the legumes. The way I made the tomato soup above may separate in the jar into the a layer of clear liquid. This is okay and can just be stirred to remix.

Another use for frozen tomatoes:
Bryanna's quick chili from the 20 minutes to Dinner Cookbook
This is one of my favorite fast easy winter soups. I take a frozen tomato and run it under warm water until the skin cracks and then peels right off. I do this with as many tom's as I need. The weight of the frozen fruit is the same as the fresh. I sometimes throw them in the frig and left them thaw after this, but am usually in a hurry and just begin chopping up the frozen fruit with my sharpest knife to throw into the soup. The chopped tomato body will basically dissolve and no texture will be left, just taste since the skins are removed. This works for any soup. Always taste for salt after the product has cooked... remember these have not had commerciall acids nor salt added to then.

Next tomato post will be about canning homemade pasta sauce and Italian Stufado stew.


Genie said...

Dori, this is incredible information -- other than two batches of slow-roasted tomatoes, I didn't really get to freeze any tomatoes this year, just ate them all, but now I'm armed with the info I need for the next time around. Thanks for this post!


Veg-a-Nut said...

Ilove your blog. The information you give is fantastic. Now I can take all those tomatoes my friends want to offer me during the harvest and actually know what to do. Thank you so much.
I also need to get Bryanna's book 20 min till dinner. You have recommened it many time. Added to the wish list.
Thank you also for the wonderful seitan recipes. I am going to succeed this weekend. :o)

Anonymous said...

You are a wealth of information. I can't wait for the post on homemade pasta sauce. I've been relying too heavy on store bought lately and it gets pretty expensive.

Melody said...

Dori, your blog is so amazing.. with every post, you Pay It Foward.

Thank You! Someday, I hope to utilize all of this canning/freezing information!

Judy said...

I just love freezing stuff, including veggies. And you're right, tomatoes freeze just perfectly. The soup looks great, too.

erica said...

Oh man, I wish I had a big freezer!! It's on my "someday" list, as frozen is OK for raw foodism (and if my garden turns out more food than I can eat, I'll need it).

laura jesser said...

I never tried freezing tomatoes... though I do love tomatoes and have always wondered if I could freeze them. Thanks for all the great information!

Twisted Cinderella said...

I love freezing stuff like that. I have never frozen tomatoes, but I that is mostly because I don't hav a garden and I always use them up. I wish I did. I do freeze lots and lots of vegs and stuff that I get in bulk.

Crystal & Ryan - Café Cyan said...

Wow, Dori - I never knew about this tomato "trick". Thanks for the detailed information - I'll have to do this soon (as summer is just around the corner...right?!?)


KleoPatra said...

Dori, you are wonderful. What a helpful, easy-to-understand huge amount of info you have shared in a way we can "get." THANKS!!

Dori said...

Crystal, considering you are in the same kind of frigid weather I am in... yes, I'll take that "leap of faith" statement and say that summer is just around the corner.

I'm glad you all found the info helpful, I was hoping to get across that frozen tomatoes are definitely not fresh, but can work very well for certain uses.

Kleo... ((hugs))

Anonymous said...

love those tomatoes. That's my kind of easy...just stick'em in the freezer.

Emmy said...

What a wonderful and informative post. Thanks so much for all the tomato canning information. Looking forward to your post about caning homemade pasta sauce :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tomato tips. I'm definitely going to save the info for this summer when we have home-grown tomatoes. I definitely learn a lot of tips from reading your posts. Thanks.

Have a great weekend.

aTxVegn said...

Thanks so much for this post. Fresh tomatoes is what I miss most right now.

Urban Vegan said...

inspiring, to say the least!

runswithdog said...

Dori, first off, thanks for the visit and comment on my blog. Second, I cannot wait now until next summer/fall. I am going to get lots of tomatoes and freeze them. What a wonderful, detailed and educational post. Thanks so much.

Oh, the bento you mentioned on my blog? Which one are you interested in? The Mr. Bento came from and the Femmio Valentino came from Ebay.

bazu said...

Thank you, thank you. I never knew you could freeze tomatoes before- what a great idea for next summer!

Anonymous said...

Two questions:

1) Because frozen tomatos take up so much space in my freezer, I am wondering about the ramifications of blending or pureeing them into a sauce of liquid and freezing the liquid in freezer bags or containers.

2) Why do we peel tomatos for soup and sauces? When we eat them raw, we eat them skin and all.

Dori said...

Hi Ted

I freeze the tomatoes whole because during harvest I am to busy to do much else with them. I am already canning and freezing other goodies. Since the tomatoes can be frozen with little hassle, that's what I do. You could freeze them in the way you mention also.

We peel the tomatoes because the peel erally is noticable in soups and usually unfavorable so since it separatesd from the tender flesh. Some tomatoes peels when diced and cooked give the mouth feel of paper floating in the soup. I know this from mistakes.

Note I do leave the peel on my frozen tomatoes when I puree soup because I have a powerful kitchenaid hand blender that purees them so well that we never notice.

tjcoyne said...

I was too busy to do anything with all my tomatoes so I did puree and freeze them in Gallon bags. Now I would like to go back and make spaghetti sauce and pizza sauce but I am wondering - do I have to then can it or can it be refrozen since it will be cooked first.

Dance said...

A couple of ideas about frozen tomatoes. Parboiling is supposed to help maintain flavor and color but I've never bothered to do that and find my frozen tomatoes are just fine.
I never peel them before I freeze them, when I'm ready to use them it's too easy to run them under water a minute letting just the skin thaw so you can just slip the skin right off. You can use it or not as you like.
Left to thaw they break down to tomato mush and very flavorful and easy to pour off liquid but the combination contains no more fluid than fresh, it's just leaked out of the cells- so if you are cooking with them and the recipe calls for whole tomatoes it probably needs the fluid. If not, don't toss it, I drink it but at least throw it into soup, etc.
I don't like to cook them, I freeze them to keep that fresh tomato flavor and I suggest gazpacho, or a fresh tomato pasta sauce with a bit of oil, garlic and lots of fresh basil. I'd chop up the basil in some of the tomato fluid. You can separate mush from liquid first and just use the amount of liquid you need.