Friday, September 24, 2010

Freezing Tomatoes for Winter

Fifty pounds, It didn't look like that much when I started.
One of the many joys of summer is working in the garden, talk to any new gardener and you will hear the same question, "what do I do with all that produce when it ripens at the same time?" There are many good things to do with bountiful harvest. In our area we have a farm to table program where you can donate over production to a needy family. You can also make your non gardening friends, family and workmates happy by sharing with them. I wouldn't recommend trebuchet but I do know that in the fall that is a popular competition in some towns. One of the things I like to do is process my overage for the winter months, in this way our family can benefit from that garden goodness when store produce is dull and bland.

The fall of the year is when the tomato plants really kick it up into full gear, that and the threat of frost means many people have a plethora of fruit to deal with. We reduced the number of plants we put in the ground this spring after a bad experience with blight last year. Even with the reduced number of plants we still had an abundance of tomatoes. Being a glutton for punishment however I still went to my local farm stand and purchased an additional 20# case of tomatoes for processing.  I shopped around all the local stands and found that the price per pound varied from 50 cents to over a dollar all within a few miles, it pays to shop around.

I have canned tomatoes in the past and like the result, in the recent years I have been freezing them and find that it is quicker and less worrisome. The process I use for freezing tomatoes is a simple one but like anything worthwhile it takes time to complete. When I was a child we did the canning as a family, with 3-4 people we made quick work of it. I had 50 pounds of tomatoes to process which took almost 6 hours of my time. The afternoon went by quickly as I was listening to a good program while my hands were busy doing their thing. (I will admit that I did lie down for about 10 minutes after 3 hours of standing to rest my back, neck and shoulders.) 

The first thing I always do when starting a project like this is to clean and organize my workspace. Once everything is ready I feel comfortable to proceed, there is nothing worse than searching around for stuff in a panic.

1. BLANCHING: After a quick wash I placed all the tomatoes on the counter, sharpened a favorite knife to cut an X in the blossom end of each fruit. Cutting the X before the hot water bath is easier than to cut the skin after and allows for the expansion split that happens during the bath.

Lightly cut an X on the blossom end.

Getting ready for a nice jacuzzi bath

All together now

2. ICE BATH: Immediately after removing from the hot water place the tomatoes in the ice water to stop the cooking process. Because I was doing a large batch of tomatoes I filled my kitchen sink with ice water and continued until all the tomatoes were done. When the sink became full I transferred the processed tomatoes onto my work surface for the next stage.

The X allows structure for the split.
Jacuzzi - Ice Bath and then ready to process

3. PROCESSING: Once all the tomatoes have been blanched I settled into my work surface for the bulk of the task, peeling and slicing tomatoes. Once the tomatoes are blanched the skins just peel right off. I then remove the core, quarter each tomato then slide the seeds out before placing in one gallon freezer bags. You can also use the vacuum bags if you have them as they also do a really nice job.

Nothing goes to waste as the skins are composted.

Nearly 6 hours later, 14 gallons of yummy goodness.

It is almost October, tonight shows a frost warning, the garden will be emptied which means the process begins once again.

1 comment:

Jill DZines said...

Wow - that's a LOT of tomatoes!! Good for you! I wish we had gotten this many tomatoes this year!

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