Farmers Market recipes · Healthy recipes · how-to · Uncategorized

Save a little summer sun in your freezer: Freezing fresh tomatoes

Jared, Justin, our friend Sarah, and Jacob in 2000

A few years back when my three boys were little and we lived down in Anderson County on an acre of beautiful, chicken-poop fortified black dirt, I grew tomatoes.

Not just a few tomatoes. My husband put in 40 or more tomato plants, along with corn, various varieties of peppers, purple hull peas, and butterbeans.

It was hard work. Keeping the weeds pulled and the insects pulled off and the deer and rabbits away was practically a full-time job in the hot East Texas sun.

But the labor was completely worth it when the harvest began. I’d walk outside each day, usually with my apron on from my work in the kitchen, and I’d start plucking fat, red-orange juicy tomatoes from each plant along the row.I’d make a sort of hammock out of my apron, and fill it full of ripe tomatoes.

It was amazing to me (as this was my first time growing things) how a tomato could barely be a pale orange color one morning, and by the next evening, be a beautiful red! The trick was, finding the beautiful red treasure before the critters did.

I miss those days of growing and harvesting with my three little stair-step boys in the garden with me, carrying their little grocery bags down the rows of  purple hull pea vines and butter bean vines, learning to tell by feeling the pods if the beans and peas were ready. We’d talk and laugh and sweat and make beautiful memories together.

Now life is so different; I have two college boys, and my “baby” is a senior in high school this year. No more chubby little hands picking vegetables and playing with worms in the dirt.

justin jacob and jared on stairs by jessie whittle

And I work full time at KLTV now, so there’s no time for all the planting, harvesting, canning, freezing I used to do. Life is funny like that; things happen in seasons.

My neighbors, Mildred and Charles, are retired and live beside us in Wood County, where we each have about three acres of land. Charles is already outside watering and working when I’m leaving home each morning, heading to Tyler. Mildred works alongside him in the garden, and she also cans and freezes so much beautiful produce. I hope someday to be able to do all that again when I’m retired, too.

These neighbors are the generous ones I mention frequently on Facebook, as they often send over a beautiful box or bag full of produce for my family to enjoy.  I’ve had red potatoes, onions, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, squash and cucumbers from their garden so far this year, and have loved and been thankful for every delicious bit of it!

This weekend, some of the tomatoes they sent were getting too ripe, as the boys were in New Mexico for church camp and not at home eating, so I knew the tomatoes would be wasted if I didn’t do something with them.  I decided to freeze them like I sometimes did in Anderson County. It’s so much quicker than canning, and works well when you don’t have bushels and bushels at a time. It was fun getting to do that small project, reminiscing about the days we shared together in the garden when my boys were small as I worked.

Here’s how I did it:

Freezing fresh tomatoes

1. Plan for about 2 1/2 to 3 pounds of tomatoes for a full quart of frozen tomatoes.

2. Fill a large stockpot or double boiler about half full with hot water. (If you have a steamer basket insert, this works perfectly for the job). Place pot on burner over med-high heat until it reaches a boil.

3. While waiting for the water to boil, wash the tomatoes thoroughly and pull off any stems.

4. Place a large bowl or pot full of ice water near the stove.

5. Put a single layer of tomatoes in the steamer basket, and immerse slowly into the boiling water. Leave in the water for about 20 seconds, and then remove. (If you don’t have a steamer insert, gently lower tomatoes one by one into the boiling water with a long-handled slotted spoon).

6. Immerse the hot tomatoes into the cold ice water. Leave them in for several minutes.

7. Remove tomatoes from water and set aside.

8. Repeat the process until all tomatoes have been blanched in the boiling water and cooled in fresh ice water.

9. Peel off the tomatoes’ skin. It’s really easy to remove the skin now that they’re blanched and cooled.

10. Use a cutting board and sharp knife to cut tomatoes into whatever size you like, whether quartered (my preference) or diced. You can leave them whole, if you like.

11.  Place tomatoes into quart-sized good quality freezer bags and press all air out as you seal them.

12. Stack flat in your freezer for nice, uniform frozen packages.  Enjoy in soups, stews and sauces all  year long.

Here are some recipes you can use delicious frozen tomatoes in:

Sausage-gnocchi soup

Italian sausage-vegetable soup

Spicy chicken-radiatore soup

Heart healthier Italian sausage pasta bake

Southwestern-style wagon wheel pasta

Weeknight Bolognese sauce

Mama Steph's Italian sausage-vegetable soup

Have you been doing any canning or freezing of produce this summer? What are your favorite recipes? Tell me about it! Join me on Facebook!

Copyright 2013 Stephanie Hill Frazier. All rights reserved.

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