I love a fresh, warm, vine ripened local tomato. But about this time of year, the abundance of the harvest starts to overwhelm me. I eat as many of them fresh as I can (usually until the acid wreaks havoc with my mouth) then panic when I see the brown spots start to appear on the pile sitting in my fruit bowl on the counter. (Tip #1: tomatoes should never be refrigerated, but rather stored at room temperature on the counter, out of the sunlight unless you are trying to ripen up a greenish one – then leave it in a sunny window.)
When tomatoes start to take over, I take to freezing them for the winter. I freeze them because I’m too lazy to do the actual work of canning them, and they work fine in cooked recipes later once frozen. (Check back on the blog later as I also make sauce from them which freezes beautifully and I’m going to a class this Saturday to learn how to air dry food in your car, of all things.)
To freeze tomatoes, first wash your jars and lids thoroughly in hot water to sterilize them. Dry jars and lids. Bring a large pot of water to boil. While the water is boiling, prepare a bowl of ice water (1 cup ice to 4 cups water). Cut a small X in the bottom of each tomato just to cut into the skin.
Drop tomatoes into boiling water for 30-60 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer immediately to the ice bath for a few seconds to cool. Working from the X, peel away and discard the skin, then use a small paring knife to cut out the core.
At this point I prefer to just chop my tomatoes whole and add them to the jars, seeds, juice and all. If you prefer, you can first seed them, then add them to the jars. Press the tomatoes down to remove air pockets and leave about 1/2 inch of space the top. Loosely screw on lids and place in the freezer. Do not tighten until the tomatoes have frozen, as they will expand slightly. Tighten all of the lids the next day.
To use, let thaw in the refrigerator for a day or thaw in the microwave.
NOTE: The large amount of water in your tomatoes will separate from the flesh when you thaw them. If the recipe can use the liquid, then just use the whole jar. If you want a more concentrated flavor, then drain them slightly before using. (Tip #2: tomato water makes an excellent tomato consomme or a cool base for a cocktail – check out this recipe for tomato consomme or this one for a tomato water martini.)