When the bounty of fresh-picked tomatoes overflows in late summer, a quick solution is to put all the extras in the freezer. This home preservation method simply requires rinsing, cutting out the cores and setting the tomatoes on a pan to freeze individually. Stored in freezer-safe bags, the low-calorie, vitamin-rich vegetables are ready at a moment's notice to include in a nutritious meal. While freezing preserves that just-picked fresh flavor, the skins get tough and the texture becomes so soft that the tomatoes are best in preparations where taste takes precedence over form.
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Hold a frozen tomato under warm running water for 20 to 30 seconds to thaw the skin. Peel the tomato by pulling the loosened skin off and discarding it. Repeat the process for four to six large tomatoes or eight to 10 medium-sized tomatoes.
Set the peeled tomatoes in a bowl to thaw until they are soft enough to crush. Smash the tomatoes with a fork or squeeze by hand to break the tomatoes down into small chunks.
Cook 2 to 3 tbsp. olive oil, one medium chopped onion, and three to four minced garlic cloves -- depending on your taste preferences -- over medium heat in a large pot, stirring until the vegetables are a light golden brown. Add the crushed tomatoes to the pan along with 2 to 3 tbsp. fresh chopped herbs such as basil, thyme, marjoram and oregano. Season the mixture lightly with salt and fresh-ground black pepper, to taste.
Stir continuously until the mixture boils. Reduce the heat to medium, and simmer for an hour, without a lid, for a chunky sauce to serve over pasta. For a smoother sauce, simmer an additional 30 to 45 minutes until the sauce thickens.
Allow the mixture to cool, then puree it in a blender.
Soups and Stews
Thaw the outer surface of frozen tomatoes by placing them briefly under warm running water. Remove the skins by peeling them away.
Chop frozen tomatoes before they thaw completely to keep the juice from dripping on your work surfaces. Cut the frozen tomatoes into large chunks for meat and bean stews that have long cooking times. Make smaller pieces of tomato for faster-cooking vegetable soups.
Add chopped frozen tomatoes to light, broth-based soups about 10 to 15 minutes before serving to maintain the fresh-tomato flavor. Stir tomato chunks into hearty soups and stews made in the slow cooker at the beginning of the cooking process so that the flavor blends with other ingredients and seasonings.
Things You'll Need
2 to 3 tbsp. olive oil
Onion, medium, chopped
3 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
Basil leaves, fresh, chopped
Thyme leaves, fresh
Marjoram leaves, fresh, chopped
Oregano leaves, fresh, chopped
Substitute peeled, frozen tomatoes for fresh tomatoes in gazpacho soup to enjoy the fresh flavor of tomatoes even when they are out of season.
Season tomato-based sauces very lightly with salt while cooking, because the flavors intensify when the moisture evaporates and the sauce thickens.