Stretch tomato season indefinitely with these easy tips. June 25, 2020
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By Regan Burns Cafiso for Food Network Kitchen
If you’ve taken a bite of a perfectly ripe, just-picked, in-season tomato you know that it tastes entirely different from — and far superior to — the pale and insipid winter imposters. And it makes sense — tomatoes from the grocery store, usually picked before they’re fully ripe, are bred for long-distance travel and lengthy shelf-life. The ones from your garden or farmers’ market are grown mainly for flavor.
Even when stored properly, fresh tomatoes don’t last long. While canning is often thought of as the proper way to preserve a bumper crop, the sterilizing, filling and sealing process can feel daunting — and if done incorrectly, it can even be unsafe. But there’s an easier way: You can freeze tomatoes at their peak ripeness to enjoy their fresh flavor all year long without a lot of hassle or extra equipment.
One note: Due to the high water content of tomatoes, they don’t thaw well for use raw — thawed tomatoes get mushy and watery. Plan to use your frozen tomatoes in sauces, soups, stews and other cooked applications. If you want to enjoy your tomatoes raw, you’d better eat them right away!
How to Freeze Chopped Tomatoes
There are a few ways to freeze tomatoes. The classic method is to blanch and peel them first. This step removes the skin and readies your tomatoes for use in marinara sauce, soup and more.
To blanch, bring a large pot of unsalted water to a rapid boil. Prepare an ice bath. Core the tomatoes with a paring knife at the stem end and score the other end with a shallow X. Carefully add the tomatoes to the boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes. When ready, the skins will split further and peel back slightly. Transfer the tomatoes to the ice bath. When cool enough to handle, peel away the skins and discard.
Chop or quarter the peeled tomatoes. They can be frozen in containers straightaway, but for even longer storage and a finished product that works more like canned tomatoes in your recipes, take a final step: Put the quartered tomatoes in a large nonreactive saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer this mixture to airtight containers, leaving at least 1 inch of headspace to allow for expansion. Let cool to room temperature, uncovered, then secure the lids and freeze. Prepped this way, your tomatoes will last up to 10 months — or until next tomato season!
How to Freeze Whole Tomatoes
Does all that blanching, peeling and simmering sound like a little too much work? For a truly low-lift technique with big payoff, stash whole ripe tomatoes in resealable plastic bags right in the freezer (freeze them on a baking sheet first if you have extra time). The peels slip off easily when the tomatoes thaw so they’re ready for a fresh batch of marinara or pizza sauce. If you’re really in a rush, run frozen whole tomatoes under warm water to release the skins without thawing first. This method is particularly useful when you want to save just a few tomatoes. Stored this way, tomatoes will last in the freezer 4 to 6 months.
How to Freeze Grated Tomatoes
Here’s another easy way to prep tomatoes for freezing: Grate them! Holding at the stem end, simply grate clean whole tomatoes through the large holes of a box grater into a bowl. The skins will mostly stay behind, and you’ll be left with a coarse-textured puree that’s full of fresh tomato flavor. Freeze it in airtight containers or in freezer bags for 4 to 6 months. These will add a burst of summer to pastas, sauces and soups.