How To Freeze Tomatoes

Frozen Tomatoes

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If you’re like countless other gardeners across the South, backyard tomatoes are one of the best parts of the spring and summer gardening season. If the plants have the right growing conditions, you’ll see an abundant harvest of ripe fruit. That poses a problem, although it’s a great one to have. How can you preserve tomatoes to keep the summer crop able to be enjoyed all year round? 

Canning is a classic method, though sometimes it’s a little intimidating. Home cooks worry that they aren’t using the proper methods, causing bacteria in the batch. You can also oven-dry tomatoes, but those are more accents in a recipe rather than a tomato sauce. Wouldn’t it be easier if we could just freeze them? Let’s explore if this is the best choice to save all your summer tomatoes for use when the weather’s cold. 

Can You Freeze Tomatoes?

Why yes, you can! That’s great news for busy home cooks as freezing is the easiest method of preserving tomatoes. There are some limitations after they’ve been frozen. While you might enjoy eating a fresh tomato out of the garden, one that’s been in the freezer changes in texture and taste. 

Water in the fruit expands when it’s frozen, making the plant fibers break. The result is much more mushy than a freshly picked tomato. While this isn’t great for a salad, it’s perfect for winter sauces, soups, and stews

Considerations When Freezing Tomatoes

The first choice is whether to freeze with or without the skin. Tomato skin can be more bitter than the sweet flesh of the fruit, making it less desirable for sauces. If you’d like those purees to be smooth, skinning is a great method to lessen the chunks found after cooking a whole tomato. Your vodka sauce will thank you.

Freezing tomatoes is so easy that you’ll be surprised. You can choose to dice, slice, or freeze them whole, with or without their skin. The biggest issue might be the room in your freezer after you save all those tomatoes for winter recipes. 

Blanching is perfect to easily peel tomatoes before freezing. If you’re using tomatoes within just a few months of freezing, you can skip the blanching method and just put them straight into the freezer after a good wash. If the tomatoes are staying longer in cold conditions, the enzymes in the skin can change the color, texture and flavor. It’s best to blanch if you’re planning on storing them for awhile. 

How To Freeze Tomatoes

Step 1: Prep

Use a paring knife to remove the stems of the tomatoes; discard the stems. Cut an ‘X’ in each tomato skin, just to make sure it will come off with very little effort. 

Step 2: Blanch (if desired)

Factor a gallon of hot, boiling water per pound of tomatoes, usually two or three medium sized. Plunge the tomatoes into a pot of boiling water for 15 seconds if ripe. If underripe, place them in the boiling water for 30 seconds. Drain the tomatoes in a colander and transfer them to a large bowl (or the sink) filled with ice water.

Step 3: Peel and Seed

Once the tomatoes have cooled, use a paring knife to gently remove the skins from the tomatoes. The skins will open more near the ‘X’, making them very easy to slide off. If you forget the cut, don’t worry. Tomato skins almost always split on their own. Cut the tomato in half and use a spoon to scoop and scrape out the seeds from the flesh. Discard the seeds.

Step 4: Freeze

Cut the tomatoes as desired and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the freezer and freeze 30 minutes, or until solid. Transfer the frozen tomatoes to a plastic freezer bag and label the bag with the date. Freeze up to 1 year. You can also puree the tomatoes and place them directly into the freezer bag or freeze them whole.

Tips for Freezing Tomatoes

  • You can freeze tomatoes whole, but cutting them will help them take up less room in the freezer. 
  • Plastic freezer bags work great to freeze fruits and vegetables. Make sure you push all of the air out before sealing to help them stay fresh. Don’t purchase storage bags, they may not protect your food. 
  • Read these guidelines for other containers that work in the freezer. 
  • Don’t forget to date your tomatoes. Use a Sharpie marker on your container to make sure you use the frozen tomatoes within a year.
  • Liquid expands as it freezes and tomatoes are made up of about 95% water. Use headspace in your containers to make sure the tomatoes don’t break free in the freezer. 

How To Thaw Frozen Tomatoes

Just like our freezing methods, there are choices when it’s time to thaw frozen tomatoes. The best ways limit the chance of bacteria. Simply put them into the refrigerator and allow them time to unfreeze or use the defrost function on your microwave. 

Leaving them out at room temperature for over two hours increases the chances of food borne illness. According to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, one bacterium can replicate to 2,097,152 nasty little bugs in just seven hours. No thank you!

If you decided to leave the skins on when you froze your tomatoes, you can get them off as they come out of the freezer. Just take the frozen tomato, run hot water briefly over the skin and peel it right off. 

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