Now We're Cookin'
When tomatoes are in full force, the value of capturing the taste of summer through canning cannot be denied. Canning tomatoes is a great way to preserve the harvest for year-round use. But canning is also time consuming and requires some investment in the tools of the craft. Water bath canners. Tongs and lifters. Jars and lids. While I encourage anyone interested in food preservation to consider taking the plunge into water bath canning, it isn’t the only game in town.
Freezing tomatoes has some distinct advantages over other methods of preserving the harvest. And for those new to crop preservation, it is an easy way to get started.
• No special equipment needed.
• Freezing is convenient.
• No batch too small.
How to Freeze Tomatoes with Blanching: Blanch. Drop tomatoes into boiling water for 60-90 seconds and, using a slotted spoon, transfer immediately into a bowl of ice water to cool. Skin will slip easily from the flesh.
Prepare tomatoes. Remove stems and core tomatoes. Tomatoes may be left whole, but preparing them in a way that maximizes storage space is recommended. Work over a shallow dish to retain juices.
Transfer into storage bags. Using a ladle or measuring cup, fill pint or quart sized resealable plastic freezer bags.
Seal bags. Make sure to push out as much air as possible when sealing to avoid freezer burn.
Into the freezer. Try to store flat. The shape in which they freeze is the shape you’re stuck with until it’s time to thaw.
Frozen tomatoes will retain flavor for 12 to 18 months.
How to Freeze Tomatoes without Blanching:
Start with firm ripe tomatoes. Wash and dry tomatoes. Cut away the stem and core. Cut tomatoes into fourths or smaller (if desired) Place on a baking sheet, skin side down.
Cover with plastic wrap and freeze.
Once frozen place in a single layer in labeled freezer bags.
To remove the excess air (very important): Use a vacuum sealer or the straw method.
STRAW METHOD: Insert a straw halfway into a freezer bag and seal the rest of the bag while pushing out as much air as possible.Begin sucking the air out of the bag until the bag clings tightly around the tomatoes. Remove the straw and seal the bag closed.
Place bags in the freezer. (You can also place them in a freezer container for extra precaution.)
When ready to use, remove tomatoes from the bag and let thaw completely. The skins will slide right off.
Use for dishes that require cooking (soups, stews, chili, sauces).
Easy Homemade Chili
1/2 pound ground turkey
1/2 pound kielbasa, chopped
1/2 pound beef chunks
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small jalapeño, seeds and membranes removed, small dice
1 medium onion, small dice
1 stalk celery, small dice
2 teaspoons cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
3 cups beef broth
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1-1/2 cups whole, frozen tomatoes
6 oz. can tomato paste
15 oz. can kidney beans, drained
15 oz. can great northern beans, drained
In a large dutch oven or pot, brown all the meat.
Once browned, add garlic, onions, jalapeño, and celery. Cook until softened, about 2 minutes.
Add in cumin, chili powder, and cayenne. Cook for a couple more minutes.
Pour in beef broth, add brown sugar, tomatoes, and tomato paste.
Bring to a boil and then simmer about an hour with the lid on.
Remove lid, add kidney beans and great northern beans and simmer uncovered for 15 more minutes.
Serve with toppings of your choice. Some of our favorites are cheddar cheese, sour cream, red onions, cilantro, and tortilla chips or strips. Serves 6.