A few weeks ago, I never would have thought that. Each ripe tomato coming in from the garden was precious and eaten simply with a little salt to relish in their fresh, delicious flavor. But those of you with vegetable gardens know that sometimes there can be too much of a good thing. Today, I’m going to share two ways to preserve your tomatoes: fresh sauce and freezing.
Freezing tomatoes is easy and simple. First, peel the tomatoes. Cut a small X in the bottom of each tomato and place in nearly boiling water. After a minute or two you will see the skin loosen. Take out with a slotted spoon and plunge into ice water. The skins will slip off easily. Core and quarter them, then place into quart-size freezer bags. Don’t overfill as the contents will expand when frozen. Squeeze out as much air as you can. This size of bag is equivalent to a large can of peeled, whole tomatoes and can be used as such in any recipe. That flavor in the middle of winter is magnificent!
Fresh sauce is another super easy and tasty way to save that great flavor. For each recipe, you will need 6-8 medium tomatoes or 4-5 large ones. Peel the tomatoes, core, quarter, and set aside; reserving any juice. I cut mine into a large square container to save the juice. In a large sauté pan, heat 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Add one cup minced onions and cook till soft. Add 4-6 cloves chopped garlic and ¼- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes; both to taste. Sometimes I’ll add a couple of minced jalapeños instead of the red pepper. You want a little spice but not too much, unless you like yours very spicy! Add the quartered tomatoes and cook until they begin to break down. Give them a mash if you like less chunky sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve over hot pasta with fresh grated parmesan and fresh crusty bread to sop up that delicious juice. This sauce freezes well- in the same quart bags you used for the whole tomatoes. Again, don’t overfill and squeeze out as much air as you can. Lay flat in a single layer till frozen then you can stack. Take one out for a quick meal in the winter. Put the bag in the microwave on defrost and cook till pliable. Then, slowly thaw and heat in a saucepan! Voila, you’ve got fresh tomatoes- even out of season!
KATHLEEN WEAVER-ZECH & DEAN’S TEAM CHICAGO