Q. I planted a garden this summer, and ended up with more tomatoes than I had expected. I don’t know what to do with the baskets of tomatoes I’ve picked! Can you freeze tomatoes?
A. Tomatoes can easily be frozen, with excellent results. It’s a great way to preserve your summer bounty. There is more than one way to freeze tomatoes, depending on how you plan to use them. Simply picking and freezing fresh tomatoes isn’t the most effective method, as it causes the tomatoes to lose most of their flavor. It won’t ruin the tomato, but there are better ways to freeze them. With a little bit of preparation, tomatoes can be frozen and used to add flavor to many, many recipes.
Previously frozen tomatoes are not suitable for recipes that call for fresh tomatoes, such as salads, because tomatoes will not retain their firm texture after freezing. They are best used in cooked recipes such as soups or sauces.
Choose tomatoes that are firm and ripe, without visible blemishes. Roma tomatoes work best for freezing, but any variety can be frozen. Wash and dry tomatoes, and remove the stems. To freeze tomatoes without the skins so they’re ready to use in soups and sauces, it’s important to blanch them first. Blanching helps tomatoes keep their bright red color and intense flavor.
To blanch tomatoes, bring a large pot of water to boil. At the bottom of each tomato, cut a small X into the skin to allow for easier peeling later. Place tomatoes into the boiling water in small batches. Remove tomatoes from the water after boiling for 1 minute, and plunge them into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process and allow them to cool. Once cool enough to handle, peel the skins from the tomatoes.
Tomatoes can then be frozen whole, or you can remove the core and freeze them in halves or sliced. Scoop tomatoes into freezer bags and squeeze out excess air. Seal bags and label with contents and date. Frozen tomatoes are best when used within a year of freezing. If using tomatoes for tomato sauce, consider blending the tomatoes in a food processor first to eliminate an extra step later.
To thaw frozen tomatoes, place tomatoes in the refrigerator until thawed completely. Tomatoes can also be defrosted in the microwave in a microwave safe container. It’s also safe to add frozen tomatoes directly to soups or stews.