We grow mostly indeterminate tomatoes, which means that we get ripe fruit in dribs and drabs, not all at once like we would if we planted mostly determinate plants. This has its benefits, namely, we are not inundated all at once with a big harvest. But the drawback to that is that I rarely have enough tomatoes to do a big batch of canning. I’m always straddling the line between not-ripe-enough and too ripe.
So it was exciting when I learned that you could core tomatoes and freeze them whole, gradually adding to the pile, until you have enough to fulfill whatever canning project you have in mind. I started doing this a month ago. Whenever we had too many ripe tomatoes to eat fresh, I would core them and stick them in a ziploc in the freezer. Today I looked in the freezer and realized we had four huge bags of them, so I knew it was time to process them.
First I thawed the tomatoes slightly in the bags, then stuck ‘em in a pot. I had to use Tom’s big jam pot because they wouldn’t fit in anything else. Even then it was a struggle. I kept them on low heat for a while until they started to break down. In the future, I think I will cut them into quarters before freezing them, because I think this stage would go faster in that case. Once they were mushy I turned up the heat and let them simmer for a bit. And that brings me to my second discovery - I’m not sure I would use these frozen tomatoes for anything but sauce or paste. They tend to lose quite a bit of structure in the process of freezing and thawing, so even making crushed tomatoes might be a stretch.
Anyway, when they were the right consistency, I put ‘em through the food mill and went ahead and followed Ball canning book’s instruction for making sauce. It worked perfectly.
Some folks say you can just leave the tomatoes whole in the freezer over the course of the winter and take them out when you want to add them to soup or whatever. I think that would be an interesting experiment. But I can say with certainty that the resulting tomato sauce I’m making today looks and smells exactly the same way it would if I had made it from fresh tomatoes. So this is a nice option if, like me, you have trouble gathering enough tomatoes at once to make a large batch of sauce or paste for canning.
Have any of you ever tried this trick? What did you think of it?