Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Grasshopper and the Ant

Remember the story of the grasshopper and the ant?  I have been feeling very "ant-like" lately, scurrying around with the summer crops and storing my food for the winter.  Today after work I came home and took care of 9 of my little red beauties (tomatoes).  They go bad so fast when they have been ripened on the vine, and the smell of a rotten tomato is one of the worst smells that can come from the veggie world.  Here is a tutorial on preparing tomatoes for the freezer:

Pick your red beauties and wash them well.  I use a little scrubber and gently scrub around the stem.  My tomatoes have all grown with large cracks around the stem this year, so I make sure to scrub thoroughly to get any dirt out of the blemished areas.  We are going to blanch the tomatoes, which sounds fancy but is the easiest cooking skill to master, as long as you know how to boil water.  Put a large pot of water on the stove and get the water boiling (don't fill it too full or you will overflow when you put the fruit in).  Make an ice bath in a large bowl, and set it next to the stove (or as close as possible). 

When the water has come to a rockin' boil, gently drop the tomatoes in one by one.  I like to put each tomato on a slotted spoon and lower the spoon in so I don't have any cannonballs splashing boiling water on me.

Boil the tomatoes for about a minute or so.  Their skin will crack, and that's when you know they've had enough of the boiling inferno.

Remove them with a slotted spoon and drop them into an ice bath.

You've done it!  You are now a master of blanching, which can be done to almost any fruit or veggie (and makes a delicious, tender asparagus, I might add).

At this point, you need to remove the terrorized tomatoes from the ice bath (I watered my flowers with the cool water so I could use the bowl for the skinned tomatoes).  Their skins will slip right off.  Core out the stem and any blemishes or bad spots.  I like to do this over a bowl to catch the juice.

Don't they look just like what you get in a can from the store?
Now you have the option of what kind of tomato product you would like to freeze: whole, diced, crushed, or juice.  I did diced tomatoes this time, since I did a batch of crushed a few days ago. 

I filled two quart-sized freezer bags until there was about 1 1/2 inches of room left at the top (this is called head space).  This leaves enough room for the tomatoes to expand when they freeze and they won't burst through the bag (which is just fine in the freezer, since they are already solid, but makes a terrible mess when you want to thaw do I know this?!).  Label and date the bag, and lay them flat in your freezer.  You can put them on a cookie sheet if you don't have a level surface in the freezer.  Freezing the bags flat allows you to tip them on end and cram in a lot more ice cream!

Voila!  Diced tomatoes, from vine to freezer in less than 60 minutes.

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