storing fresh tomatoes

tips for tuesday

©from maggie's farm 2011
have a windfall crop of tomatoes?  are they ripening on you but you've got a life and you can't quite get to the canning the whole 30 pounds yet?  or maybe it's just one tomato you're dealing with.  the one that you got at the farmers' market.  you know.  the heirloom.  the four dollar heirloom.  well, dozens, or one, if you only have a few minutes on your hands, your best bet is to freeze them whole.

©from maggie's farm 2011

©from maggie's farm 2011

©from maggie's farm 2011

©from maggie's farm 2011
freezing does alter the texture of tomatoes.  while they will not be suitable to use as you would a fresh, raw tomato, they can be used for cooking, sauces, salsas, and juices.  juices!  on thirsty thursday this week, we'll use your tomatoes-that-have-been-frozen-whole to make a delicious tomato cocktail juice, and then we'll use it in a regional cocktail, a micheladaand maybe some nachoes to go with, who knows?

below, you'll find some additional information on preserving tomatoes, courtesy of what's cooking america, for you industrious types. 
don't you just love tomato season?

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans eat more than 22 pounds of tomatoes every year. More than half this amount is eaten in the form of ketchup and tomato sauce.
Technically a tomato is a fruit, since it is the ripened ovary of a plant. In 1893, the supreme court ruled in the case of "NIX vs. HEDDEN" that tomatoes were to be considered vegetables.

There are more than 4,000 varieties of tomatoes, ranging from the small, marble-size cherry tomato to the giant Ponderosa that can weigh more than 3 pounds.

Purchasing Tomatoes

Go Local if possible: Tomatoes don't become more flavorful and develop adequate flavor unless allowed to ripen on the vine. They will change color and soften, but the sugar, acid, and aroma compounds are locked in once the fruit is taken off the vine. So, choose vine-ripened tomatoes, preferably locally grown, because the less the tomatoes have to travel, the more likely they were picked ripe. Seek out locally grown tomatoes whenever possible. They may not be as "pretty" as store bought, but beauty, of course, is only skin deep.

Selecting Tomatoes: Select tomatoes that are firm, glossy, smooth, plump, heavy for their size, and free of bruises. Avoid tomatoes that are overly ripe and soft.

Fragrance is a better indicator of a good tomato than color. Use your nose and smell the stem end. The stem should retain the garden aroma of the plant itself - if it doesn't, your tomato will lack flavor and, as far as I'm concerned, will be good only for decoration! Remember - If the tomato smells fresh and tomato-y, they will taste that way too!

Since fresh tomatoes are summer fare and off-season tomatoes are rarely flavorful, substitute canned Italian plum tomatoes in cooked dishes. Cook for ten minutes to reduce the liquid and enhance the taste.

Storing & Ripening Tomatoes

Storing Ripe Tomatoes: NEVER REFRIGERATE FRESH TOMATOES! Cold temperatures make the flesh of a tomato pulpy and destroys the flavor. Always store tomatoes at room temperature stem-end down. This prevents air from entering and moisture from exiting its scar, prolonging shelf life.

How To Ripen Tomatoes: To ripen, place green or unripened tomatoes in a brown paper bag and place in a dark spot for three or four days, depending on the degree of greenness. The bag will trap the fruit's ethylene gas and encourage ripening. Do not put tomatoes in the sun to ripen - this softens them.

Preparing Tomatoes:

The Right Knife: A serrated knife makes slicing through the skin easier. This way you don't inadvertently mash your tomatoes when slicing. If you are using a straight blade, make sure it is very sharp.

To Seed or Not To Seed: If the seeds and skins won't be noticeable in a dish, keep them in. If you are making a smooth sauce, you can always strain out the seeds and skins later as the skins and seed will add flavor.

The flavors of a tomatoes are not just in its flesh, as the skin has a slight bitterness, while the flesh contributes the sugars and amino acids, and the jelly and juice surrounding the seeds contribute acidity. However, the seeds and surrounding jelly will contribute liquid to the dish you are using it in, which can make uncooked dishes, such as salsa, too watery. The tomato skins also have a way of curling up into tough little bits when they are cooked.

How To Seed Tomatoes: Cut them in half lengthwise, then use your fingers to scoop out the seeds. Give the tomato a gentle squeeze to remove any stragglers. NOTE: You can also strain out the seeds and use the liquid and jelly in your recipe. In that case, scoop the seeds into a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl to catch the juices.

Preserving Tomatoes

Freezing Tomatoes:

The simplest way to preserve tomatoes is to freeze them whole. Just rinse them, spread them out on a cookie sheet, and freeze overnight. When frozen, put them in a freezer bag and return to the freezer. To use, remove from bag and thaw. When thawed, slip the skins off, and use in your favorite recipes.

Peel the tomatoes, puree them in a blender, and then strain them through cheesecloth or a coffee filer to drain off the excess tomato water (this can be used in soups). Freeze the pulp in ice cube trays. When frozen, store the frozen cubes in a freezer bag.

Roast halved tomatoes with olive oil and herbs before freezing.


see you tomorrow for wordless wednesday.  it's all about food.


  1. I love me some "thirsty Thursday"

  2. and there will be a nice cold michelada waiting for you when you get home. ; )

  3. WOOOO HOOOOO!! Happy Days, Happy Days.


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