September 30, 2009

Freezing Tomatoes

We have had a fairy cool summer in Michigan this year, and the garden definitely reflected the temperatures. I had planned to can my tomatoes, but I really haven't been able to harvest enough at one time. I decided that I would freeze them. It is so easy! The National Center for Home Food Preservation has tons of information on preserving foods, including freezing. The section on freezing tomatoes is here. However, I don't like to remove the skins from my tomatoes because of the nutritional benefits of retaining the skins. I also decided it would save me time and grind the skins better if I used a blender.

Here are the choices for freezing your tomatoes with the skins intact:
  • just stick them in a container and freeze (yes, you can do this!)
  • quarter them, put them in a container, and freeze
  • blend them, put them in a container, and freeze
  • quarter or eighth them, then cook & cool them, put them in a container, and freeze
  • blend, cook, cool, put in a container, and freeze (my choice)
If you want to remove the skins, you can put the tomatoes in already boiling water for 30 seconds, cool them, and slide the skins off; or you can cook the tomatoes first and push the cooked tomatoes through a sieve or use a food mill after cooking. Pushing the tomatoes through a sieve after cooking will also remove the seeds.

Here is what you need for my method:
  • a blender or food processor (a stick blender would work, but I think a regular blender is better at grinding the skins)
  • a knife
  • a large pot (unless you want to freeze them uncooked)
  • freezer containers or bags
  • tomatoes
Pick the tomatoes (or buy them at great deals when they are in season). Aren't they pretty?



Wash, core, and quarter or halve the tomatoes. If you have a powerful blender, then you can probably skip the quartering or halving. Note: I wash all of my tomatoes and put the first couple in the blender while I core the rest of them. I have to start with a couple of quarters, but as the blender gets full I can halve them and sometimes even leave them whole.






Blend the tomatoes thoroughly; this is especially important if you are retaining the skins. I add my blended tomatoes to the pot as I go and keep blending in batches until they're done. If you are not going to cook your tomatoes, then you can pour them directly into freezer containers at this point. Don't forget to leave headspace in your containers!





Add the blended tomatoes to your pot, heat them up on medium for about 10-15 minutes and then turn them to low or medium-low until they are cooked down to a tomato sauce consistency. This takes a while depending on the temperature you choose. You really don't have to cook them at all, but I like to cook mine down because I don't have a ton of freezer space.

This is what it looked like after I cooked it down:



I cooked it a little longer than usual and ended up with something between tomato sauce and tomato paste. That works well for me, though, because I have tons of chicken broth and produce in my freezer right now and this will take up a bit less space. This batch of tomatoes gave me 2 3/4 quarts of thick sauce.

It took me under 20 minutes to prep the tomatoes from picking them to clean-up. I cooked them on low for a couple of hours, let the pan cool while we ate dinner and cleaned up the kitchen, then put the whole pot in the refrigerator to cool the rest of the way. I transferred the tomato sauce to freezer containers the next morning, making sure I left enough headspace.

Interested in saving some of your tomato seeds before preserving? Go here for directions.

Now I want to work on a lacto-fermented tomato-vegetable drink. Has anyone done this before?

September 28, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - September 27



I have been freezing a lot of produce and homemade chicken broth and I'm out of freezer space, so I am doing a lot of cooking out of the freezer this week!

Monday

Breakfast: baked oatmeal, apple slices
Lunch: sandwiches, carrot sticks
Dinner: Chicken Stir Fry
* from the freezer: cooked chicken, cooked brown rice, mixed vegetables


Tuesday

Breakfast: toast with peanut butter, orange slices
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: Chick Pea Burgers & Tahini Sauce, crudite
* from the freezer: cooked chick peas


Wednesday

Breakfast: pancakes, apple slices
Lunch: pizza toasts (toast ww bread, put pizza sauce or fresh sliced tomato with Italian seasoning and mozzarella cheese on top; broil until cheese is melted)
Dinner: Beefy Enchilada Bake, steamed green beans
* from the freezer: ground beef, tomato sauce, green beans

Thursday

Breakfast: kefir smoothies, muffins
Lunch: sandwiches, carrot sticks
Dinner: Potato Sausage Chowder, salad
* from the freezer: sausage, corn, chicken broth (instead of water - I change this recipe a bit)

Friday

Breakfast: toast with peanut butter, apple slices
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: Pasta with Creme Fraiche & Salmon, steamed broccoli
* from the freezer: chicken broth, broccoli


Saturday

Brunch: Applesauce Bread, scrambled eggs
Dinner: Crockpot Shepherd's Pie, salad
* from the freezer: ground turkey (I'm cooking up a few pounds of it and freezing extras) and mixed vegetables


Sunday

We usually eat a late lunch/early dinner after church and graze if we're hungry later. :-)

Breakfast: toast, hard-boiled eggs, fruit
Lunch/Dinner: Crockpot Chicken & Quinoa Stew
* from the freezer: cooked chicken & chicken broth


My menu plan calendar is available here if you are interested in seeing it. I keep that current each day when meals change (as they often do). It also includes daily cooking notes. I have it set up to send me an agenda via e-mail every day, which is very helpful.

For more menu plans, go to orgjunkie.com.

September 14, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - September 14


Monday

Breakfast: toast, hard-boiled eggs, orange slices
Lunch: grilled cheese sandwiches, sauerkraut
Dinner: Fast & Furious Chicken & Rice, salad

Tuesday

Breakfast: soaked oatmeal with banana slices
Lunch: PB & J, celery sticks or leftovers
Dinner: Potato & Corn Chowder

Wednesday

Breakfast: pancakes, apple slices
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: Beef Enchiladas (the linked recipe is for chicken, but I'm using beef), corn

Thursday

Breakfast: kefir smoothies, muffins
Lunch: sandwiches, carrot sticks
Dinner: Lentils & Rice Casserole, salad

Friday

Breakfast: toast with peanut butter, apple slices
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: Taco Soup

Saturday

Brunch: Applesauce Bread, scrambled eggs
Dinner: Mole's Favourite Deeper 'n' Ever Turnip 'n' Tater Pie, salad

Sunday

We usually eat a late lunch/early dinner after church and graze if we're hungry later. :-)

Breakfast: toast, hard-boiled eggs, fruit
Lunch/Dinner: Roast Pork Loin with Garlic & Rosemary, roast potatoes, salad

My menu plan calendar is available here if you are interested in seeing it. I keep that current each day when meals change (as they often do). It also includes daily cooking notes. I have it set up to send me an agenda via e-mail every day, which is very helpful.

For more menu plans, go to orgjunkie.com.