After the Great Tomato Glut of 2011, I had to figure out what to do with all our tomatoes. Unfortunately, tomatoes that have gone through a frost are no longer safe for canning, because they don’t reach the same acidity level as regular tomatoes. The exception to this seems to be green tomatoes, which are more acidic than ripe tomatoes.
So I had a ton of tomatoes on my hands that I couldn’t can, but that I definitely wanted to preserve in some fashion before they all disintegrated into a rotting heap. My solution? Puree and freeze.
I’ve pureed whole tomatoes in the past for pasta sauce, partially as an experiment in leaving the skins on instead of going through the hassle of blanching and peeling. We didn’t even notice the skins once the tomatoes were pureed, so this was a huge time saver. Based on what I’ve read the skins don’t affect the safety of a canned product – just the texture – so pureed tomatoes with skins could also theoretically be canned, saving loads of time.
We stored the tomatoes in our cool unheated basement, which as it turns out is apparently a perfect storage facility. The tomatoes ripened slowly, very few went bad, and those that did were self-contained and didn’t spew on the rest of them. It was a great way to hang on to our late-season tomatoes, and was much easier and less messy than bringing the plants in like we did last year.
As the tomatoes gradually ripened, I sorted through them and pureed the ones that were fully ripe. This was a bit of a chore for a few weeks since there were so many, but overall they were pretty forgiving and still held on nicely if I forgot to check on them for a few days… or a week.
During the winter I’ll use the puree for pasta sauce, chili and soup. I have over 20 quarts frozen already, and we haven’t even gotten through all of them yet. Some are still ripening! We used fresh tomatoes in a cooked recipe just a couple days ago. Guess what? It’s the MIDDLE OF DECEMBER! And we still have fresh tomatoes! Again, these don’t have summer tomato flavour, but do just fine in pasta sauces and mixed dishes. Pretty cool.
Sidenote: I freeze in canning jars as much as possible to avoid plastics and waste. If you freeze in glass, it’s best to use wide-mouth jars. They don’t have the tapered neck like standard jars, so they’re less likely to break. You can use standard jars, though, like I did in the photo, if you only fill them up to well below the neck.