Thursday, January 3, 2013

Sauce from Frozen Tomatoes

The best thing about growing tomatoes is making sauce and juice, filling the kitchen with the warm smells of tomato-y goodness.  The worst thing, probably, is that in a good tomato year, you are likely to be cooking and canning several quarts of tomato sauce in August, just when you least want to be warming up the kitchen.

Several friends recommended that I try freezing my sauce tomatoes and cooking them in winter, and this year I tried it.  Even though most paste tomato varieties (which make the best sauce) are determinate, meaning that they are bred to fruit all at once, I still find that there is a spread of a few weeks over which the Amish Paste, Ukrainian Purple, and Ox Heart tomatoes will ripen.  As it was such a miserable tomato year for me (although not as bad as 2011), I would find myself with a couple of ripe paste tomatoes at a time, but rarely enough for a batch of sauce.

So I took everyone's advice.  I washed the paste tomatoes as they ripened, then cut off the stem end and any blemishes, and put them straight into a freezer bag.  There they sat, accumulating little tomato buddies slowly, until the end of the season.

Over Christmas, I finally pulled them out and used them to make a small batch of sauce.  They performed wonderfully.  Because the freezing softens the tomatoes a bit (due to breaking down cell walls), they cooked up more quickly, and it was easier to extract the "meat" of the tomato with my ricer.  The resulting sauce was yummy, with no noticeable difference between this batch and the fresh-cooked batch I made over the summer.  I'm officially a convert; I will be freezing my paste tomatoes for cooler weather processing from now on!

The Analysis
Fast:  This batch of sauce arguably cooked up faster than it would have with fresh tomatoes over the summer.  But the big difference is moving the hot cooking process into a month it does me some good.

Cheap:  One could make an argument that the tomatoes required energy to be frozen until processing, compared with sitting in their jars as sauce over that period.  However, the freezer is running anyway, and I'm sure any additional energy it took to cool the tomatoes down was much less than the energy it takes to run the AC non-stop during one of those hot August nights of sauce-canning.  The only downfall is a bit of risk -- if a major power outage had occurred, I would have potentially lost the tomatoes if they had not yet been turned into sauce.  However, I note that I'm not above cooking a batch of sauce on the cookstove or the backyard grill if I have to.

Good:  Equal quality to those processed in summer!
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1 comment :

  1. I was very interested to read this post as I discovered this by accident last year. My neighbour went away and had literally hundreds of cherry tomatoes which she blithely told me to pick and use. I did pick them in the early February heat (Southern Hemisphere) and there were 2kgs but I had no time to process them so I removed the stalks, rinsed them and bagged them up in the freezer. A few months later , with cooler weather I turned the whole lot into sauce. Very yummy and I agree with your sentiments about it being quicker.

    This year we have Roma tomatoes growing in abundance as well as wild cherry tomatoes so I have made 2.5 litres of sauce, 1.2kg of tomato paste, have 2kg frozen, 2kg in the fridge and another 2 kg ripening on the bench, not to mention the ones still growing.

    We are eating tomatoes with and in every meal at the moment and enjoying the bounty from the garden.

    Here is the link to my recent tomato post.