Thursday, October 22, 2015
Poor-man's vacuum sealer, and freezing tomatoes
The demand of my time to preserve the garden's bounty greatly decreased when I discovered how easy it is to freeze tomatoes. There are two methods: whole without peeling (for real!), or by first blanching to remove skins.
I did the latter method for the tomatoes in these pictures. I dipped the tomatoes in boiling water for 30-60 seconds, then removed to an ice water bath. The peels slip off easily. I cored and cut the tomatoes into slices before packing into zipper freezer bags. I find that slicing helps me fit them into bags more efficiently.
My poor-man's vacuum sealer is a straw. Put the straw against one edge of the bag, taking care not to submerge into liquid. Close the zipper all the way against the straw, pushing against the bag to squeeze out air. Be careful not to splash! If desired, you can do do a final, gentle inhale on the straw to draw out any remaining air. Watch as you go so you don't suck up any liquid.
This works great to pull out air. It is especially efficient with items not packed in juice, such as green beans. You can pull the sides of the bag right next to your food, eliminating the air pockets that invite freezer burn.
I fill quart-size bags with 3-4 cups of tomato slices with their juice. Lay the bags flat on a cookie sheet and transport to the freezer. This helps them freeze flat without molding to the shelf. The tray also corrals any drips as you walk to the freezer (not that I would know about this!). Once frozen you can take bags off the tray. I like to store them upright, like books on a shelf. You could also do smaller amounts in a bag to create a thinner sheet of tomato goodness that you can easily break off when you want to throw some flavor into what you're cooking.
The other method of freezing I mentioned is to freeze tomatoes whole. First remove the core. Then place on a sheet for flash freezing (so they don't stick to other tomatoes). Place in bag once frozen. You can do the straw method to remove extra air from the bag.
When you want to use a frozen tomato, run it under warm water to gently remove the peel.
Freezing tomatoes whole is a huge time saver but does take more freezer space than blanching and slicing.
I still can tomatoes, but I don't always have enough tomatoes at once to do a full batch. And oh, the time canning takes! Freezing tomatoes instead is a fantastic option. Canning tomatoes takes more time and energy up front; freezing is simple but of course requires energy to store them. I've had them store well in the freezer for a year. No matter which preservation method -- freezing or canning -- these tomatoes are ideal for use in soups or sauces.