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Preserving tomatoes the easy way
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I’ve had a very disappointing tomato season, but for those of you who are swimming in those red (or purple, orange or yellow) gems, here’s a reprise of my best tips for preserving them easily.
I spent a sweltering day processing and canning two bushels of Roma tomatoes a few years ago, and the family’s consensus was NEVER AGAIN! If you can your own tomatoes, my hat’s off to you. I prefer the path of least resistance, so I’m Team Freeze.
There are three ways I freeze tomatoes.
🍅The first couldn’t be any easier: Rinse, dry and drop the whole thing into a large zipper-top plastic bag. Squeeze out as much air as possible and place the bag in the freezer. When you want to add a tomato to soups, stews, stir-fries or other cooked dishes—or make pasta sauce—just remove it from the bag, defrost slightly (or place under cool running water) and wipe the skin off with your fingers. Dice, slice, chop or even add it to the pot whole (it’ll break down fairly easily).
🍅The second way is a bit more labor intensive but still a cinch compared to processing. Blanch tomatoes by dropping them into a pot of boiling water for a couple of minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon, allow to cool so you can handle them, and peel off the skin (blanching loosens skins for easy removal). Cut the tomatoes in half and squeeze out their seeds and juices (optional), then dice them up and freeze in two or three different sizes of zipper-top bags to accommodate your future needs.
🍅Option number three comes in handy if you know you’re going to be using your tomatoes in a specific recipe (pasta sauce or curry, for example). Blanch and dice as above, add salt, garlic, ginger, onion, herbs or whatever seasonings your recipe calls for, then simmer in a saucepan for 10 minutes. Allow to cool and freeze as above. When you need them, simply reheat, add oil (if desired) and tomato paste to thicken, if necessary.
Ain’t nobody got time for that?
If you have ripe tomatoes today and would like to make a fresh pasta sauce, you can remove skins and seeds (or not; it’s up to you), dice tomatoes, add them to a saucepan with garlic and basil, or your choice of herbs, thicken with paste, if desired, and call it a day. It’ll be delicious.
Or, you could go the extra mile and roast your tomatoes first. This method works with everything from cherry and grape tomatoes to halved Roma-type plums and quartered larger varieties:
Place them in a single layer on a rimmed cookie sheet, add thinly halved garlic and onion, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and add a drizzle of oil. Then roast at 350 degrees until the tomatoes fully collapse. At this point, I just add them to my pasta with fresh basil. The deep, rich, roasted tomato flavor, balanced with the fresh basil, tastes like summer. But if you’d like a smooth, rather than chunky, sauce, give the whole thing (including pan juices) a quick spin in a blender or food processor (be careful not to overdo it).
📬 Ask Jessica
DEAR JESSICA: Can I harvest seeds from cut sunflowers that I buy at the grocery store? —Annmarie Barakat
DEAR ANNMARIE: No. Those flowers have been cut before the seeds have had a chance to form.
When growing sunflowers for seeds, the blooms are left in place until plants die back at the end of the season. By then, the backs of the flowers are brown, with mature seeds emerging from their heads, as in the photo above.
💡 If you do one thing this week…
It might be the homestretch, but you're not home-free! Don't neglect crops as the season nears its end. Ensure cucumbers, squash, melons, beans, peppers, tomatoes and corn get enough water, or their quality will suffer.
👏 Sunday shoutout
Reader Terri Donahue recently spied this beautiful monarch butterfly visiting a Mexican sunflower in her Center Moriches, NY, garden. “So, of course,” she said, “I quickly grabbed my phone and snapped a photo.”
Send in your photo, and you could be featured next (bonus points if you’re in the picture!)
📰This week in my Associated Press gardening column
I write a weekly gardening column for the AP, so you might have seen my byline in your local paper (or news website) — wherever in the world you happen to be. In case you miss it, I’ll post the most recent here every week.
Last week: Deer and rabbits and voles, oh my!
One week prior: Tips for dealing with flooded plants
You can read all my AP gardening columns here.
📚📺🎵 Random things I enjoyed this week
🌻 I bought a couple of Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Deamii’ plants for the first time and settled them into the garden near the ‘Goldstrums’. Deamii promises to be stronger, taller and more disease resistant. I’ll report back next year.
👓 When I returned home from the garden center, I noticed my glasses were missing. After turning the car and house upside-down, I called the nursery without much hope. To my surprise, another shopper had found them inside the cart I’d been using and turned them in. If you’re out there, thank you from the bottom of my otherwise visually impaired heart.
📺 And what would this list be without another Netflix recommendation? This week, I watched Fatale, a movie about a married sports agent (Michael Ealy) who has a one-night stand with a seemingly “Fatal Attraction”-type woman while on a trip to Vegas.
Also recommended: “Who is Erin Carter,” a limited series about a woman who fights off robbers at a supermarket, then sees secrets about her past slowly unravel.
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