We all know how good an authentic home-grown heirloom tomato is, so it’s no wonder that tomatoes are one of the most common plants in any home vegetable garden. But growing great produce is really only half of the self-sufficiency journey; we need to know how to use & preserve our harvests too.
There are lots of ways of preserving tomatoes. You can freeze-dry them, sun-dry them, make them into sauce, ferment them and dehydrate them. While these are all fantastic, some of them are time-consuming, and don’t suit us all of the time.
This quick & easy method of preserving tomatoes is an absolute game changer for the home vegetable gardener. When you’re overwhelmed by a huge harvest, busy, tired, or just want to keep them for another time, this is the quickest way to keep your tomatoes for later. This method works with a small harvest, too- sometimes a harvest comes in very slowly, and you want to save them up so that you can do something with them all together.
Naturally, home-grown heirloom tomatoes comes in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colours. Above, (L-R) standard red cherry tomatoes, cherokee purple, Dr. Wyche’s yellow, and aunt Rubys German green.
How To Do It
Essentially, all you need to do is core, score, bag and freeze the tomatoes. Yep, it’s that easy. It doesn’t matter what size, colour or variety of tomato you have, because this works for all of them. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown.
First, wash the whole tomatoes and remove any remaining foliage. Dry them well- you don’t want to risk cutting yourself because you’re handling a slippery tomato.
Cut out & discard each core with a short-bladed knife- I find a paring knife works best.
‘Score’ the base. This just means cutting an ‘X’ into the bottom of each tomato. Don’t be scared to make large cuts- the scoring is done so that the skins slip off easily when cooking, which saves you time later on. If you have a load of cherry tomatoes, never fear- you can use this method on cherry tomatoes too, and it’s only slightly different. Instead of cutting the core out, just slice the top of the core off. Being so much smaller, cherry tomatoes don’t really have a noticeable core, so a slice off the top is adequate.
The last step is to freeze the tomatoes. Put your tomatoes into a sealable freezer bag or container first, then label and date it. Depending on the size of your harvest, this may require some freezer space.
In this way, you can freeze batches until you have time to have a sauce-making day, OR, you can use these tomatoes directly into a meal.
Using the Tomatoes
Once tomatoes have been frozen, their texture changes irreversibly. The flavour won’t be any different, but you definitely won’t be wanting to eat these as fresh tomatoes!
To use, take a bag out of the freezer and defrost them in the sink. Once thawed, these tomatoes will release a lot of juice. Unzip the bag and drain the juice down the sink. You will then be able to pull almost all the skins off easily, which will leave you with the pulp, ready for cooking.
You can add this pulp directly into a meal, or simmer it down and make a sauce out of it. This saves you quite a bit of time and effort if you’re making sauce, because you can skip the fiddly step of blanching and skinning the tomatoes.
Cored-and-scored tomatoes can be cooked fresh to save time too. I often do this with slow-cooked meals, like our tomato and green bean chicken braise or our Sicilian chickpea and spinach braise. All you need do in this case is core & score the tomatoes, add them to the pan, and wait for them to break down. Once you see the skins have separated, remove them from the sauce.