It’s one of my favorite times of the year. Harvesting the garden and canning/freezing tomatoes for chili and soup this winter. Most of the tomatoes that I grow are Heirlooms. They’re not the best looking tomatoes, but they have a great variety and the best taste. So Heirloom it is. My favorites are Cherokee Purple and Paul Robeson. Yum. I love slicing them and spreading a little mayo over them with a little pepper. It just doesn’t get any better than a fresh tomato from the garden.
When I harvest enough veggies, I get the blanching basket and my Ball Canner out. The tomatoes taste as good during the winter as they do when I pick them from the vine. I freeze some of the tomatoes and can others.
I purchased a blanching basket that fits perfectly into my stockpot. It’s great for blanching tomatoes, green beans and squash before freezing. Blanching tomatoes is easy and a necessary step to remove the skin before freezing or canning. It locks in the flavor and here’s the steps:
1. Choose tomatoes that are not bruised or cracked and rinse them thoroughly to remove any dirt.
2. Full your stockpot half-way and bring to a roaring boil. Do not fill completely, immersing the basket will cause the water to rise.
3. Fill a large bowl with ice water. This step is important, it will stop the tomatoes from cooking and cool them down enough to remove the skin.
4. While you’re waiting for the water to boil, remove any stems and make an x on the bottom of each tomato. Making an x on the bottom of the tomato helps loosen the skin during the cooking process. (This step is optional. I have blanched tomatoes without the x).
5. Once your water is boiling, place the basket inside the stockpot for approximately 30 seconds – 1 minute. Do not cook your tomatoes longer than the 1 minute time frame. Some of the skins on the tomatoes may start slipping off the tomatoes during the boiling process and that’s fine. You’re going to remove the skin from the tomatoes, this is the goal.
6. Remove the basket from the stockpot after 1 minute and emerge the tomatoes into the ice water with a slotted spoon for about 5 minutes. You can see the skin slipping off a few of the tomatoes in the picture below.
7. Remove the skin from the tomatoes, the skin should easily slip off the tomatoes.
8. I recommend slicing large tomatoes before placing them in quart or gallon freezer bags. Smaller tomatoes can be left whole. If you have a sealer, now is the perfect time to bring it out. I like to use quart bags for storage. It’s a sufficient amount for my dishes down the road.
9. Write the date on the freezer bag with a permanent marker and freeze until ready to use.
10. If your bags are sealed properly, your tomatoes should not sustain freezer burn and should be good to use through out the winter.
Stay tuned for my canning session. I usually put up 15 – 20 quart jars of tomatoes each season. I use the canned jars in chili, soup, salsa and other recipes as well. What are you harvesting from your garden?