August is harvest time for many tomato gardeners. The red fruits are bursting with flavor and just waiting to be eaten. The fortunate gardeners can find themselves with a bounty of tomatoes that demands to be harvested NOW! This is the time to preserve those tomatoes for winter.
Even though home preserving takes time, it is worth it in the middle of winter to taste the fruits of your summertime labor. Canning or freezing tomatoes and tomato juice is labor intensive, but the financial savings of home preservation is invaluable.
Preparing tomatoes for preservation always starts with the same few steps. Cleaning and peeling come first, followed by juicing or seeding and cutting, whether the end result is canned tomatoes or frozen tomatoes.
Tomatoes should be harvested when the fruits are firm with just a slight give. Don’t squeeze the tomatoes too hard or you could create a bruise you will have to remove later. After washing your tomatoes, it’s time to get them ready to preserve.
Tomato Peeling and Core Removal
Lacking a food mill or juicer that will remove the peels and seeds, one of the most time-consuming parts of processing tomatoes is peeling them. When cooked, tomato skins can become very tough to chew, so it is best to remove them in the beginning.
While washing the tomatoes, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Beside the stove, place a large deep bowl filled with ice and water. Depending on the quantity of tomatoes you are processing, you may need to replace the ice occasionally.
With a very sharp knife, cut an X in the blossom end of each tomato. Working with four or five tomatoes at a time, carefully drop them into the boiling water. After about 40 seconds, remove the tomatoes from the boiling water with a slotted spoon, and then place in the ice bath. This will cause the skins to split and in most circumstances, the skin will easily slide off. Repeat the process for all of the tomatoes.
While peeling the tomatoes, be sure to remove the core, or hard area, from the stem end. Using a sharp knife, cut around the core in a cone shape so you don’t lose too much of the fruit. This is also the time to cut away any bruises on the tomatoes.
When planning to freeze tomatoes for winter cooking or cooking down Roma or paste tomatoes to make sauce, the seeds and juice should be removed. This takes out the extra liquid you would have to cook away later.
After peeling the tomato, cut it in half across the equator. This will be midway between the stem and blossom end. Holding the tomato half over a bowl, use your thumb to scoop out the juice-filled seed areas. Then, place the seeded tomato cut side down in a colander over another bowl to drain any extra juice.
After peeling and seeding, your tomatoes are ready to be preserved. You can now turn them into tomato juice, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce or any other recipe you like. PickYourOwn.org is a great online resource for preserving summer’s tomatoes.
Sources: My own kitchen stadium!