With a nice long summer that was not too hot and where it hardly ever rained after the 4th of July, our tomato crop at Highland Garden House was exceptional, albeit, late. When I lived on Orcas Island, we lived on Rainwater Farm with no electricity for 12 years. All the food preserving and storage revolved around pressure processing, pickling or drying. We had no ice (unless we bought it), no refrigeration, no freezer, and no running water. Canning was done on the trusty old propane Wedgewood or the wood stove. It was all such a big project and sometimes an exercise in just seeing if something was even worth doing! Ah, my Back-to-the-land days…(sigh).
At Highland Garden House I have a simple, urban-sized residential lot with fine silty/sandy soil, city water, great southwest exposure and…..(insert drum roll here) electricity!
You will need a pot for the boiling water, a big bowl of ice water, a smaller bowl for the peeled tomatoes and gallon size zip lock bags.
I start by picking all the tomatoes, Romas, in this case, that are fully ripe or showing good color. Freezing is a good way to use any surface blemished tomatoes, as they get peeled. Leave the stems attached. Now that you know the quantity of tomatoes that will be frozen, get a pot of water boiling; you will be blanching about 10 tomatoes at once and you want enough boiling water to stay hot as you add the tomatoes. I do not pre-wash the tomatoes; I figure with the boiling water, then ice water treatment, then peeling, they are super clean by the time they go into the freezer. (In the picture to the right, the white bowl is the ice water and peelings, the stainless bowl is the peeled tomatoes, bag on left is packed unfrozen tomatoes, bag on right is frozen tomatoes.)
Sort by color as you go. Cut a slit in the bottom of each ripe tomato and drop into the boiling water. Do about 10 at a time. By the time the last one goes in, start fishing the others out. They will only take about 30 seconds and some will start to peel away at the slit on the bottom. You are only trying to blanch the skins, not cook the tomatoes. Drop them into a bowl of ICE WATER. I like to use bowls instead of the sink because it is more convenient and I can use the water back on the garden when done. Do this for all the ripe tomatoes, reserving the unripe ones for later freezing or fresh use. Now start peeling each tomato from the cut blossom end, the skins should slip right off and the stem makes a handy holder for the slippery little guys. Cut off the stem end last. Peel and trim right into the ice water bowl, as it will all go back into the garden at once. Place peeled tomatoes in another bowl. Pack peeled tomatoes in zip lock bags one layer deep, like a lumpy pillow. This will keep them semi-IQF (individually quick frozen) and make getting a few out of the bag at a time easier. Freeze flat. After they are frozen, they can be stacked up.
This is so fast and simple that I can have tomatoes in the freezer 15 minutes after they are picked. Thinking already of that big pot of chili that I will be making next winter from these beauties!
’til next time,
Highland Garden House B & B
501 E. Highland Ave.
Mount Vernon, WA 98273