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Wilburn: You can freeze tomatoes, too
Placeholder Image
                                  Container with           Container with
Type of Pack       wide top opening    narrow top opening

                           Pint      Quart          Pint         Quart
Liquid Pack          ½ inch     1 inch       ¾ inch     1 ½ inch
Dry Pack              ½ inch     ½ inch      ½ inch      ½ inch
Juices                  ½ inch     1 inch     1½ inch     1½ inch

If you have a bounty of ripe tomatoes, don’t worry about slaving over a hot stove to can all of them.
Instead, try freezing.

It is possible to quickly freeze raw tomatoes without blanching them first. They may be frozen without their skins or frozen whole with their skins. Frozen tomatoes are best used in cooked foods such as soups, sauces and stews, as they become mushy when they’re thawed.  Select firm, ripe tomatoes for freezing.  Sort the tomatoes, discarding any that are spoiled.

Tomatoes may be frozen whole, sliced, chopped or puréed. You can freeze them raw or cooked, as juice or sauce, or prepared in the recipe of your choice. Tomatoes should be seasoned just before serving rather than before freezing; freezing may either strengthen or weaken seasonings such as garlic, onion and herbs.

First step: washing
Wet each tomato with water, rub its surface, rinse it with running water and dry it with a paper towel. After washing, cut away the stem scar and surrounding area and discard it before slicing or chopping the tomato.  Washing tomatoes in a sink filled with water is not recommended since contaminated water can be absorbed through the fruit’s stem scar. The use of soap or detergent is neither recommended nor approved for washing fruits and vegetables because they can absorb detergent residues.  Dry them by blotting with a clean cloth or paper towels.  

Prepare your tomatoes
Whole tomatoes with peels: Prepare tomatoes as described above. Cut away the stem scar. Place the tomatoes on cookie sheets and freeze. Once frozen, transfer the tomatoes from the cookie sheets into freezer bags or other containers. Seal tightly leaving headspace. To use the frozen tomatoes, remove them from the freezer a few at a time or all at once. To peel, just run a frozen tomato under warm water in the kitchen sink. Its skin will slip off easily.

Freezing peeled tomatoes: If you prefer to freeze peeled tomatoes, you can wash the tomatoes and then dip them in boiling water for about 30 seconds or until the skins split. Peel and then freeze as noted above.

Stewed: Remove stem ends, peel and quarter ripe tomatoes. Cover and cook until tender (10 to 20 minutes). Place pan containing tomatoes in cold water to cool. Pack into containers, leaving headspace. Seal and freeze.

Juice: Wash, sort and trim firm, vine-ripened tomatoes. Cut in quarters or eighths. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes. Press through a sieve. If desired, season with 1 teaspoon salt to each quart of juice. Pour into containers, leaving headspace. Seal and freeze.

Next: Pack them away
Foods for your freezer must have proper packaging materials to protect their flavor, color, moisture content and nutritive value from the dry climate of a freezer. Use rigid freezer containers or flexible freezer bags.

Pack tomatoes tightly leaving as little air as possible in the package. Tomatoes require headspace to allow for expansion of the food as it freezes. See the chart with this story to determine the correct headspace.

How to store
To extend the time frozen foods maintain good quality, package foods in material intended for freezing and keep the temperature of the freezer at 0 F or below. It is generally recommended frozen vegetables be eaten within eight to 12 months for best quality. After this time, the food should still be safe, just lower in quality.

Sources: National Center for Home Food Preservation, hosted by the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service and University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Lancaster County