The Best Way To Use Out-Of-Season Tomatoes

If you're missing the taste of ripe tomatoes during cold winter months, and find the thought of a mealy, out-of-season tomato totally unappealing, I've got the trick for you.

Frozen tomatoes.

Tomatoes freeze and keep remarkably well, like most things. And for those of us for whom canning seems both infinitely mysterious and akin to figuring out nuclear fusion, freezing is so much, well, easier. The trick is to pop them in the freezer at the peak of their ripeness.

For those of us on the East Coast U.S., this is typically August, and though it's too late to freeze last season's heirlooms, it's never too early to start thinking about the next crop! For those who are lucky enough to be in warmer climates, you can probably do this now or whenever your tomatoes are at their best.

No, you'll not pull tomatoes out of the freezer and cut them up for your salad, but they will add much needed taste value to sauces, soups, dips and any other favorite recipe that can accommodate an out-of-season tomato.

How To Use Frozen Tomatoes

1. Take them out of the freezer a few hours ahead of time, or put them in a bowl in the refrigerator overnight. They will soon soften and collapse, and become the perfect addition to your winter soups or sauces.

2. If you're a cook that dislikes tomato skins in your finished product you'll be happy as you see the skin pucker. It's easy to peel off as thawing begins. My friends in the know, however, say there are good vitamins just under the skin so I suggest you leave the skins on and add the whole thawing mass to your pot. A blender can solve the tomato skin problem a little later in the process.

3. You can make a killer salsa or gazpacho like this as well. Blend as above, add onion, cucumber, peppers and salt/pepper to taste. Chill for just a bit.

4. To collect beautiful clear tomato water, make a few small punctures around the base of a couple large fruits and place them on a deep saucer or in a small bowl. As the tomato thaws the water will seep out into the bowl or saucer. The flesh of the tomato will collapse as a result. Remove it for use as described above. Tomato water is often used for cocktails or added to stocks and such for a subtle tomato flavor.

How To Freeze Tomatoes

The freezing process is amazingly simple:

1. Cut your tomatoes into small pieces and use a plastic freezer bag, paper carton or recycled plastic container to corral your harvest.

2. With cherry tomatoes and any smaller variety you don't even need to cut them but it does save space in your freezer since you can get more pieces than whole fruits in a small container. I have a chef friend who freezes whole Juliet tomatoes every year because he likes the way it looks in the freezer!

3. Now, for the really truly amazingly simple version: stack the tomatoes in the freezer. Isn't that a beefsteak of an idea? Really, just stack them. Or pile them in a wire drawer of your freezer. Larger tomatoes will hold up just fine like that. Plus they look really cool.

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