Freezing Summer Tomatoes & Homemade Tomato Sauce

At the end of the season, when Summer vegetables come in with a vengeance, you've pretty much exhausted all uses for them.  Never ever, let such treasures go to waste, it's time to freeze or can them for the Winter.

The canning process can be intimidating to some however, freezing is simple and something anyone can do.  Many people freeze tomatoes successfully after a thorough cleaning without the extra step of blanching.  The general recommendation is to blanch tomatoes prior to freezing for the best results. I'm going to share how to blanch tomatoes first before freezing and how to make fresh tomato sauce for freezing.  Remember, always label the exterior of the bag with the contents and the amount.

Round # 1: Freezing Tomatoes

The purpose of blanching fresh tomatoes prior to freezing is to help preserve the color and nutrients, improve texture and lengthen the shelf life of the tomatoes.  It is not to cook the tomatoes.  Frozen tomatoes are terrific for use in cooked foods such as soups, stews or sauces but won't be suitable after thawing for use in salads or sandwiches.   It's a real treat to reach for a container of homegrown tomatoes to make a pot of soup on a cold day. and worth the small amount of effort it takes to prepare them for freezing.  They're a bite of sunshine on a cloudy day!

For the tomatoes you'll need:
Firm ripe tomatoes, any amount
8 quarts water
plastic freezer safe storage bags or
plastic freezer safe containers

Directions for tomatoes:
Choose ripe, firm tomatoes, your favorite variety.  Clean thoroughly and leave whole.  Bring 8 quarts of water to a rolling boil,  then carefully lower whole tomatoes into the boiling water.

Leave for 30-45 seconds.  Remove and immediately immerse in cold ice water.  Remove the peel and core.  [tip: An apple corer works great for this task.]

Quarter, or chop as desired.  Package in freezer bags or freezer safe containers leaving 1 inch of head space. [tip: If using a bag, press all of the air out of the bag]  Label the exterior of the bag or container with the amount and contents.  Freeze immediately.
Round #2:  Preparing Tomato Sauce for Freezing
After freezing tomatoes, perhaps you'd like to stash away some fresh tomato sauce, too.  This tomato sauce is purposely left without unique herbs and seasonings, so it can be transformed into spaghetti sauce, a soup or stew base, enchilada or taco sauce, among countless other uses. 

For tomato sauce you'll need:
Firm ripe tomatoes, any amount
salt [1 tsp per 4 cups chopped raw tomatoes]
sugar [1 tsp per 4 cups chopped raw tomatoes]
tomato paste [1 Tbsp per 4 cups chopped raw tomatoes]
plastic freezer safe storage bags or
plastic freezer safe containers

Directions for tomato sauce:
Choose ripe firm tomatoes, your favorite variety or a mixture of varieties.  Core, halve, or quarter the tomatoes removing seeds, if desired.  Attempt to keep the tomato pieces similar in size so, they'll cook evenly.  Place into a heavy bottomed saucepan.  Season with 1 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of sugar per 4 cups of raw, chopped tomatoes.

Bring to a boil, then lower the temperature and simmer covered for 15 minutes.  Uncover and continue to simmer for another 15-20 minutes, allowing the sauce to reduce and intensify in flavor.   Remove from the heat and thicken with 1 Tbsp of tomato paste per 4 cups of raw, chopped tomatoes cooked.

To puree: [3 ways - depending on the equipment you have handy]
1.  Push through a sieve removing seeds and skins but, keeping the tomato pulp.
2.  Use an emersion blender and process to your desired texture.   [ie chunky smooth or silky smooth]
3.  Ladle into a stand blender and puree in batches until the texture is to your liking. [tip: Leave ample space at the top of the blender to allow for expansion]

When I prepare this sauce, I use everything.  This includes any seeds, pulp and skin.   A very few seeds may be left behind, however, most will puree along with the tomato pulp for a lovely smooth texture.  If you prefer seedless, strain.  Cool completely.  Measure into desired amounts, and pour into freezer bags or plastic freezer safe containers leaving 1 inch of head space.  [tip: If using a bag, press all of the air out of the bag.]  Label the exterior of the bag or container with the amount and contents.  Freeze immediately.

Cook's note:
When preparing vegetables or fruits to freeze, be certain you start with clean hands, utensils and containers. 


deb f said...

I always freeze the extras and use them in soups, meatloaf, chili etc.

Melissa said...

Great idea ☺

Pam said...

My husband and I have been doing this for years. It works wonderful.

Melissa said...

Sure does ☺

Anonymous said...

I am an currently battling Ovarian cancer and this year not able to do any canning. Told my husband today that we will have to look into freezing our tomatoes so this information (and sweet pickles) are a BIG help. How long with the tomatoes stay "nice" in the freezer if we use freezer containers? Fortunately I made plenty of spaghetti sauce last year so all set there. Thanks for the recipes!!!

Melissa said...

Hello, I'm sorry to hear what you're going through. If you vacuum seal the tomatoes, they'll last for as long as a year with no problem. Otherwise, they should last for the entire Winter. A good rule of thumb is 8-12 months, although depending on the quality of the tomatoes, possibly longer. Just as when canning, the quality of the tomato is key, and of course, remove any blemishes or bad areas for the best results. I hope this helps! ~ Melissa

Anonymous said...

I have froze whole tomatoes for years and then just open qt bag and pput in chili or anything use tomatoes in-- I peel and core, cut in 1/4's just to make sure good inside then squish them a little, (depending on size of tomatoe 6 to 8 per qt bag) put them in qt bags carefully push as much air out as can and zip shut-- then I lay piece of wax paper in a pan, a bag, wax paper inbetween bags so they don't freeze together and put in freezer til solid then move to a shelf-- can do 1 or 2 or more qts aday taste just like vine ripe fresh tomatoes in whatever you cook

Melissa said...

That's a great technique, they sure do taste good, don't they? ☺ Thanks for your comment!

Cynthia Lindley said...

Awesome to know!! Thank you! Wish I would have had this about a month ago!!!! Gave so many away.

Melissa said...

Well, I'm sure your friends and family were thrilled to have your garden goodies. ☺ Tuck this one away for next time!

Gary said...

I core the tomatoes b-4 freezing but don't bother with the skins. When I want to use them I run hot water from the tap on the tomato and the skins fall right off.

Melissa said...

I've heard others say they use that same technique, thanks Gary.

Anonymous said...

I love this recipe! I am so glad that I was able to make this tomato sauce. So easy and delicious. Thank you for posting this recipe.

Anonymous said...

I cooked the tomatoes and it is SUPER watery. If I cook them longer will they reduce down enough to where I don't have to add tomato paste?

Melissa said...

Fresh tomatoes are juicy. You can reduce more, but, you really need to follow the recipe recommendation and use tomato paste to thicken.

Lindsay said...

Thank you for the simple and quick recipe. I froze the sauce in plastic popsicle molds after pureeing, then transferred the frozen sauce to a zipper freezer bag. This way I can easily defrost a small amount of sauce to use as needed. Ice cube trays would have served the same purpose, but this way I get about a serving of sauce per "pop." (I thought it might be hard to get the sauce pops out of the molds since I didn't use the sticks, but I just ran the molds under warm water and tapped on them, and they popped out.

Bunny P. said...

How long can i keep them in my freezer i dont can so having the option to use bags is great!

Melissa said...

When prepared properly they should keep in the freezer for months. 8-10 as a matter of fact. They never last that long for me, though. Enjoy!

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