The easiest way is just to freeze them raw: wash, remove the membranes, and slice. Lay them in a single layer on a tray and freeze until solid, about an hour, then transfer to ziplock bags. You’ll be able to separate them easily when you need them for soups or dips.
But even better–broil them first. Slice in half, remove all seeds and membranes, and flatten the pieces on a cookie sheet. No oil, no salt, no nothing. Side the cookie sheet under a broiler and leave them for 8 minutes, then take a look. The top (skin) should be mostly black and blistered; if it’s not, put them back for another 2-6 minutes until almost all of the skin is charred.
Let them cool until you can handle them, then rub off the skin (it should come easily. The peppers are now soft and deliciously smokey; the process somehow concentrates the sweetness and flavor of the pepper. You’ve lost the crunch, but gained something better. You can eat them in salads or sandwiches–or just plain for a healthy, low-cal snack with no guilt and no feeling of deprivation. And you can freeze them easily–just put small quantities in a ziplock bag.
Preserving and canning tomatoes
First: Tomatoes don’t belong in the refrigerator. An explanation (from qz.com): “A vine-ripened tomato’s subtly musky flavor—that slight earthiness that makes a tomato slice such a genius component in a BLT—comes from an enzymatic reaction that produces sulfuric aromas, according to Harold McGee‘s scientific food reference book On Food and Cooking. And although those sulfuric aromas are what can make a rotten tomato smell so pungently foul, we should really resist the urge to refrigerate them.
McGee writes that tomatoes originally came from a warm place—the deserts of South America’s west coast—and therefore shouldn’t be stored at arctic temperatures. A tomato subjected to a refrigerator’s cold climate stops producing its aroma-making enzymes and starts to lose its flavor. And while refrigeration evangelists would be right to say that a little bit of that flavor can seep back if the tomatoes return to room temp, you’re likely to end up with a weak-flavored, mealy tomato—especially if it wasn’t fully ripened before it went in the fridge.”
If you can’t eat your tomatoes before they rot, there are wonderful ways to save them for later.
There’s a limit to how many fresh tomatoes we can eat and some of us will be bumping up against it pretty soon. But tomatoes are the perfect candidates for preservation. They can be preserved by small-batch canning methods—and won’t take up freezer space—or slow-roasted until they are condensed into tiny packages of deep, rich tomato flavor that can fit into corners of an already-stuffed freezer.
Oil a large cookie sheet. Full disclosure: I usually line it with foil to avoid the messy cleanup, which is a very unsustainable thing to do.
Slice tomatoes into ½-inch rounds. Smaller tomatoes can be cut in half, the bigger ones should be cut into slices, but try to keep them to a uniform size. You can cut out the cores before or after roasting. Place the tomatoes on the oiled pan, packing as closely as possible. It’s ok to overlap a bit because they will shrink as they roast.
Drizzle a bit of oil over the tomatoes; I use about 2 tbs for a big sheet. A misto is perfect for this. Sprinkle kosher salt (or whatever salt you have) over the tomatoes, just a few grains on each slice. I usually sprinkle a bit of brown sugar (again, just a few grains on each tomato slice, maybe 1 tbs (or even less) for the entire sheet) as well. Then put a tiny bit of basil (thyme or parsley or a combination are also good) on each piece.
Put the cookie sheets in the oven at low temperature—150 to 200 degrees, depending on how low your oven goes. Leave them for several hours or overnight (in my tiny apartment, the fragrance reaches every corner and I dream about picking tomatoes and basil; neighbors sometimes ring my bell and ask for some). When they’re done—which will depend on the thickness of the tomatoes and the temperature of your oven—they will be shriveled and much smaller, but not burnt (except for the ones that you cut too thin). Let them cool, use what you need now and transfer the rest to small ziplock bags and freeze—remove skins and cores at this point if you haven’t already done it. Don’t forget to capture the juice—use in a vinaigrette or soup. Or put it in a bowl and dunk bread in it—it will be gone in no time.
There are many ways to make tomato sauce; here are two recipes I’ve used.
- From The Guardian. You’ll find lots of options/variations on their website:
- About 2 pounds of ripe fresh tomatoes
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 tsp sugar, preferably brown
- Dash of red-wine vinegar
- 3 stems of fresh basil
Drop the tomatoes into a pot of boiling water and leave for about a minute, until the skins split. Lift out and peel, then roughly chop.
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan on a medium-low heat and add the chopped onion. Soften for about five to seven minutes, until translucent but not coloured. Stir in the garlic and cook for another two minutes.
Add the tomatoes, and break up with a wooden spoon if necessary, then add the sugar, vinegar and the stems of the basil, reserving the leaves. Season lightly.
Bring to a simmer, then turn down the heat and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thick.
Test the seasoning, add the basil leaves, roughly torn.
2. From Food52.com; this is Marcella Hazan’s recipe, with some additional notes
- 2 pounds fresh, ripe tomatoes, prepared as described below
- 5 tbs unsaled butter
- 1 medium onion, peeled and cut in half
- Salt to taste
Put the prepared fresh in a saucepan, add the butter, onion, and salt, and cook uncovered at a very slow, but steady simmer for about 45 minutes, or until it is thickened to your liking and the fat floats free from the tomato.
Stir from time to time, mashing up any large pieces of tomato with the back of a wooden spoon.
Taste and correct for salt. Discard the onion before tossing with pasta. Serve with freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese for the table.
Making Fresh Tomatoes Ready for Sauce
Choose fresh, ripe plum tomatoes (or other varieties, if they are equally ripe and truly fruity, not watery).
The blanching method:Plunge the tomatoes in boiling water for a minute or less. Drain them and, as soon as they are cool enough to handle, skin them, and cut them into coarse pieces.
The freezing method(from David Tanis, via The Kitchn): Freeze tomatoes on a baking sheet until hard. Thaw again, either on the counter or under running water. Skin them and cut them into coarse pieces.
The food mill method:Wash the tomatoes in cold water, cut them lengthwise in half, and put them in a covered saucepan. Turn on the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes. Set a food mill fitted with the disk with the largest holes over a bowl. Transfer the tomatoes with any of their juices to the mill and puree.
AFTER THE SAUCE IS MADE
Sauces will last in tightly covered containers for about two weeks. Or, you can preserve for up to six months in a steam canner. I’m not going to tell you how to do it and I’m not going to tell you that there are not risks involved. Here are the official USDA site that gives instructions, that should be followed carefully:http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/publications_usda.html