Friday, September 18, 2009

Freezing Tomatoes and Green Peppers

This summer, I've been blessed to have tomatoes coming out my ears. Not literally, thank goodness, but from my garden. This picture shows one picking - I've done that a few times a week for the past two or three months! I've given some away, canned spicy tomato juice and jalapeños, frozen jalapeños, salsa, canned tomato sauce (need to post about that!), but freezing tomatoes is my go-to thing. Back when I was first gardening, I didn't really have enough tomatoes to can, nor the equipment or courage to do it anyway. So I froze them. I still like to have some in the freezer, plus it's a good way to keep them until I get enough to can juice or sauce.

I pick all the ripe ones, then wash out one side of my sink. I rinse the tomatoes individually under running water on the other side, rubbing my hands over the outside to remove any debris and using my thumb to pop the stem off, and stack them in the clean side.

I then core each tomato by cutting around the stem area so it makes a little cone. Pull the cone out, and discard. If there are any bad spots, I cut around them. The tomato at right was chomped on by grasshoppers, and I ended up cutting off the entire top half of the tomato to get out the "ick". I start by cutting conservatively, then give it a sniff. If I smell anything bad, I rinse my knife and keep cutting until all I can smell is summer sunshine and fresh tomato.

I then put the whole tomato (or what's left after cutting out the bad spots) in freezer bags. I've found that if you quarter or halve the tomatoes, you can fit far more in a bag, but then it's much more difficult to remove them without completely thawing.

I use these tomatoes in unstuffed green peppers (recipe coming soon!) and any recipe calling for whole or diced tomatoes. I don't care for the texture of canned diced tomatoes, so I usually puree them or just use sauce if appropriate instead.

Note that I don't blanch the tomatoes - I prefer to keep the skins on because they're easier to separate without thawing. To use, I just pull out the number of tomatoes I need and run the still-frozen tomatoes under warm water. The skins slips right off. I then thaw and use, or in the case of soup and the like, I toss the whole frozen tomato in and just let it thaw.

I also froze some "green pepper pucks" for the first time this year. I usually wash my peppers, quarter them, cut out the seeds and membranes, and just freeze that way, but I thought I'd go one step further this year.

I used my chop wizard to mince the pieces (I prefer my green pepper small), then packed them pretty tightly in the cups of my silicone muffin pan. I added just enough water to come to the top so they would hold together, then froze it. Once solid, I popped the pucks out of the muffin pan and put them in a freezer bag. My muffin pan cups hold just under 1/2 cup each. Again, depending on the circumstances, I will either thaw and drain the peppers, or just toss them in and let them melt. (Note that you need a cookie sheet under the muffin pan for stability.)

For more frugal ideas, visit Life as MOM!


Heather said...

Again, so jealous on the tomatoes! But enough on that.

What a cool way to freeze your green peppers. I always dice and then flash freeze them. Then into vaccum bags or just freezer bags. They do pretty well staying separate and make it easy to grab what I need in recipes. I love this idea though for the times when you are adding to soups and such. So simple and I love that!


Amy @ Finer Things said...

I may need to freeze mine for now and can them later. I don't have my lids, etc. This is good info!

Lori said...

Neato way to freeze the peppers. I hadn't thought of that. I've just been chopping mine up, then laying them on a cookie sheet to "flash freeze" them, then putting them into containers. That way, I can just get out of the jar what I want instead of getting a whole "glob" of them. Sometimes I just don't need a whole glob at one time. :)
Speaking of the muffin pans though, if you have an overabundance of eggs, you can crack a few...scramble them up just a bit, then pour them into muffin tins and freeze. Just make a note of how many you put into each tin...they can be used for baking!

Your Frugal Friend, Niki said...

Wow! I love the green pepper idea. I'll have to borrow that sometime to try.

I wrote about freezing produce too this week. I guess great minds think alike.


Mom2fur said...

This is the second reference to freezing tomatoes I've read in the last few minutes (the other was a response to another Frugal Friday post about canning tomatoes.)
Who knew? I wasn't aware you could freeze tomatoes! I made my first attempt at canning, but freezing sounds like an easy and quick option, too!
Hmmm...better head to the farmstand soon!

Lenetta @ Nettacow said...

Heather, I know! Do you think if I put a box in the mail, they'd make it all the way up north? :>) Wish I could!

Amy, it ROCKS for holding them over. It's also great when I don't have really enough at one time to mess with canning.

Lori, that's a great idea! So far, my in-laws handle the eggs, but I know those chickens will be ours someday soon.

Niki, I pretty much always end up freezing my celery, too! Hubs doesn't care for it, so I don't use much. I usually chop a stalk and then put it in a snack-size ziploc, then put those in a larger freezer ziploc. Works great, doesn't it?!?

Mom2Fur, guess it's that time of year! :>) Love it!

Angela said...

What great ideas! I didn't know you could leave the skins on when freezing tomatoes - how easy!

Yolanda said...

Thanks for this tip. I would never thought of doing this .