Fresh or frozen, tomatoes make great sauce!
By Gretchen Bay
During last year’s tomato season, we had a surplus of organic Early Girl tomatoes in The FruitGuys office from a local farmer, and I was lucky enough to head home with a very big bag of them. Organic Early Girls are some of the sweetest, most delicious tomatoes around (I typically just wash them and eat them like an apple). These were on the smaller side for Early Girls—slightly smaller than a billiard ball—and packed with amazing flavor.
They were at their peak ripeness, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to eat them all over the next couple of days, so Karla, one of my coworkers and an avid cook, suggested roasting and freezing them to use later for sauces or other recipes. I removed the cores, put them in a mixing bowl, drizzled them with a bit of olive oil and stirred gently to lightly coat them. At Karla’s suggestion, I put a little piece of garlic in the end of each one (I think it also would have worked fine to crush a few cloves and mix them in with the olive oil).
I sprinkled on a little salt and pepper, spread them on cookie sheets, and roasted them in a preheated oven at about 400°F until the skins started to wrinkle and the tomatoes started collapsing a bit (about 10 or 15 minutes). I let them cool, put them in pint-size canning jars (with plastic storage lids—great for freezing!), stuck them in the freezer, and promptly forgot about them.
Fast-forward many, many months. I was running out of room in my freezer and started pulling things out to rearrange. The tomatoes had been in the very back, and when I saw them, I wondered if they were still good, as they had developed some frost on top. I decided to take the chance to cook some of them in a sauce. In a medium-size sauce pan, I sautéed a small onion (chopped) in a little olive oil, threw in a few dried herbs (I didn’t have any fresh at the time), added a handful of chopped sundried tomatoes, and put in 4 pints of the frozen toms (skins and all—although I did pull out some of the garlic, as there was quite a bit in there).
Early Girls are actually a bit sweet for pasta sauce, so I added a little more salt and pepper and about 1/4 cup of dry red wine. I let the whole thing simmer (covered) for about 30 minutes, then pureed it with a hand-blender. I dipped in a soup spoon to try a taste, mentally crossing my fingers that the tomato flavor would be OK after all those months in the freezer.
It tasted fine—delicious, in fact—so I dipped in for another taste to be sure. Still delicious. I stood there rather stunned that I had made something that tasted so good and immediately started planning what I would serve my Early Girl sauce with.
This method of roasting tomatoes works great for serving them right away (they’re delicious tossed in pasta or in egg dishes) or for freezing and using later (and sometimes much later). It’s best for smaller tomatoes, such as Early Girls, Romas, or even cherry tomatoes, and you can experiment with tomatoes in various stages of ripeness as well as the items you add to your roasting pan (I’m thinking shallots and rosemary, but the possibilities are endless).
How to freeze a bumper bag of tomatoes to make sauce later.
INGREDIENTS & EQUIPMENT
Smaller tomatoes (such as Early Girls, Romas, cherries)
Salt and pepper (to taste)
Mixing bowl and spoon
Freezer-friendly wide-mouth mason jars (pint or quart)
Plastic freezer/storage lids (optional—many styles of home-canning lids can be used for freezing too)
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Wash and core tomatoes.
- Put tomatoes in a mixing bowl, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and gently mix to coat.
- Place tomatoes a couple of inches apart on a baking sheet.
- Insert a small piece of garlic in each tomato if desired (or add desired amount of fresh crushed garlic to the mixing bowl earlier).
- Bake until skins split and tomatoes begin to collapse, about 15–20 minutes.
- Remove tomatoes from oven and let cool to room temperature.
- Fill wide-mouth jars with cooked tomatoes—be sure to leave some space at the top for water expansion during freezing (about an inch for pint jars, an inch and a half for quarts).
- Allow to cool to room temperature.
- Place jars in freezer.
Cook’s note: When ready to make your sauce, no need to defrost tomatoes before use. Run a little cold water on the outsides of the jars (not hot, or jars can break!), just long enough to loosen the tomatoes, then put frozen tomatoes right into your saucepan.
Ingredients for this recipe were included in The FruitGuys TakeHome box. Order yours today! www.fruitguys.com