Preserve the Harvest – Diced Tomatoes

Hello again! I am still super busy working on the book, but I am allowed to put up a couple of recipes that will  be in it as I go along. This is my current favorite, because it’s near the end of tomato season. This year I’ve opted not to can because of the heat and well, my kitchen is a mess from test cooking everyday too.

Every Saturday in August I cooked 10 – 15 pounds of tomatoes to freeze. The hard part is cutting the tomatoes, but after that it’s easy street all the way. You don’t even have to babysit them while they cook!

The only thing as good as a fresh picked, perfectly ripe tomato in the middle of summer, is opening the freezer in January and pulling out a bag of summer tomatoes that you put up yourself. In the hot summer the last thing I want to do is have the stove on all day. So, an alternative to canning fruits and veggies is freezing them.

Here’s an easy, free-form recipe. Give it a try and you’ll feel that satisfaction when you use your handy work in soups and stews later in the year. Try to cook the tomatoes on the same day you buy them if at all possible.

Buy Inexpensive Fresh Tomatoes

At the farmers market, select tomatoes that are not over ripe or mushy. With that being said I try to buy up all the imperfect tomatoes at my market. They are sometimes called ugly, seconds, or another creative word to let you know why they are less per pound than the perfect tomatoes. Many times you can buy these at 1/3 of the perfect tomato price, making it even more of a bargain.

Even when you are buying tomato seconds, make sure it’s a cosmetic reason it’s put in the discount bin and not that it’s past it’s prime. Your tomatoes will be no better than the product you start with.

Let’s Get Started

There is an easy way to judge how many tomatoes you can cook at one time in your slow cooker, no matter if you are using a 2 quart or a 6 quart.

  • Rinse off the whole tomatoes.
  • Take the whole tomato and put them in your crock one at a time until they are peeking out over the rim.
  • Remove the tomatoes and now you will prep them for cooking.
  • Dice the tomatoes. Make sure to remove the top of the stem, and any bruised or mushy parts.
  • Put the diced tomatoes and their juice in the slow cooker.
  • Cook on low 6 to 8 hours, or on high for about 3 hours.

Get Ready to Freeze

Make sure the tomatoes are completely cool before freezing them. Many times I cool it in the fridge before I pack them.

You can use a freezer safe container, or a re-closable plastic bag that says it’s for the freezer. Those bags are thicker and help it stay fresh longer. The bags are easy to stack in the smallest freezer. I put about 1 1/2 cups (the size of 1 can of tomatoes) per bag, push the air out, and close. Wipe the outside of the bag off to make sure it’s dry, or they will freeze together. Stack them on top of one another.

How to Use

Pull a bag out the night before you need it and thaw it in the fridge. Or, since the bag is so thin, run cold water over the bag in the sink. Most of all, enjoy not going out to the store to buy a can of tomatoes in the middle of a snow storm!

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