tomatoes: freezing, drying or canning?

zippity_duda(6)September 18, 2009

I still am getting quite a few tomatoes and need to preserve them quickly (the 4 month old doesn't yet understand "not now honey:) In a bunch of the posts I have seen people mention that they would freeze the tomtoes "if they had to". I have a new freezer and so have plenty of freezer space right now. How do frozen tomatoes compare to canned diced tomatoes (in terms of taste and texture)? I have also thought about dehydrating them, but do not currently own a dehydrator...can anyone recommend one and comment on how that stacks up?

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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

Freezing breaks down the pulp fibers as they contain water and expand when they freeze. The result is a soft, watery tomato with skins that fall off. They may do a bit better if cut in halves and some of the seeds and liquid are removed, as mentioned in another very recent post. Your never going to get the same texture as commercially canned whole tomatoes, or even diced ones. Commercial canning involves high temps that are flashed and the tomatoes are not cooked very much that way. If your planning on making sauce eventually, it may be better to make a few big batches of sauce and freeze that instead. Tomato types for home caning are usually plum, paste and sauce types, and Beefsteaks and other slicing types are not as good for sauce or salsa.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2009 at 7:12PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

I would agree that they aren't going to taste like canned diced tomatoes or even look like them - if you were going to eat them fresh.

But I am assuming you add those canned diced tomatoes to other dishes, right? If so, then it doesn't make much difference. For the most part spaghetti sauce or a casserole or a pot of chili will taste the same with either.

Dave

    Bookmark   September 18, 2009 at 8:08PM
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zabby17(z5/6 Ontario)

zippity,

I've frozen lots o' tomatoes, and I would say the quality is as good as canned. The only reason I am one of those who freezes rather than cans generally only when I "have to" (in my case because I have 80 tomato plants that are even less understanding than an infant --- I keep telling them that it would be a lot more convenient for me if they did NOT reach their peak production right when the class I teach is usually starting up in September, but they don't listen!) is that they take up so much more room frozen than canned, and I want the freezer space for uncannable things like zucchini bread. ;-)

Of course, as with canned tomatoes, the texture will be totally kaput. But for uses where you're going to cook them anyway, freezing works great. I don't even peel them before chucking 'em into freezer bags and into the freezer. (I try to remember to take off the stems.)

When you want to use them, peel them by popping them in boiling water for a few seconds and then fishing them out; the skins will slip right off.

If they're large tomatoes, I need to thaw them a bit before chopping them. (Sometimes I cut really big ones in half or quarters before putting them in the freezer so a) they take less room and b) I can chop them more easily in their frozen state).

If you think you'll want the freezer space later (for baby food?), you can take the frozen tomatoes and can them. Quality is still excellent.

Good luck! And do enjoy that baby.... ;-)

Z

    Bookmark   September 19, 2009 at 9:23AM
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zippity_duda(6)

Thnks for the input! The freezer is partially full of some baby food already...excess zucchini and summer squash went into baby food..it will work well in soups too just in case she doesn't take a liking to them. The tomatoes will most likely be used in chili's and cassroles, so the texture isn't as important as important as keeping the "fresh" taste.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2009 at 11:13AM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

Zuc and summer squash are also high water and go mushy once frozen. You will never have the full 'fresh' taste of tomatoes even if they are frozen. Even brief refrigeration will make them lose flavor. The best way to get the best flavor is to use several differnet types when you grow them. As mentioned, avoid slicing types and cherry, grape, and other extra watery ones as they just lose to much liquid and leave very little behind. The only real way to enjoy fresh toms is to make things with fresh toms and consume immediately. After making a salsa and storing the leftover in the fridge will reduce its complex taste.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2009 at 11:23AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

In re-reading I noticed we overlooked your question about drying as an option. Sorry about that.

I linked below several prior discussions on drying and various brands of dehydrators if you decide to go that route. And I'll add that just IMO nothing beats drying tomatoes for getting that fresh from the vine taste. Drying even intensifies it. It's a bit of a pain to re-hydrate for fresh eating but again if adding them to other cooked dishes even that is no problem.

And the house smells great while they are drying, especially if you add some dried herb sprinkle to them too! ;)

My personal dehydrator is a Golden Harvest with both an air fan and temperature control and the price is acceptable too unlike the cost of many of the so-called top of the line models. It does everything I could want and in a reasonable amount of time.

Dave

Here is a link that might be useful: Dehydrating tomatoes discussions

    Bookmark   September 19, 2009 at 11:43AM
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zippity_duda(6)

Dave

Thanks for the link..I tried searching dehydrating, but must not have typed something right...you had so many more useful old posts! It sounds like what I will want to do eventually is dry them, but that for the immediate baskets of toms, freezing might be my best option...time to start the Christmas wish list:)

    Bookmark   September 19, 2009 at 12:02PM
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cabrita(9b SoCal)

I love both drying and freezing. Canning tomatoes is a last resort option for us, but we have also done it.

I place larger tomatoes directly in the freezer, without a bag. I will be rinsing them in warm water and taking the skin out in any case (the inside stays clean). Everybody uses their produce differently, and we all have different favorite dishes, but I have been very pleased using frozen tomatoes in most dishes. These include lasagne, parmigiana, pasta sauces, enchilada sauces, put them in soups, lentils, beans....the one thing they do not work well for is salads. However, dried tomatoes will bring winter salads up a notch in the gastronomy scale, right? so there are your salad tomatoes.

We have a cheapie Ronco dehydrator (target i think) that has 5 round plastic trays. It is electric. I have dried a few tomatoes there, and lots of other stuff too, and it works well if you stagger your production. We are also building a fancy chmanzy large solar dehydrator. It is almost ready and has already been used for figs, we will try tomatoes in it next year.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2009 at 1:13PM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

My Ronco is now drying Tarragon, and its nearly done after just one day. I used it last week for some figs too.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2009 at 5:12PM
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jimnginger(9)

If you have the money, lots of tomatoes or other fruits or produce, get an Excalibur dehydrator. They have a better heated air circulation system. Do not get the little one with only 4 shelves.
I've use the cheap dehydrators and the temps. are too unstable. Always hotter at the bottom or the sides. What will this do - burn the tomatoes at the bottoms and sides. You are always changing shelves to keep from burning some of them. You are partially unloading shelves all the time as some are dry and some are not. I have a neighbor who makes jerkey all the time in one of the cheapos and some of the jerky is like rock and some in the same load is wet and soft.
The top of the line Excalibur also has a timer on it so you can set it to turn off when you want it to. You are not up at 3AM turning off your cheap dehydrator - if you value your sleep. If the produce is 90% dry when you get up, you can always turn it back on for a short period to finish it.
Go directly to the company sites and read up on their products. The also usually offer returns or rehabs at a discount price.
Hope this helps.
Jim in So. Calif.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2009 at 6:05PM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

I wont waste money on such fancy things when the Ronco does the job for me. I have two, and 4 extra trays for each. I could stack 12 high if I wanted to. The electricity used is about as much as a 15 watt light bulb and will not burn out, melt or catch fire. I've used mine for over 20 years with no issues. YOu simply check it after 24 hours like you would do with any dehydrator to see if its complete. If not, let it sit a few more hours or overnight. There is no need to 'monitor' its process, or have it on any kind of timer. Once the product is dried, its done, and will not overdo any drying. Who gets up at 3am to shut off a dehydrator? I don't!

    Bookmark   September 20, 2009 at 12:20AM
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bejay9_10(zone 9/10)

I like to dry the smaller sized tomatoes in the dehydrator -especially cherry types, but larger ones are OK too.

One use for those tomatoes would be to make a fresh-type salsa and freeze it. I admit it isn't Annie's - by a long shot, but it's a quickie method for the things in the garden - like last of peppers, onions, garlic, etc., when the season is running out.

I just cut up tomatoes, peppers, onions, chop garlic, mix and freeze. Once thawed, there is quite a bit of watery juice, but the strained mix is good as a side for Spanish omelet, or served as an add to taco fillings, etc.

Just my 2 c's.

Bejay

    Bookmark   September 20, 2009 at 11:57AM
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zippity_duda(6)

Nothing beats Annie's salsa. I've already canned a bunch of that earlier this year! Since I made the first batch a couple of years ago, my hubbie won't eat store bought anymore! Funny, the hubby eagerly watches the baby for me when I make salsa, but is less eager for plain tomatos...I guess I see where his loyalties lie:)

I'm sure in future years when the garden is bigger (I planted small since I had the baby at mid planting time) the freezer will be fuller of non-cannables and I will have to decide what to do then. Sometimes you just gotta go with what you have! I have been drying the cherry toms, but I use my oven which would take forever with full size toms...so frozen it is and hopefully next year I'll have a dehydrator and can test all three methods myself!

The sad thing is, with some dryer weather lately, the toms I just picked were the best that I've seen all season!

    Bookmark   September 20, 2009 at 3:15PM
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rachelellen

Having used a number of dehydrators over the years, I have come to the conclusion that the most important things are that the model has forced air, and that the "guts" of the dern machine are on the TOP rather than on the bottom, since the bottom gets whatever drips drip down...it being easier to clean a drippy tray than drippy machine guts.

This year, I've had way more cherry tomatoes than I could use, so I sliced them in half and dehydrated them with the idea that I could rehydrate them later for sauces and soups. But, I've developed a taste for them as they are...snacking on them off and on...don't think they'll make it to the tomato-less season! :D

    Bookmark   September 21, 2009 at 4:57AM
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zabby17(z5/6 Ontario)

zippity,

I have the exact same experience with my tomatoes this year. It's like this September is August as far as they are concerned. Though I still have far fewer than most years, the best harvests have been in the last two weeks.

I also like to dry the cherry toms in the oven. I did some larger Roma types one year but I found not only did it take a long time but the dried cherry ones were actually more useful for me --- I could throw them into salads and pastas without any chopping! So now Roma types go into salsa or sauce (along with lots of other types) and I only bother to dry cherries.

Though Brokenbar's description of her wine-soaked, oil-packed (then refrigerated) ones do tempt me to try them.

Best of luck,

Z

    Bookmark   September 21, 2009 at 1:49PM
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marti8a

I remember seeing a post here where someone suggested freezing tomatoes and canning later when they had enough quantity and more time.

This isn't the post I saw before but it's the only one that came up in my search. Zabby above suggested the same to the OP.

I have been freezing tomatoes as I get a handful a day out of my garden, but I don't have the freezer space for any more. Is canning tomatoes after they've been frozen different than canning fresh?

    Bookmark   June 22, 2013 at 1:18PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Is canning tomatoes after they've been frozen different than canning fresh?

Not at all except you can skip the boiling water and ice dip to peel. Once frozen and then thawed the peels slip right off. Just core and fill jars. If you core them before freezing it is even easier.

Freezing them until you have a big enough batch to do the canning or until the weather cools so canning isn't heating up the house is a very common practice. Of course it all depends on how much freezer space you have. if freezer space is severely limited then it is probably easier to just can them as they become available from the garden.

Dave

    Bookmark   June 22, 2013 at 1:46PM
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marti8a

Thanks. Yes, heat is a factor too. Right now I just don't have time. Wish I had cored them before putting them in the freezer. I'll do that with the ones I pick today.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2013 at 5:12PM
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nancedar(z7NC)

If you have "watery" tomatoes (slicing) make juice! It freezes nicely in canning jars but do leave at least an inch at the top for expansion. Add some seasonings and you have Spicy Tomato Juice or Bloody Mary Mix. Defrost in fridge overnight on the bottom shelf (warmest place).

I water bath can my juices in quart jars and use my Excalibur dehydrator for plum tomatoes. The price of the dehydrator has been paid for by all the stuff I would have thrown out or composted. While I am playing with tomatoes I make up spaghetti sauce and tomato soup to freeze and Annie's salsa to can. Believe me, come winter the taste of homegrown tomatoes can't be beat.

Nancy

    Bookmark   June 27, 2013 at 7:37AM
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