Harvest Complete

Friday was a day off for Bryon and myself. It was a cold, rainy fall day and as soon as we dropped Grace off at school, we headed to Freda’s Uptown Cafe for breakfast. I hadn’t planned on doing anything in particular Friday, but since I had some time, I decided to tackle the freezer full of tomatoes we had collected through the summer.

This year was a bumper crop. Once I submitted before the tomato gods and Bryon and gave into the standby hybrid plants…we had tomatoes out the wazoo.

Bryon figured out along the way sometime last year that if we just threw the tomatoes into the freezer in gallon zip lock bags we could work them up later at our convenience. No washing, or peeling or nothing. Drop ’em into a bag and toss them in the freezer then add to as needed.

This plan works great for anything you’ll later need stewed tomatoes for like pasta sauce, stew, probably even tomato juice. It’s not so great for diced tomatoes because the flesh falls apart but for almost everything else, it’s a winner.

Turned out Friday was the day.

I just filled the sink with hot, hot tap water and tossed the frozen tomatoes in. It only takes a couple of minutes and when you lift them from the water and plop them down onto your cutting board, the skin slips right off!

From there it’s not difficult to chop through the still mostly frozen tomatoes and cut out the core. I chop them into quarters or a bit smaller and toss them into the giant stainless steel cook pot along with the rest of my pasta sauce ingredients.

Then I stew them down and simmer for a couple of hours until things thicken up. The best part of this is that a lot of the extra juice runs out during the chopping so it cooks down into a nice thick sauce. I do add a can of tomato paste when I’m cooking it later for spaghetti.

This (see above) cooks down to this…(see below)

I cooked sauce in two giant pots simultaneously and eight gallon bags of tomatoes became seven quarts of pasta sauce. We saved four more gallon bags of frozen tomatoes for chili and goulash later this winter.

I didn’t can one thing this summer. Not peaches. Not tomatoes. Nothing. I feel like a slacker for that, but I think the frozen tomatoes will work just as well and they are a ton less work. As long as the zombie apocalypse holds off and the power stays on for our freezer, I think we’ll all survive.

I also didn’t raise any chickens this year. They too are a ton of work and worry. I think I’m a farming backslider, but that’s the way things go sometimes.

If you are interested in the Pasta Sauce recipe I use, here it is. I’m pretty sure  I got if from Allrecipes which is my standby internet cookbook. I’ve never made a bad recipe from that site. They have lots of good reviews and advice with the recipes to help you pick the best one.
Freezer Pasta Sauce

12 cups cored and chopped tomatoes
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
2 bay leaves
2 tbsps red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp pickling salt

I double the recipe for my giant stockpot.

Combine all in a stainless steel stock pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce and simmer stirring frequently for 1 1/2 or more hours until it cooks down and begins to thicken.

Turn off the heat and let it cool. Ladle into quart sized freezer bags. Lay flat on a cookie sheet and freeze.

When it’s time for pasta, I cut the zip lock bag off, plop the frozen brick O’ goodness it into my skillet with the lid on it and stir occasionally to keep it from burning on the bottom. When it has unthawed enough to cover the bottom of the pan, add a can of tomato paste and put the lid back on until it’s hot and bubble.


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