Blanching is the most crucial step prior to freezing almost any type of vegetable, and even mushrooms, but not all vegetables require blanching, and tomatoes, popular as they are, easily fall into this cargo. Here is why.
How to blanch tomatoes for freezing
There’s no need to blanch tomatoes before freezing. You’ll still lose on some of the firmness, color, texture and flavor anyways.
But blanching before freezing can even cause them to loose more of this characteristics especially the firmness and color, and it can also lead to unnecessary nutrients loss, which could otherwise be avoided by simply freezing them raw.
In short, freezing of tomatoes with-blanching and no-blaching produces very subtle difference in overall characteristic. And if any perks are to be noted and pointed out, they’re definitely going against blanching before freezing.
Below is a guide on how to properly preserve fresh tomatoes at room temperature, in the refrigerator, and also in the freezer. You’ll also learn how to thaw and incorporate frozen and refrigerated tomatoes into dishes.
How to store fresh tomatoes at home
First, all tomatoes meant for extended storage must be fresh and free from wound or cuts.
Storing ripe fresh tomatoes
Ripe tomatoes are those that have attained full physiological maturity. We see that as a visible firmness, brightness, glossiness, smoothness, and plumpness on the fruit of the tomato variety in question.
These type of tomatoes normally keep best quality for no longer than 2 to 3 days at room temperature (and at proper storage conditions, you’ll see than below), although some improved varieties such as those of the cluster, roma and cherry type can keep best quality for up to 5 days at proper storage conditions at room temperature.
Regardless, if you have any ripe tomatoes lurking from somewhere around the house, or are planning to purchase them from a retail outlet, or best of all, you’ve cultivated your own home grown varieties and have gotten some nice and juice ripe tomatoes after morning harvest, here are important tips to jot down and memorize so you can easily apply them on the tomatoes for proper storage.
a) Storing ripe tomatoes at room temperature:
- Do not wash tomatoes meant to be stored at room temperature. The extra moisture on the can cause them to deteriorate quickly due to microbial colonization.
- Do not store tomatoes on the counter and directly under sunlight. They could become overheated and this often increases their chances of decay by increasing ripening activities. Storing them directly under sunlight can also lead to the development of poor flavor and color.
- Store fruits at the coolest room temperature possible, in a well-ventilated room and away from direct sunlight. A well ventilated room is crucial for their respiration which will allow any ripening process remaining from within to continue. This in turn will develop better flavor on the tomatoes. The optimal temperature required to keep just ripe tomatoes for long outside of the fridge is 55-58 F.
- Store tomatoes with their stem end up and smooth end down. Give enough breathing space between each individual tomato to prevent fast rotting due to contact.
b) Storing ripe tomatoes in the refrigerator:
- Putting tomatoes in the refrigerator is not recommended because primarily because of flavor loss. But the loss doesn’t create a tomato that isn’t edible, but it’s mostly felt in recipes that call for raw tomatoes as the stand out ingredient. Generally, the longer the refrigeration time, the more the flavor loss imparted on tomatoes, so if you’re after preserving their flavors, it’s best to pop ripe tomatoes in the refrigerator only when they are needed in two or three days’ time and the ambient temperatures outside is hot which will cause them to spoil faster. Anything after then, and the flavor and color loss kicks in and increases with time.
- Do not wash tomatoes meant to be refrigerated, but make sure to properly wash them when it’s time to slice them on salads or make them into puree.
- Place the tomatoes in a plastic bag (slit a few times to reduce water loss) or paper bag, or leave them in their plastic clamshell container if they came with it. Packaging the tomatoes like this will ensure that they don’t lose excess water and end up wrinkling.
- Put the tomatoes in the crisper section of the refrigerator (the drawer).
- Ripe whole tomatoes stored in the refrigerator can last for up to 3 weeks.
- You can also cut tomatoes before refrigeration, but they usually last no more than 2 days. Make sure to cover the plate you contained the chopped tomatoes before refrigerating.
c) Storing ripe tomatoes in the freezer:
- Freezing tomatoes is preferred when you aren’t planning on using them raw (i.e. sliced on salads or meals). They become mushy after thawing and are best suited for making into stews, puree or for incorporating into recipes that require cooking.
- Wash firm and fresh tomatoes thoroughly in clean water to rid them off dirt. Dry thoroughly with a paper towel by blotting. Use a clean cloth if you don’t have a paper towel.
- Next, cut away the stem and any components remaining.
- Slice tomatoes, chop them, or leave them whole, depending on which style you would think would make work easier for you after thawing.
- Tray pack them by placing them in a single layer on a shallow tray or pan (or a cookie sheet) and pop into the freezer until they turn firm. Immediately transfer them into freezer label bags or containers. Seal tightly to remove as much air as possible which will cause freezer burns and deterioration.
- Put them in the freezer indefinitely at constant temperature of 0F or below.
Storing underripe tomatoes
Under ripe tomatoes are tomatoes that haven’t attained full physiological maturity. They usually have more percentage of green than red pigments or their fully matured colors on their skins.
Under ripe tomatoes should never be stored in the refrigerator or in the freezer. These mediums slow down their maturity during the storage period and can even cause the vegetables to become soft and watery during room temperature ripening after.
a) Storing under-ripe tomatoes at room temperature:
Store tomatoes like you would if they were fresh. Check the guide above. Additionally, you may want to place tomatoes in a brown paper bag along with a banana or apple to speed up ripening if you need them early, otherwise, just stick with the instructions above and the tomatoes should last an extra two or three days than ripe tomatoes, for optimal quality.
When under-ripe tomatoes have fully ripened, you can store them in the refrigerator or the freezer as per the instructions above.
How to use refrigerated and frozen tomatoes
Allow refrigerated tomatoes to sit on the counter for no more than one hour to regain some of their flavors. Cooking them directly from refrigeration will not give them the change to bring together their flavors.
For frozen tomatoes, thaw them in the refrigerator a day before use. Sit them on the counter as outlined above. They will turn mushy, but thankfully by now, you know that they’re perfectly fine for whatever recipe you’re making with them.
If you need to peel the tomatoes, run them under warm water and their skins should slip of easily. You can avoid this extra work (which isn’t even practical for cut tomatoes) by simply blanching the tomatoes prior to freezing.
Simply put them in boiling water for one minute until the skin begins to split. Take them off, peel, cool and then freeze as outlined above.