The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Preserving Tomatoes

early girls
This is a tale of three girls: an early girl, a dirty girl and a lazy girl. The early girl definitely did not get the worm. She is a luscious ripe tomato with the perfect balance of sweetness and acidity. The dirty girl is often hot and has her own natural beauty…she’s Dirty Girl Produce, an organic farm located near Santa Cruz and the grower of those beautiful tomatoes. And the lazy girl? Well, that would be me, but that’s a longer story…

Now I’m a girl who loves home-canned foods. Bell jars that have been meticulously sterilized and then lovingly filled with someone’s recipe for apricot jam, apple butter, and raspberry jelly make my heart go pitter pat. When someone shows up at my house with a gift of handmade preserves, my esteem for them grows and like the Grinch, my heart grows 10 sizes, bursting with appreciation for their efforts.

I have also been known to do some canning of my own. For years, an old and decrepit apricot tree sat in my backyard, looking scragglier by the year, but producing the sweetest apricots with just a hint of tartness. By far the best apricots I’ve ever eaten that produced the best jam I’ve ever made. Thick and sweet, it lay perfectly on freshly toasted challah or in a tart pan. We had so many apricots I made two to three dozen jars of jam each year in addition to making numerous tarts and simply eating tons fresh. We gave away apricot jam at Christmas to family members and neighbors and then had more to keep for ourselves. But then about three years ago, spring arrived and hardly any buds bloomed and the branches lay half naked in summer. We got 5 apricots that year. The next year, the craggy limbs lay bare — our apricot tree was dead. I’ve since searched for apricots worthy of canning, but haven’t yet found them.

But our apple tree survives, albeit in an even craggier state than the apricot tree seemed to have ever been. Poor tree has fire blight and although I keep saying I need to cut it down, I can’t bring myself to actually do it (or, rather, ask my husband to do it). So this year, I am grateful to still have my usual bags of apples ready to be turned into apple butter, waiting in the basement.

box of early girl tomatoes

What does any of this have to do with the lazy girl? Everything. After years of canning apricots and apples, I’m tired: tired of peeling, tired of sticking produce in a food mill, tired of hot water baths, and tired of sterilizing jars. I love the results, but not the work. So when I bought a 20 lb box of Early Girl tomatoes from Dirty Girl Produce this last weekend, I knew I couldn’t bear to can them when I would just have to break out the canning equipment next weekend all over again to turn those apples into apple butter.

So what do you do with 20 lbs of tomatoes and a can-not attitude? What do you do when you have no desire to stand over a boiling pot of tomatoes in 90 degree weather? You roast and freeze. That’s right. I let my oven do most of the work and then after that, I’m letting my freezer do the rest.

roasting tomatoes

The roasting idea came from an amazing plate of roasted tomato risotto Kim Laidlaw recently made for me (from her own box of Dirty Girl Produce Early Girl tomatoes). Roasting had given the tomatoes a caramelized intense sweetness that I wanted to replicate. So, after seeding and then roasting most of my tomato haul with some olive oil and freshly minced oregano, the tomatoes were concentrated down into their essence. Each tomato was bursting with a deep summer tomato flavor and the kitchen was filled with a sweet heady aroma. I added in the cooked juices from the seeds and stirred to create a deep red sauce. After it cooled, I ladled equal amounts into Ziplock bags and then set the lot in the freezer. The perfume of summer and sunshine now stored and ready to be used in sauces and stews this winter, accomplished without me burning myself on a hot jar or pressing even one tin lid.

Next week, I’ll can; but this week, I’m happy to be lazy.

roasted early-girls

How to make frozen roasted tomato preserves
1. Wash and dry your tomatoes.
2. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees if using a convection oven and 400 degrees if not.
3. Set up a work area with the following:

  • Your washed and cleaned tomatoes
  • Pans lined with aluminum foil that have been greased on the top side with olive oil
  • A fine-mesh colander set atop a large bowl
  • A cutting board
  • A knife

4. Remove any blemishes or bruises from the tomatoes and then cut each one in half.

seeded-tomato

5. Gently squeeze the tomato halves into the colander so the seeds fall inside.
6. Set the tomato halves on the lined baking sheets, cut side up.
7. Sprinkle extra virgin olive oil, kosher or sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and freshly minced or dried oregano or basil onto your tomatoes.
8. Bake for 50 minutes if using a convection oven or 1 hour if not (or until the tomatoes are cooked through, being careful not to burn them).
9. When the tomatoes have only ten minutes to go, place the juice from the bowl into a pot and slowly boil with some salt and pepper for about five minutes.
10. Remove the pans from the oven and scrape the tomatoes into a small pile using a wooden spatula and then spoon them into a large bowl.

finished tomato sauce

11. Add in the cooked tomato juices and stir.
12. Let cool until room temperature and then ladle into quart-sized freezer bags that have been labeled with the date and contents.

tomatoes bagged and ready for the freezer

13. Set bags in the freezer until ready to use.

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37 Responses so far »

  1. 1

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  2. 2

    Carol said,

    I love that idea. I now have a great way to use the tomatoes (whenever summer ever comes). Apparently you also have a convection oven since I see you used multiple racks when roasting.

  3. 3

    dslincoln said,

    Hi Carol – Yes I have a convection oven although I think you could easily make this with a regular oven as well. And when you’re enjoying those tomatoes in January you’ll be glad you did :-)

  4. 4

    Great article! what other things do you do with your excess tomatoes?

  5. 5

    Kerry D. said,

    Thanks! Great instructions! I got a huge bag of tomatoes for $3 at the Farmer’s Market today, and was able to make a LOT of yummy roasted tomatoes to freeze.

  6. 6

    Annette Schipf said,

    Just so I make sure I am doing this correctly-Do you use the peels also? Or do you scrape the “meat” out of the skins into the bowl after roasting?

  7. 7

    dslincoln said,

    Hi Annette — Yes, you just leave the peels on. It couldn’t be easier. I suppose if they bug you they can be removed, but I don’t find this necessary. Enjoy those tomatoes!

  8. 8

    Mary said,

    what recipes do you use them with?

  9. 9

    christine said,

    how long can the preserved tomatoes stay in the freezer, please?

  10. 10

    cool cv said,

    great idea to use all the tomatoes i have in the summer in my backyard, one question though, how long can it be preserved in the freezer?

  11. 11

    dslincoln said,

    Hi Cool CV — I’ve kept mine up to a year and they were still fine (but you’ll be happiest using them in those winter months!) :-)

  12. 12

    OMG you have to read my blog post. I apparently read this on my tablet. Fell asleep and had copied part of it into a word document. But then somehow couldn’t find my way back to your blog. So I wrote about it in my blog and tried it and wow it worked better than I ever could imagine. DRYING tomatoes is the best idea EVER!!!! So thanks! And sorry if my post seems like plagiarism, I napped too many times while deciding what to do with the too many tomatoes and got confused. Since I’m relatively new to blogging I hope I didn’t just do a faux paus…

    http://embersgarden.blogspot.com/2012/07/and-they-said-it-couldnt-be-done-easy.html

    Great idea by the way!

  13. 13

    GrammyBev said,

    can’t tell you how happy I was to find this….used my heirlooms and they were so rich and smokey! Can’t wait to add to my veggie soups this winter!

  14. 14

    Terri said,

    Hey, for an even lazier system, I don’t even take the seeds out…i just cut the varieties I have, which are usually big, small, cherry and grape, into somewhat uniform sizes.
    Then, lay them a baking dish, cut side up if they are small, with a drizzle of olive oil to keep them from sticking (drizzle the bare pan, then the tomatoes when cut up). Mince some garlic and whatever herbs you like, and voila! Roasted tomatoes.
    I use glass baking dishes and when cool, I put them in cup sized increments in the freezer.
    Easy as you can get.
    Thanks!

  15. 15

    Your idea here saved a lot of my tomatoes from just rotting on the table. Also used it to make my own tomato paste and it was easy peasy and tasted delicious. I didn’t even use the olive oil and oregano so can you imagine how much better it could be! Next batch!

  16. 16

    Resa said,

    Wahoo! I’m starting over with all my canning stuff (after giving everthing away in a move) and just haven’t had the heart and energy to get going with the jars, etc. Now I can’t wait to get onto these tomatoes we just got. We will end up trying some of these in my husband’s fresh salsa this winter. TFS!!

  17. 17

    Stacy said,

    Thanks for this post. We have a wonderful neighbor who drops tons of tomatoes off, but does it throughout summer. We were getting super tired of boiling, peeling, canning or freezing these things! It would be one thing if it was just one time project but…its weekly!. Of course we appreciate the gift and dont want to tell him to stop!! This will give us something new to try. And it just sounds so simple. Off to get some fresh oregano & basil!

    • 18

      dslincoln said,

      Hi Stacy — how lucky that you have fresh tomatoes grown by a neighbor! I hope you are able to enjoy your frozen tomatoes all winter :-)

  18. 19

    Greetings from Colorado! I’m bored to death at work so I decided to browse your website on my iphone during lunch break. I really like the info you present here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home.
    I’m shocked at how fast your blog loaded on my cell phone .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .
    . Anyways, good blog!

  19. 20

    Miriam said,

    Like your (lazy) style. My father gave me a huge bag of different sized tomatoes. I want to preserve them and then gift It back to him so he has fresh tomatoes for his dinners. A bit of basil and garlic and he has A pasta sauce in minutes! Thanks for the ideas.

    • 21

      dslincoln said,

      Hi Miriam – I’m so glad you like the recipe, and my lazy style :-) What a lovely idea to preserver your father’s tomatoes for him. I hope my daughters do that for me one day :-)

      Thanks for writing!

  20. 22

    Katherine said,

    For how long can you store the tomatoes?

  21. 23

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  23. 25

    Elizabeth said,

    Hi, I’m so glad I found this! We’re doing a garden for the first time, and I’ve been so nervous for the tomatoes to be ready…I really do not want to can! So far I’ve been freezing our other produce. From other things I’ve read I’m a little worried about freezing tomatoes – is there a noticeable texture change or anything like that? Have you used the frozen tomatoes in different recipes like salsa, pasta sauce, etc.?

  24. 26

    Mary Beth said,

    This is excellent!! They taste like candy!! I went even lazier and did not seed them or use foil under them, and they turned out great. You know you’ve got a great recipe when you can cut corners and still have success! Thanks for sharing this.

  25. 27

    P. C. Zick said,

    Thank you for this recipe! I’ll certainly be using it soon. You can also just wash tomatoes and place tomatoes on a cookie sheet and place in freezer. When frozen slide tomatoes into freezer bags. During the winter, these frozen wonders create a perfect sauce. Now that’s really lazy.

  26. 28

    Vickie said,

    Thanks so much for posting about this method. Had 2 big bags of tomatoes that I needed to do something with. Grateful to have them all stowed away in the freezer. No waste. Thanks :)

  27. 29

    Abi said,

    I have this roasting in my oven as I type and the kitchen smells wonderful. I have made 2 batches, the first follows your recipe exactly, to the second I have added some red onion and red pepper to the roasting vegetables – it will be wonderful as a pasta sauce or on a pizza over the winter. Top recipe – thank you

  28. 30

    christina said,

    I did a garden for the first time this year. I wanted to try to can everything, but decided freezing was an easier method for me and my family. I did your roasting tomatoes recipe and my house smelled amazing!!! My question for you, is do you have any recipes for sauces or what did you use your roasted tomatoes for? If anyone has any advice, my email is christina.havumaki@hotmail.com. I’d love some recipes!! Thanks!!!

  29. 31

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  30. 32

    diana said,

    hi just got 40 lbs of tomatoes, will try the roasting, but don’t know if they will se the freezer.

  31. 33

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  32. 34

    escort bayan said,

    Hey, regarding a even lazier system, my spouse and i don’t even get the seeds out…i merely cut your current varieties when i have, which are generally big, small, cherry AS WELL AS grape, straight into somewhat uniform sizes.
    Then, lay them an baking dish, cut side up regardless of whether they\’re small, with a drizzle associated with olive oil to be able to keep them via sticking (drizzle ones bare pan, next your current tomatoes Any time cut up). Mince a series of garlic ALONG WITH whatever herbs an individual like, IN ADDITION TO voila! Roasted tomatoes.
    I MAKE USE OF glass baking dishes ALONG WITH As soon as cool, my spouse and i put them inside cup sized increments at the freezer.
    Easy Just as You may get.
    Thanks!

  33. 35

    woodyjojo said,

    Our first tomatoes are just beginning to ripen… it’s hard to tell whether we’re going to have just enough or too many, but I’m so looking forward to preserving them for the winter to come, so I hope it’s the latter! Thanks for this recipe idea- I will be blogging the results!

    • 36

      dslincoln said,

      I hope you have too many tomatoes. That’s never a bad thing :-) Good luck and let me know how it goes!

  34. 37

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