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How to Freeze Fresh Tomatoes

Updated on June 1, 2016
The Dirt Farmer profile image

Jill is an avid reader of cookbooks and cooking magazines. She enjoys cooking and experimenting in her own kitchen.

Buy local, buy cheap

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Want tomatoes year round without buying them canned at the grocery story or growing them yourself? Then head to the local farmers' market or roadside stand at the height of summer. That's when you'll find boxes of seconds on sale at reduced prices.

What are seconds?

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Seconds don't look as perfect as the tomatoes growers sell at top prices, but they're perfect for freezing or canning at home.


Good Deal

The trick to getting the best price on seconds is waiting. When the hottest days of summer hit, tomatoes in the field ripen quickly, and prices drop dramatically.

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How cheap seconds will be depends on when you buy them and how well local tomatoes are producing.

The first time we bought seconds, we paid only $5 per bushel box. The second year, a tomato blight affected growers throughout Maryland, and we paid $8 per bushel box.

This year, our usual supplier (a local Amish farmer) has had problems with his tomato crop. We switched to a different local seller and got three bushel boxes of beautiful seconds for $10 each.

Although more expensive, they're such high quality with so few "bad" tomatoes, even at the bottom of the box, that they were well worth the price.

Easy freezy

You can make tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce, even ketchup with seconds.

Seconds are very ripe and often damaged, so they're time sensitive. You have to use them immediately.

The easiest way I've found to "put them up" before they spoil is to freeze tomatoes in chunks.

Easy Frozen Tomato Chunks

3.7 stars from 3 ratings of Easy Frozen Tomato Chunks
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How long will it take?

Prep Time: It takes about 4 hours (an afternoon) to prep and freeze a bushel of seconds.

Yield: About 25 quart-size freezer bags of chopped tomatoes.

What you'll need

  • 1 bushel tomatoes
  • boiling water
  • ice water
  • 25 quart-size freezer bags
  • sharp knives

Instructions

Create a work area for yourself that includes a bowl for placing peels and cores, a large bowl for cooling blanched whole tomatoes and a large receptacle for the chopped tomatoes.

Core the tomatoes.

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Wash the tomatoes in cold water. Because they're fresh from the fields, they'll be dirty. Expect mud, dried leaves— even a few bugs.

Once you've rinsed them off, remove the cores.

Once the tomatoes are cored, score them.

Score the tomatoes by making an X across the tops & bottoms.

If the tomatoes are very ripe, you may be able to pull the peel away at this point.

If the skin is still tight, you'll have to blanch the tomatoes to remove the peel.

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Scoring the tomatoes will make it super easy to remove the peel once the tomatoes have been blanched.

Blanch the tomatoes.

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Immerse the tomatoes in boiling water 15 seconds, then place them in iced water. This is called blanching.

The purpose of blanching is to remove the skin, not cook the tomatoes. To that end, boil them briefly— 15 seconds tops— and then place them in cold water so they won't continue to cook.

If you boil them longer than 15 seconds or don't immerse them in cold water, the meat under the peel will become mushy, and the tomatoes will be too hot to handle.

Peel & chop.

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Discard the peels and cut the tomatoes into halves, quarters and chunks.

To make the chunks, first halve the tomatoes and then quarter them. (If they're very big, you may have to halve the quarters, too!)

Once the tomato wedges are a manageable size, cut them horizontally into bite-sized chunks ideal for sauces and stews.

If you are going to remove the seeds, now is a perfect time to do so. I only remove seeds that are either black or a bright green, as these are sometimes bitter.

Place the chunks in freezer bags and seal.

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We use a Food Saver vacuum sealer, but you could also use plain freezer bags or jars.

If freezing in Mason jars, don't tight the lids all the way and be sure to leave some room at the top, as the tomatoes will expand as they freeze.

When the bags are cool, place them in the freezer.

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Things to keep in mind

  • Use sharp knives. Your knife should slide through a ripe tomato like it's butter. If it doesn't, sharpen your knife. Otherwise, you could cut yourself.
  • If you're not used to using kitchen knives, cut the tomatoes on a cutting board rather than in your hand.
  • Begin with a clean, organized work space. Creating a place for peels and cores, a place for the bowls, etc., before you begin will make the process go much more smoothly.
  • Work in batches. Because our kitchen is small, I find that if I do about six lbs. of tomatoes at a time, it's easier.
  • Clean up periodically. After finishing a batch, dispose of the peels and cores, change out the water, sharpen your knives and wipe up.
  • Reuse the water. Blanching uses lots of water, which I always feel guilty about, so I let it cool and then water outdoor plants with it or pour it onto the compost pile.
  • Compost peels and cores. If you don't have a composter, you can bury the waste. It will enrich your soil.

Enjoy!

Frozen tomato chunks are handy to have in winter for soups, stews, pot roasts and sauces. And they're much healthier than tomatoes from a can.

Although we go through the tomatoes we put up in summer by Christmas, with the Food Saver, they could last up to six months in the freezer.

FoodSaver FM2000 Review

© 2015 Jill Spencer

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    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 16 months ago from United States

      Hi! Thanks for the comments, Kristen, Rebecca and Virginia. We were traveling, so I just realized that this was a HOTD. lol A real sleeper! Glad you guys noticed it! (:

    • VirginiaLynne profile image

      Virginia Kearney 17 months ago from United States

      I don't have enough freezer space for this but I have canned tomatoes before and you are reminding me how good fresh canned salsa is! Great instructions on how to get a good deal on fresh tomatoes!

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 17 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thanks so much for the help with freezing tomatoes. I think I like this idea better than canning them. Congrats on your HOTD!

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 17 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      Jill, I'm stopping by here again to say congrats on HOTD, my friend. Well done!

    • purl3agony profile image

      Donna Herron 17 months ago from USA

      Hi Jill - Thanks for all these wonderful tips! I've always wanted to try to make my own sauce, but I was planning to grow my own tomatoes and can them. But I have horrible luck growing tomatoes, so my plan has always fallen apart. Love the idea of buying and using seconds. And thanks for the directions for freezing the cut tomatoes. Congrats on your HOTD and have a very happy new year!

    • kalinin1158 profile image

      Lana Zakinov 17 months ago from California

      I've never done this before but your hub was so comprehensive and easy to follow, I think I might try it! (Just have to wait for the peak of summer.) I also like using local farm products. Great job and congrats on HOTD!

    • breathing profile image

      Sajib 17 months ago from Bangladesh

      A million dollar idea on saving money and enjoying tomatoes! Actually canned tomatoes will not last longer than a few months at any cost. But with the process described in the post, it is very much possible to get the tomatoes for the whole year. I love the detailed way in which the author has mentioned all the process. The most amazing this is that anyone can go on with the process just by following the steps! Just need to be a bit careful! Also these frozen tomato chunks are really delicious! To be honest my tongue is just licking seeing the images!

      Overall a great post for getting tomatoes all year around.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 19 months ago from United States

      Thanks, Peg. I've canned using a pressure cooker a few times, but I always found it nerve-wracking-- the noise, the heat, the real possibility of burning myself. I like freezing way better. Thanks for stopping by! --Jill

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 19 months ago from Dallas, Texas

      Great ideas on finding economically priced tomatoes. I enjoyed reading and seeing your method of freezing eliminating the need to do the canning.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 20 months ago from United States

      Good to hear from you, Patricia. I guess I just like doing a project that has a tangible result, unlike most of the work I've done in my career. (:It's raining here, but nothing scary. Hope the weather's fine where you are. All the best-- Take care, Jill

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 20 months ago from sunny Florida

      O, Jill, you are so right. There is nothing like a 'fresh' tomato in winter or any time for that matter. My friends led me to the discovery of buying large quantities and then preparing sauce or freezing them..

      This is such a helpful hub you have shared with us...

      Hoping all is well with you this morning

      Angels are on the way to you and yours.. ps

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 21 months ago from Southern Oklahoma

      I love fresh, home-grown tomatoes! We grow our own and make picante sauce, stewed tomatoes and spaghetti sauce with them. However, this year we didn't get very many tomatoes and I am very disappointed. I hope that next year our garden will do better.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 21 months ago from United States

      Hi Dolores and Sherry! You're both very lucky to be able to raise tomatoes. We haven't had any luck for the last three years because squirrels denude the bushes. We're planning to stop growing them and start up again when we move. Enjoy those toms, and thanks for stopping by! --Jill

    • Sherry Hewins profile image

      Sherry Hewins 21 months ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      I grow way more tomatoes than I can use, but I usually can them. Sometimes my husband makes big batches of spaghetti sauce from them. Those he freezes.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 21 months ago from East Coast, United States

      What a great idea. And those seconds are really cheap! Canned tomatoes have become quite expensive and this way you know what you are getting as you've done it yourself. Every year, we have a couple days when we get a whole lot of tomatoes from my husband's veggie garden. I keep the nicest ones to eat fresh, but freeze the "seconds" to use in sauce.

    • thumbi7 profile image

      JR Krishna 21 months ago from India

      We don't have to can tomatoes as we get fresh ones throughout the year

      I go to weekly markets and buy tomatoes and other vegetables for the week. The problem we face here is excessive use of chemicals and fertilizers.

      Hence the new trend is to go for organic

      Thanks for sharing

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 21 months ago from United States

      Hi alexandry. Thanks for commenting. My grandma canned too. She made a sort of tomato relish that she called ketchup. Wish I had the recipe! All the best, Jill

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 21 months ago from USA

      I miss the good old days when I helped grandma make cans and cans of sauce and the sauce was so good! I never froze tomatoes before, something to consider next time I head to the farmer's market and get lots of tomatoes. Thanks for sharing.

    • Gary Malmberg profile image

      Gary Malmberg 21 months ago from Concon, Chile

      Terrific review! Two thumbs yup!

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 21 months ago from United States

      Hi moonlake. Thank heavens for farmers' markets, huh? Have fun!

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 21 months ago from America

      I freeze tomatoes from our garden but not this year, no garden. Good idea to go to the farmers market. Voted up

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 21 months ago from United States

      Thanks for the kind comments, happyboomernurse! Appreciate it. --Jill

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 21 months ago from South Carolina

      Excellent hub. I can see why it's an Editor's Choice pick. Love the photos and detailed instructions. Thanks for posting them.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 22 months ago from United States

      Hi Glimmer Twin Fan. It was very rainy and now it's very hot and dry. The flowers, however, are doing fine. I have end blossom rot on two tomato bushes, however, probably because of a freak wind that nearly uprooted them in a storm early this summer. The excitement never ends, huh? lol Thanks for stopping by, Jill

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 22 months ago

      We've had such wet weather here earlier this summer the tomatoes aren't so nice, but we have farmers markets around so I may just go buy a bunch and do this. Very useful hub. Hope your garden and flowers are thriving!

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 22 months ago from United States

      Thanks for the info, Lee. I would like to try that.

    • chefsref profile image

      Lee Raynor 22 months ago from Citra Florida

      Hey Jill

      I use a tabletop convection oven with a very low temp and the door open. The fan moves air around and dries them quickly

      Lee

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 22 months ago from United States

      Ms. Dora, thanks for stopping by. Hope you get some tomatoes to freeze.

      Appreciate your comments, Kristen! All the best, Jill

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 22 months ago from United States

      Hi Lee, I love the idea of drying them and grinding them into a powder. Do you use a dehydrator or just a low oven?

    • chefsref profile image

      Lee Raynor 22 months ago from Citra Florida

      Hey Jill

      Your hubs are always interesting.

      I've been freezing tomatoes for a while now but I find I can dry tomatoes and freeze those to save a lot of space. I use them just like you would use frozen chunks but they absorb a lot of moisture which can help some recipes. otherwise just add water.

      Another thing I have discovered is to dry the tomatoes until absolutely dry and crispy, then I grind them to a powder in a spice grinder. The resultant powder I use where I want tomato paste. I still keep the powder in the freezer to avoid mold.

      My last tip is for the seeds and skin you remove before processing. I only just tried this so I don't know about quantities but I put the skins, juice and seeds in with chunks I am cooking for tomato sauce or puree. When the sauce is well cooked I use the food processor to puree and the skins and seeds just disappear into the sauce.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 22 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      Jill, what a clever idea. No grown tomatoes in my neighbor. Maybe as a future container plant idea or buy them at local farmer's market. Voted up for useful!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 22 months ago from The Caribbean

      Voted Up! Very helpful and sensible. Thank you very much though I may not be able to buy them here by the bushel. Preparation for freezing seems easy enough. Thanks!

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 22 months ago from United States

      How lucky you are, MsLizzy, to be rich in tomatoes! Wish you were my neighbor! lol Thanks for dropping by. --Jill

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 22 months ago from Oakley, CA

      I have both a bumper crop of tomatoes and a vacuum sealer. However, I am out of bags, and can't afford any replacements, so, bummer!

      I am the only one who eats tomatoes; my husband can't stand them (unless in the form of ketchup or chunk-free spaghetti sauce), so a single plant is more than plenty, and more than I can eat. I am constantly donating extra tomatoes to my daughter or neighbors!

      I had not thought of using canning jars in the freezer, though; I do have some, but not very many quart sized ones.

      What I usually end up making and canning is picalilli relish, when there are too many green tomatoes left near the end of the season. We do have a couple of farmer's markets in the area; we're still a semi-rural community, but their prices aren't exactly bargains. And for last year's picalilli, I actually had to purchase green tomatoes! :(

      Voted up, ++

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 22 months ago from United States

      Oh Colin! That sucks.):

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 22 months ago from United States

      Hi Larry! Putting up frozen tomatoes is a fun couples project. Really! The first year we did it, my husband and I had a contest to see who could make the best spaghetti sauce. I liked his better! lol Thanks for stopping by! --Jill

    • FatBoyThin profile image

      Colin Garrow 22 months ago from Kinneff, Scotland

      It's a great idea, but my freezer just ain't big enough to tackle this sort of job. I'll stick to cans for now (I can always dream of frozen tomatoes...)

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 22 months ago from Oklahoma

      My wife and I use the local farmers' markets as much as possible.

      Love this idea because it allows us to enjoy their tomatoes year round.

      Wonderful idea!

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 22 months ago from United States

      Hi Carb Diva! Yes, the squirrels are very bad here for getting into gardens. Last year tomatoes were late ripening, and I waited rather than pick them yellow. Big mistake! The squirrels denuded the bushes. This year they've broken down most of our sunflowers. I caught one of them savaging a sunflower face. ): It's a good thing their antics are so funny most of the time! Thanks for stopping by. Jill

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 22 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Nothing can beat a fresh tomato. Wow, we have tomatoes growing here as well, and I never thought I'd have to worry about the squirrels getting into them. It's enough that I have to chase off the deer. Thanks for a great hub.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 22 months ago from United States

      We're growing some, too, Billy, but they're never enough-- especially since the squirrels like them so well. lol Thanks for stopping by! --Jill

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 22 months ago from Olympia, WA

      We have some beauties growing about twenty feet from where I'm writing. No worries here; we won't buy canned tomatoes when fresh is an arm's length away. :)

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