How to Put Up Tomatoes (The super easy way!)

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It’s that time of year again (in the south, at least!). If you planted tomatoes back at the start of the summer, they are likely coming in by the bucketful right about now. Around this time of year, I feel like I have tomatoes coming out my ears! (Ever see that I Love Lucy Episode where she worked in the chocolate factory?). Still, I LOVE to grow tomatoes and I know full well this bounty will come in very handy once growing season is over. As Weezy said in Steel Magnolia’s “I am an old Southern woman. It is my obligation to wear funny hats and grow tomatoes”.

I actually know very few Southerners who don’t grow tomatoes. They are so easy to grow and produce such remarkably versatile fruit that can be made into any number of dishes and even preserved with ease. So, on the chance that you are also experiencing a bounty of tomatoes, I thought I’d hurry up and get this post to you so that delicious produce doesn’t go to waste. Preserving tomatoes is so easy though, that you don’t have to just save it for a bucketful! If you even have one tomato that is quickly ripening with no immediate need for it, use this same method and freeze it to use in a dish on another day. Waste not, want not – and nothing beats a garden grown tomato!

Today, I’ll be putting up five heirloom tomatoes from my gardens at Bountiful. They don’t know how lucky they are that I let them turn red! I’ve been a frying up green tomatoes left and right here lately but these five managed to grow up despite my fried green tomato love. I’ve had a busy week and there are plenty more tomatoes about to be ripe as well so I wanted to put these up to keep them from going to waste. Like I said, this is so easy that you can put up one or one hundred tomatoes.

You’ll need: Pot of boiling water, freezer bags.

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Get a pot of water to boiling and drop in your tomatoes.

Of course, you can always can your tomatoes as well but freezing is just about the easiest (and inexpensive) way to preserve fresh garden produce so that is the one I’m bringing you today. This method is also more convenient for smaller batches.

house-tomatoes-081Like so……….

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After a minute or two, the skin will split like this. Remove them as the skin splits and place them in a dish. I use a 9×13 inch dish to put them in. You don’t want to use a plate because when you remove the peels and chop them up there will be a lot of yummy juice involved.

If you have very ripe tomatoes, they will take longer to split open but hang in there, I promise it will happen.

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See? Nice and split. Now for the cool part.

Oh, speaking of cool, you’re gonna want to let these cool down a bit.

If you try to peel them now you’ll find they are about as hot as little fireballs! I wait half an hour or so.

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Then, just take hold of the skin and it pulls right off!

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You’ll need to get a knife involved at the top, where the stem was attached. Cut that part off.

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I discard all of my skins and tops but they’d be great in a compost bin if you have one.

I’ll be getting into that a little later.

My green endeavors are coming bit by bit.

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My five tomatoes after the skins have been removed. You can tell a few of them gave up the ghost rather quickly.

I like it when things obey me, even if it is just a vegetable. We gotta take our little triumphs where we can get them!

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Now I chop each one up but you can leave them whole if you prefer.

They are slippery so be careful.

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Here they are, all ready to be bagged!

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I like to write on my bag the date and where they came from. If your grandmother sent the tomatoes to you, it’s always nice to be able to call and say “We had the most delicious stew made with your tomatoes today!”.

Admittedly, a red pen is not the best choice for writing on bags of tomatoes but Katy kept getting into my permanent pen collection so I had to hide them. Now I can’t find them. Isn’t that always how it works? I need more sharpies…

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Fill your bag up, get out as much air as you can, and freeze! They are now ready to be used in sauces, stews, and anything else you can dream up. There is NOTHING like your own fresh tomatoes in the middle of winter (or any other time of year for that matter!).

~~~~~~~~~~~

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Comments

  1. Lori says

    Love it! I do the same at first but once I get to the “put in bag stage” I put them in hot jars, add a teaspoon of salt and wipe off the top of my jar, then add a hot lid and band, then cook the jars for about 30 min. All there is to it! They taste better to me that way and I dont have to worry my freezer will go out. I did 11 quarts of tomatoes and 8 pints of salsa this way yesterday. And I have the orange nails too! I looked down at them last night in church and was mortified at first then realized it was a mark of distinction! HA!
    Love your site Christy, I have sent the link to several of my friends and they love ya too!

  2. Susan says

    Be careful when freezing tomatoes that they freeze really quickly. I froze several, in plastic boxes, years ago, and they all spoiled because they didn’t freeze quickly enough.

  3. Ashley says

    Do you think this would work for chili peppers, too? I bought a plant because it was only $0.75 and now I have a ton of chilis that I don’t know what to do with! Haha

  4. Rose says

    my tomatoes are a little slow coming in. i would love to try them in a homemade spaghetti sauce. any suggestions ? of course, i promised my 12 yr old daughter, she gets the first red tomoto !

    • Maryann Purgason says

      Get to the bag stage in this tutorial, but instead of bagging, run them through the blender for juice with fiber. If you have enough left over after the most wonderful tomato juice you have ever had, make your sauce, cooking down to the right consistency. You may have to add more juice as it cooks down, to get the real tomato-y look. Also, can or freeze the juice in jars or cook down the juice alone for tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste… I do this because my husband doesn’t like the mouth feel of tomato pieces. My kitchen gets extra hot and stuffy, so I often just freeze the fresh juice for later, when I want the extra heat in the house. P.S. I have been known to wash, core, then blend them with the skins on for even more fiber. Personal choice.

  5. says

    My tomotoes aren’t in yet (and may not make it), but my husband swapped some of our corn for 40 pounds of tomatoes. So far, we have made ‘mater sandwiches, BLT’s, and 4 pints of salsa. (I found the most fabulous salsa mix, but checked at 4 stores today and nobody has more!)

  6. Angie says

    I put mine up like this too, except after I put them in boiling water for the right amount of time, I then place them in ice water and the skin comes off easier and they are cooler to handle quicker. LOVE fresh tomatoes!!!

  7. says

    Brand new member here – Christy, this is a wonderful site! I’m so glad to so you younger ladies interested in these things. Maybe sometime I’ll tell you more about me – but it’s so encouraging to see the cooking and preserving going on here. People RAVE about my Italian cream cake and German Chocolate cake – there’s honestly nothing special about them – just homemade with real butter. Lol! Keep up the great work

  8. Sandra Forgach says

    Nothing could be easier than this:

    When I have small batches of tomatoes, I just throw them in my blender – skins and all – then freeze in bags or plastic boxes or any plastic containers like cottage cheese, oleo tubs, yogurt, etc.

    Works great for cherry tomatoes or any other size. Use in any recipe that I cook.

    Don’t forget to date and mark “tomatoes”.

  9. dragongirl says

    Boy, this ol northerner girl is sure learning a lot! I grew up ‘part-southern’ and learned to love the foods, but never knew how to do much of these things. Then I got cityfied and lost my love for southern. I’m back now thanks to you Christy! Here’s another idea for my new ‘southern ways’. teehee

    • ann williams says

      that is how I freeze anything in the freezer. It is so much easier and you are able to get more freezing space out of your freezer. The only problem seems to be that I always forget to go back the next day and remove them from my cookie sheets and then I will need to make cookies and I am like DUH Ann you done it again!!! Then I get my sheets out of the freezer!!! LOL

    • Gwen says

      Joan,

      Did she boil them, or is that unnecessary? I like the idea of keeping the skin intact… it’s really good for you, and I hate to waste it. Thanks in advance!!

      Sincerely,
      Gwen

  10. says

    In about a week I’m going to be living in deep red bliss! All of our Roma’s are just starting to turn red, so I’m looking forward to having some fun! I’m a southern girl, now what else would I be doing this time of year…

  11. Brenda B says

    Christy… i have been doing this for a couple of years now. but i also have put in onions and peppers that i have cut up and sauted … that way when i take the tomatoes out i just add my seasoning… it is a wonderfully simply way…. all winter i am making soups or sauces with my tomatoes with onions and peppers… love the site

  12. Deborah D. says

    This is an awesome way to put up tomatoes. I make homemade sauces all the time and this is an easy way to use my tomatoes in the summer. Thanks Christy. I will be trying this. I love your site. Now if I can get some tips on getting my tomatoes to produce better that would be great.

  13. Emily says

    Yummm…I wish I had lots of red tomatoes to put up like this. I have not had much luck with my plants this year.

    I do have a great recipe you could use with green tomatoes. It’s like eggplant parm…but you use a fried green tomato. Yummmmm.

    Other suggestions for how to use red tomotoes….how about Southern Goulash. My Aunt makes the best.

  14. Donna Adams says

    This is great!! I just hope I have some worth keeping. Seems like this crop has had more blossom rote than ever!! I put Epsom Salt around them last week, so we will see if this is a true cure!

    God Bless you All.

    • Beverly Chabot says

      Donna, get some Blossom End Rot from Lowe’s or Walmart & spray, spray spray! I start spraying mine as soon as I see the yellow flowers. Do you put Lime pellets in your soil before planting? This also seems to help.

  15. says

    Well, I guess I cheat. I put the tomatoes in boiling water for about 1 minute, then in ice water for a minute. Slip the skins off and then…SQUISH them through my fingers. (Grab one like a baseball and just squeeze it gently. It will ooze through your fingers.) lol Saves all that chopping. Since they usually go kinda mushy anyway, I don’t need to spend my time making “cubes”.

    Oh, and I use my crock pot. I pour in boiling water, have the pot on high and use it to hold the hot water at near boiling. I have a stove with 3 small burners and VERY small kitchen, so there’s not room for a lot of things on my stove. I can set the crock pot on top of my washer (lid down) and then transfer the produce from my crock pot to the ice water without dripping stuff all over the kitchen floor. Squish ‘em right over the sterilized jar or bag it’s going into and then can or freeze it.

  16. Jennie says

    This is super exciting!! Our tomatoes have just started coming on…none are big enough for fried green tomatoes yet but getting close! (fried green tomatoes is how I found Southern Plate) I can’t wait to use this once the bounty starts!

  17. Judy D. says

    Hi Christy ~ Love this site. I have a quick question. I recently purchased a Foodsaver and was wondering if you think there’s any advantage of vacuum sealing the tomatoes? Or should I just put them in freezer bags? Thanks for your time.

  18. Gail says

    Thanks for the refresher course! My mother (who is no longer living) told me how to do my tomatoes this way, but I wasn’t sure if I was remembering right. I like to put them up this way and then use them in the middle of winter for home made soup! Yum!
    Thank you!

  19. Becky says

    Putting up tomatoes is my favorite thing to do, but do them like my daddy showed me and altho it takes longer, it is a time for me to stop and think and enjoy things gone by. I peel my tomatoes, put them in a large dishpan on the stove, scald the jars and put one tsp of salt in the bottom, and have my lids in hot water waiting to use. Once the tomatoes come to a boil, I let them boil for about 10 ten minutes, fill the jars quickly, wipe around the lid area to make sure there is nothing there and seal them. The tomatoes are boiling as I put them in the jars and they will seal very well. I always enjoy doing them like this as it makes me feel close to my daddy again and he has been gone for many years.

  20. says

    Thanks Chrisy, I have never canned anything but would love to put up some vegetables. You taught us how to freeze corn and now tomatoes and it does look simple. Appreciate any other vegetables you can show us how to freeze.

  21. Lou Ann Hoggard says

    We always seemed to have an abundance of cherry tomatoes at the end of the season. My Mother would just pop them in a bag, with the skin on and raw. When she made vegetable soup, she dropped those in whole and with the cooking of the soup the peel would turn loose and float to the top. That is how she did it. I have not tried it but might work for you too. She made the best veggie soup. Wish I had a good one. Do you have one that taste like “Mama made”?

  22. Judy McComb says

    Another great way to handle them is to slow roast them in the oven first. For larger tomatoes, slice into thirds and for romas, cherries, or grapes, slice in half. Put some olive oil on the sheet tray and on top of the tomatoes, salt, pepper, and a little pinch of sugar and roast @ 300F for 2-5 hours (depending on size and juiciness) until most of the moisture is gone and they are starting to get a little brown. You still want them to have some moisture – you aren’t going for sun-dried tomatoes for this application. They are great to use anywhere you would use diced tomatoes – over pasta or veggies or, my personal favorite…on toasted french bread that has been spread with cream cheese. You can freeze them in baggies just as you do your fresh tomatoes and they have a long life in the freezer.

  23. says

    I usually just core my tomatos, put them in a heavy duty freezer bag and into the freezer they go. When I am ready to use them, I dump them all into a big pot and let them cook down a bit, slowly. Then I put them through a food mill. Easy as can be. I am on my last bag from 2010.

  24. carol says

    christy, all my tomatoes aren’t coming in at once, so I was wondering if this method would work for me to can and make salsa and pasta sause when I have enough bags to work with?

  25. Beverly Chabot says

    I noticed that in all the posts re: canning tomatoes that no one made mention of adding lemon juice. Ball Blue Book says 2 tablespoons of lemon juice (concentrated) per quart of tomatoes, along with the salt. When I have small amounts of tomatoes from my few plants, I skin them in the boiling water, core & chop, & vacuum seal them in a qt. jar, & refrigerate until the next 25 lb box purchased from the Farmers Market. I do have to make sure not to place a refrigerated jar into boiling water or it will burst for sure. I put up as many Qts as I can get my hands on each year as you never know what the following year will bring!

  26. Krissi says

    THANK YOU THANK YOU!!! I know absolutely NOTHING about fresh fruits/vegs, but I am trying very hard to learn (Think: Bucket List at 42)! This tutorial was a dream come true for me. :) You made it so easy to figure out.

  27. audrea says

    i have used this method to freeze tomatoes, but about three years ago I had alot of tomatoes. After canning about 21 quarts of tomatoes I was just tried of tomatoes and looked for a quick way to finish up what I had. So I washed what I had left and let them try they just put them in freezer bags whole. I removed the stems but did not peal them. They frooze well. I when I get ready to use them I run hot water over them and slip the skins of then. When I can tomatoes I put them in the hot water like you do and dip them in ice water to slip the skin off. Then I put 1 teaspoon salt per quart. I place in pressure canner and cook on 11 pound pressure for 25 minutes.

  28. Debbie says

    Up here in Illinois we’re having a Southern summer…my hair hates it but my tomato plants LOVE it. Just picked a doz mixed tomatoes and I’ll be freezing them tomorrow for winter chili. Perfect timing, As I’ve beem greeting every person with tomatoes & cukes asking them to please take some.

  29. Hannah says

    Don’t throw out the skins! Put them on a baking sheet in the oven and dry them out, then crumble it all up and keep it in a zip lock bag – it adds a wonderful, smoky tomato flavour to anything you add it to!

  30. Lorna says

    I did this but I also threw the peppers (red, Green & the long skinny green ones) along with onions into the water too and then cup them all up, put everything together; added some sugar, salt, seasoned pepper and oinion powder to the bowl and mixed well. What a wonderful flavor! I froze them in quart freezer bags for using when I make Chili, Spaghetti or any other dish that I would normally use these in.

  31. Karen says

    I just wash my tomatoes, cut into quarters, and put into a 4 cup measuring cup. Once I have filled to 3 cups I zip bag let the air out lay flat and freeze. When II put them in soups or stews the skins float up to the top and are easy to skim off.

  32. Randall says

    Hi Christy,

    I don’t discard my tomato skins any more. I batter and fry them up as if I was frying some green tomatoes. They cook really quickly and are the best tasting chips I have ever eaten.

    Barry – Huntsville, Al.
    Love being a Southerner.

  33. sharon says

    I have been able to freeze several ‘cans” worth of home grown tomatoes this year so far! Seems like I use more tomatoes in the winter than summer especially in spaghetti, chili, soups, etc. Can’t wait to taste our ‘bounty’ this winter! I freeze my tomatoes in 2-cup portions — basically like a small can of diced tomatoes — in a quart size zipper bag. YUM – YUM!!!!!

  34. Diane says

    Found your site when looking for ways to freeze a bunch of tomatoes, my neighbor was so nice to share. I thought of making jarred salsa for Christmas gifts for my office mats, but way too intimidating. With your method I’ll get to use them all winter long. Love all the southern comments from up I here in NJ!

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