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Homegrown TomatoesIf canning seems too complicated or scary, you may want to try freezing. Don't be afraid, it's quite easy and you will love the results of your labor in the off-season. Hot-house or grocery store tomatoes are just not the same! Whether you use farmer's market tomatoes or ones you grew yourself, freezing plump, juicy tomatoes is an easy way to savor the sweetness of summer all year long.

Tomatoes are in season from June through September. Look for fresh garden tomatoes at area farmer's markets or pick-your-own farms, or grow your own. Look for tomatoes that are firm, well-shaped, and richly colored. They should be free from blemishes, heavy for their size, and have a fragrant aroma. Tomatoes that are perfectly ripe will give just slightly to palm pressure. Most varieties of tomatoes can be frozen. However, plum or roma tomatoes contain the most pulp and will produce the best results. If the tomatoes cannot be frozen immediately, store them at room temperature. Avoid storing fresh tomatoes in the refrigerator, which can make them lose flavor and become mealy.

Tip: Plan on 1 quart of frozen tomatoes per 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 pounds of fresh tomatoes.

Step 1: Gather the proper freezing equipment and supplies

Here's what you'll need to ensure a smooth freezing process:

A large (7- to 8-quart) pot
A large bowl
Freezer containers or bags
Labels
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Step 2: Blanch the tomatoes

Blanch TomatoBlanching is a heat-and-cool process. It stops or slows natural enzymes in the tomatoes that could cause loss of flavor and color. It also makes easy work of peeling the tomatoes. Here's how to do it:

Fill a large pot with 1 gallon of water; bring water to boiling.Using a sharp knife, cut a shallow X on the bottom of each tomato. This encourages the skin to split during blanching so you'll be able to slip off the skin easily with your fingers once the tomatoes have cooled. Working in 1-pound batches, immerse tomatoes in the boiling water. Cook for 30 to 60 seconds or until the tomato skins split open. Using a slotted spoon, transfer tomatoes to a large bowl of ice water.

Step 3: Peel the tomatoes

When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, use a knife or your fingers to peel the skin off the tomatoes.

Step 4: Prepare and freeze the tomatoes

Using a small, sharp knife, cut out the stem end from the peeled tomatoes. If desired, halve, slice, or chop tomatoes.
Spoon the tomatoes into freezer containers or bags, leaving a 1-inch headspace.Seal the container or bag and label.

Freeze for up to 10 months.

Stuffed TomatoesTomatoes are yummy by themselves, but add fresh roasted corn, basil, and cheese and you have a unique combination of flavors. This summer recipe is not only tasty and quick, only taking about 15 minutes. Enjoy these stuffed tomatoes for supper tonight!

Ingredients

  • 6-10 medium tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1/2 cup fresh sweet corn (canned works, fresh is better)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • a handful of fresh basil ribbons
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • grated cheese

Instructions

1. Wash and dry the corn. Place corn in a sturdy non-stick or cast iron skillet over medium high heat with no oil or butter. Let sit for 3-4 minutes and stir. Repeat until corn gets nice and brown on the outside. Remove from heat and set aside.

2. Cut the tops of the tomatoes off and carefully scoop out the flesh, reserving the flesh in a separate bowl. Set whole tomatoes aside. Crush the tomato flesh with the back of a spoon or in a food processor until there are no large chunks. Don’t totally puree it – just chop/mash it up.

3. Combine the mashed tomato mixture, brown rice, basil, corn and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Add a small handful of the shredded cheese, reserving some for topping. Stir it all together until well-mixed.

4. Preheat broiler. Stuff the whole tomatoes with the tomato, rice, and corn mixture until rounded on the top. Top with shredded cheese. Broil for 3-5 minutes or until cheese reaches desired meltness and tomatoes are heated through.

Total Time: 15 mins

Notes: Use a muffin tin to hold tomatoes upright while fixing them and while they are in the oven.

Cucumber Tomato SaladWhen it's hot outside and you've been working all day, a easy summer-time salad is easy to prepare and goes well with any grilled meats and is a tasty side dish on the Sunday table.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 sweet Vidalia onion or Purple Onion if you refer, thinly sliced
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 4 large tomatoes, peeled and sliced
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (optional)
  • coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Add onion and cucumber to large bowl and toss with vinegar. Let sit while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  2. Cut tomatoes into thin wedges and add to bowl with cucumbers and onions. Add olive oil, basil, salt and pepper and toss.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Fried Green TomatosTraditional fried green tomatoes are a special treat when you just can’t wait for your tomatoes to ripen.  This simple recipe includes slicing firm green tomatoes, dipping them in flour, egg, then a mixture of cornmeal and bread crumbs and fried to a light golden brown. If you can find it, use fine white cornmeal, and don’t substitute the buttermilk as it adds flavor and tang!

Ingredients

  • 3 medium, firm green tomatoes
  • Salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp Cajun seasoning (optional)
  • 1/2 cup milk or buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup White cornmeal (Atkinson’s Mill or House Autry from Johnston County)
  • 1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup peanut oil or other vegetable oil

Method

Cut unpeeled tomatoes into 1/2 inch slices. Sprinkle slices with salt. Let tomato slices stand for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, place in separate shallow bowls: the flour and Cajun seasoning (if using), buttermilk and egg, and bread crumbs and cornmeal.

Heat the peanut oil in a skillet on medium heat. Beat the egg and the buttermilk together. Dip tomato slices in the flour-seasoning mix, then buttermilk-egg mixture, then the cornmeal-bread crumb mix. In the skillet, fry half of the coated tomato slices at a time, for 3-5 minutes on each side or until brown. Set the cooked tomatoes on paper towels to drain. These are fantastic with a Remoulade sauce.

Yield: Serves 4 as a side dish.

 

Easy Remoulade Sauce
This sauce is also great with crab cakes, or serve with baked or fried fish fillets.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped green onions, white and green parts
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped sweet pickles
  • dash garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon or Creole mustard
  • few drops Worcestershire sauce
  • pepper, to taste

Preparation:

Combine all ingredients. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to blend flavors and chill.
Makes about 1 cup sauce.

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