Quick Tomato Sauce for Freezing

August 24, 2011

in DIY & Crafts, Preserving, Recipes

freezing_tomato_sauce

Late August is the height of tomato season here in Wisconsin and the time to put up the bounty for the long, cold winter ahead. To this end, over the years I’ve given myself to such excruciating practices as blanching and peeling and sterilizing the jars and processing them for 45 minutes per quart. This summer, however, I decided to shed the chains of bondage that is canning and freeze my tomatoes instead. Because freezer space is not an issue to me (I have 3 full-size deep freezers), and because life is too short, I count this among my most brilliant labor-saving solutions yet.

It is also worth noting that I only use canned tomatoes in one way: blending them the moment they emerge from a jar, I add them to dishes requiring anywhere between 30 min to 2 hours of reduction, so a quick, unreduced sauce is all I need.

So here’s what I did:

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I started by coring the tomatoes and cutting them up into halves or quarters, depending on their size. Peeling and seeding don’t belong in my world as I consider myself above seedless tomato sauces, finding them uneconomical, lacking in body and texture, and all-around bourgeois. No worries, the skin becomes virtually indiscernible after blending.

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Sprinkle some Kosher salt on top and add a little water to give the stewing process a start.

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About this much.

Bring everything to a fast simmer, helping the tomatoes along with a potato masher if you like, and cook them, uncovered, for approximately 25-30 minutes.

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The tomatoes above are not yet ready to be blended – while they have released a lot of liquid, we want them to really cook through and soften (though not cook down).

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The tomatoes are ready when they look like this. Remove them from heat and let cool.

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Now whip out your immersion blender and give it all a buzz. If you don’t have one, buy one promptly – mine is a cheap $15 Hamilton Beach model, but I’ve used it for years and find it absolutely indispensable for a whole variety of tasks, from smoothies to making cream soups. Unlike with an upright blender or a food processor, the clean-up is virtually non-existent with one of these.

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Pour into 1-quart ziplock bags (I will probably be using 2 bags per dish). Several points here:

  • Your bags must be freezer, not storage bags, so pay attention to the package you are buying.
  • Because we are dealing with a liquid here, buy bags that come with closures (the blue zipper thingies above) – you won’t believe how much frustrations you will be saving yourself this way.
  • It is best if you stand the bags up in a pot before pouring to minimize the spills and provide extra support.
  • The cleanest way to pour is by using something with a lip – I used my 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup, and note that I didn’t dip it in the sauce before pouring – I put the cup on the counter and poured the sauce into it first so no sauce would drip from the outside of the cup as I was trying to fill the bags.
  • And, since we are dealing with liquid, I put the bags in the freezer in the pot they were in. Reclaim the pot once the bags are fully frozen.
  • Note that, if you freeze your bags in a metal pot, the bags will freeze to the pot. To release them, place the pot upside-down in the sink and run hot water over the bottom and then between the bags in the pot if needed. Or you could use a plastic bowl to save yourself some of the hassle (you might still need to run the water between the bags to get them unstuck).

FREEZING UPDATE: Calamity Jane suggested the following tip for more efficient freezing of sauce-filled bags: “If you freeze those bags laid out two or three deep on a cookie sheet, they make perfect square packages for freezer efficiency.”

{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Calamity Jane August 25, 2011 at 7:15 am

hey, are you advance reading my brain? i just posted practically the same “recipe” over at my place a few weeks ago
http://apronstringz.wordpress.com/2011/08/10/truly-no-nonsense-tomato-sauce/
and last week, i was wondering what the heck i was going to do with a ton of eggplant, and looking for moussaka recipes, then there you were with your fabulous easy-peas one. what do you like to serve with that, as a starch?
glad to see you are posting more again. i discovered you in spring, right before your summer hiatus. missed your spunky style and flat out gorgeous photography!
ps. probably you already know this, but if you freeze those bags laid out two or three deep on a cookie sheet they make perfect square packages for freezer efficiency. though i guess with THREE full sizers, that’s something you don’t have to worry about.
oh, the jealousy!

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2 Sofya August 25, 2011 at 8:49 am

Hey, Calamity Jane, was just looking at your site yesterday!

As far as the starch for moussaka it is true that it comes out a pretty low-carb meal (=not satisfactory in my world), so I just served it with lots of fresh, crusty bread. But I can see how this could be used as a pasta topping, too.

It’s a great tip about cookie sheet! I did not think about that. I added it to the post (with a link back to your site). Thanks!

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3 Julia in West Des Moines August 26, 2011 at 8:05 am

I completely agree with laying the freezer bags flat. Very space saving.

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4 Sofya August 26, 2011 at 8:11 am

That’s what I’m gonna do today. I plan to line the sheet with parchment paper because I can see how bags will stick to the metal sheet, and maybe in between the layers, cause man they also stick to each other!

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5 Lynda February 12, 2014 at 3:02 pm

I’ve been using the cookie sheet for years, and have discovered if I dry the bags really dry I can lay them on top of each other without anything between them and they won’t stick. Gotta be really dry, though.

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6 LB @ Bullets and Biscuits August 27, 2011 at 6:19 am

Here I thought I was ahead of the game by using my blender but you one upped me. It never crossed my mind to use an immersion blender! Thanks for the tip. I’m always looking a short cuts when it comes to canning and freezing!

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7 Anna August 28, 2011 at 7:35 pm

So what happens if you don’t use freezer bags? Do they leak or does the sauce get freezer burn? Just wondering if I need to run out and buy freezer-specific bags. :)

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8 Sofya August 28, 2011 at 8:49 pm

Let me get back to you on that!

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9 Sofya August 28, 2011 at 9:13 pm

Hi again, Anna, I asked around and the answer was yes, it will get freezer-burned, although I don’t currently know what a freezer-burned tomato sauce looks like.

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10 Anna August 28, 2011 at 10:04 pm

Ahh. Thanks for checking! Ok, that’s a good enough reason for me. And, as luck would have it, the baggies I have are the freezer kind. Now I’m just waiting for the sauce to cool off a bit before being ladled into the baggies.

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11 Katie August 28, 2011 at 9:02 pm

This recipe is exactly what I’ve been looking for. I am going to try it one night this week after the kiddies go to bed. I really wanted to make some tomato sauce with my tomatoes, but just don’t have much time for canning. Thanks for posting this.

I have been reading your blog for a few months now – love it! I’m not sure what I like better, your recipes or photography. Both are great.

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12 Sofya August 28, 2011 at 9:12 pm

Thanks so much, Katie. Have you tried including your kids into this task or are they way too young? My little ones are 2 and 5 and are just right for this task (5 year old is actually useful while the 2-year old feels included and is marginally useful).

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13 Katie August 29, 2011 at 10:00 am

They are pretty young – my daughter is one and my son is two. Maybe I can try it with him… I’ll let you know :)

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14 Sofya August 29, 2011 at 10:11 am

Yep, that’s young – I can see how you’d want to wait for the 1-year-old specifically to go to bed before doing things like this. I find that to be the most challenging age, b/w walking age and about 2. But if you want to involve the 2-year old, washing is a good place to start I think. Mostly it’s a game for them though.

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15 Sherry August 30, 2011 at 11:31 am

Perfect….Easy…..THANK YOU!

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16 Leah September 8, 2011 at 4:18 pm

I have made “Rotel ” like tomato salsa for many years. My family and friends love the salsa and also canned stewed tomatoes that I can from our small backyard raised garden beds. I prefer canning to freezing, because of lack of freezer space that I save for other veggies, casseroles and seafood. I cook alot at a time, and freeze them for later

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17 Beth September 13, 2011 at 2:31 pm

would this work in a crockpot?

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18 Sofya September 13, 2011 at 2:37 pm

I haven’t tried it, but lots of people do it in a big roaster (with less water). Why don’t you try and let me know?

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19 Miriam September 17, 2011 at 7:26 pm

In Pa here, and have been in an anti-canning mode since mid summer. Just haven’t been inspired. BUT then I found your site…… Awesome. I am currently making tomato sauce via your style, and can not believe I hadn’t bought an immersion blender far earlier………….. I am making a seasoned sauce & processing it (lack of freezer space) this is the easiest & best way to do sauce. I was dreading the tomato peeling. THANK YOU!!!!

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20 Sofya September 17, 2011 at 8:06 pm

Glad it worked for you, Miriam, I don’t plan to peel another tomato, like, ever.

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21 Bob August 23, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Hi Sofya,
I really enjoyed your tomato freezing post. Like you, we quit blanching and peeling tomatoes that we would use for canning spagetti sauce. We now clean and wash the tomatoes then grind them with a meat-grinder. The result is like a tomato puree. However, this year instead of adding paste and cooking the puree down then canning it — we began freezing the freshly ground tomato puree so we could use it to make sauce later on when we hope to have more time. I noticed in your post that you simmered your tomatoes. Did you simmer them so they would blend easily or does simmering help lock in some enzymes that improves the freezing process?

Thanks
Bob

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22 Sofya August 23, 2012 at 5:23 pm

Hi Bob – I don’t know anything about enzymes involved, and, as it were, was just wondering as recently as yesterday if perhaps I should just quit cooking and do what you describe. Then I realized that the reason I cook it is to break down the tomatoes for easy blending with a stick blender all in one pot (I am talking about 4 gallons at a time) rather than processing multiple small batches in my food processor, which has 11 cup capacity. I guess this makes sense if you have small batches coming, batch after batch, over the course of the summer.

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23 Kim August 24, 2012 at 9:27 pm

Do you ever add onions and peppers in your sauce or do you prefer to add them when you’re using them for cooking?

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24 Sofya August 24, 2012 at 10:05 pm

I add them when using it in dishes. The idea is to pack as much as possible as fast as possible and have a versatile, raw-material product to use in the many simmer-down dishes that use tomatoes.

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25 Faith Farms Viroqua August 25, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Here’s a very handy gadget to hold up your Ziplock bag while you pour!

http://www.jokari.com/products/G_169306.html

Warm Regards,

FF

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26 grip September 3, 2012 at 3:37 pm

Forget work at this end in the kitchen … I freeze WHOLE ‘Sun Sweet’ and ‘Juliet’ plus others chunked up in freezer bags, till mid winter WHEN I FEEL like making sauce !

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27 Sofya September 3, 2012 at 5:28 pm

To me it’s the space issue – I need some 100+ quarts of sauce per year (mandatory bolognese every single Monday for 5) and I do have to fit in an unmentionable number of cows, chickens, and deer in as well, as well as corn and applesauce and berries. Plus this is an excellent job for my kids, and they need jobs.

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28 Stephanie (@wbhomesteader) September 17, 2012 at 9:24 pm

This is pretty amazing! Well done!
Stephanie (@wbhomesteader) recently posted..Free Giveaway! Coleman 4D CPX 6 Classic LED LanternMy Profile

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29 Betty October 5, 2012 at 10:38 pm

Love reading all the tips and shortcuts! For several years, I’ve frozen everything from salsa, shredded zucchin, green beans, chopped crook neck, tomato sauce, etc., by laying the filled freezer bags on cookie sheets to freeze…as others mentioned….when removed from the cookie sheet, the bags stack nicely in the freezer. I also use a regular drinking straw inserted a short way into the top of a partially closed bag to suck out extra air before the bag is completely closed.

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30 Michael November 5, 2012 at 12:16 am

I never made sauce without peeling and deseeding, but you’ve made a convert out of me. The texture is so much fuller. Great work.

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31 brooke August 19, 2013 at 11:19 pm

I use my immersion blender everyday. It is one of the most useful kitchen items I own. Due to the variations in moods in the wintertime it is important for me to only have plain tomatoes frozen. I love roasting them in the oven in big batches then squishing with my hands and freezing. My first bushel I peeled but I may be over that!
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32 Sofya August 19, 2013 at 11:21 pm

Definitely not worth it, the peeling.

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33 Dave Kurczewski August 26, 2013 at 9:04 pm

Are you worried about BPA in plasic ziplocs?

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34 Kate September 15, 2013 at 4:50 pm

at least for the shredded zukes i did what someone suggested, wrapped in wax paper and then put in plastic bags. I avoid plastic as much as possible as cancer is rampant in this neighborhood and with my family including me. I could live on spaghetti and sauce so I’m always looking for recipes and always plant lots of tomatoes.

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35 Lori August 28, 2013 at 4:37 pm

I can not wait to try this method. I just started canning this year and have put up over 100 lbs of tomatoes already and am already worn out and have plenty more to go still. I peeled each and every one of them, although I didn’t seed them. I am going to try this as soon as I get off the computer :) I just found your blog and love it. I too am a Wisconsin girl and a mother to two young children (a 2 year old girl and an (almost) 4 year old boy).

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36 Alex February 22, 2014 at 12:42 pm

What is your un-freeze method?

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37 Sofya March 13, 2014 at 12:12 pm

I take it out of the freezer and put it in a bowl to thaw, so if some escapes it’s captured in a bowl.

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