Sunday, September 03, 2006

How to Make and Freeze Tomato Sauce (The Green Blog Project)

I was completely captivated about the idea behind The Green Blog Project when I first heard about it. It was the brainchild of LG from Ginger and Mango that every food blogger should try to grow some kind of food themselves, and then post about what kind of dish they made from it on their blog.

I had written about the Green Blog Project for Blogher clear back in June when my garden was little more than a few sprouts. Now that the garden is bursting with produce, I was afraid I had missed the deadline. I've posted about so many recipes using garden produce and I haven't sent even one to the Green Blog Project.

But when I went back to Ginger and Mango to check, I was happy to see that the deadline has been extended to September 25. (There's also another deadline for those in the Southern Hemisphere in March.) If you have a garden or even a pot of tomatoes on the deck, there's still time to post about what you made from the food you grew yourself and send it to The Green Blog Project!

A lot of people are into canning tomato sauce, but I've been able to successfully avoid the home canning impulse for quite a few years now, even though most of my family has that gene. I prefer the flavor of frozen tomatoes to canned, and always freeze slow roasted tomatoes and Sausage and Basil Marinara Sauce every year which I make from garden tomatoes. The recipe I'm posting here is for the sauce that I make when I've made roasted tomatoes, marinara sauce, and eaten fresh tomatoes by the handfuls and the garden is still producing tomatoes! It's nothing more than plain tomato sauce, but oh what flavor when you make the sauce yourself from tomatoes still warm from the sun and picked the day you make the sauce.

The most inspiring thing about my recipe is the flash of brilliance I had when I realized that you don't have to peel the tomatoes. You can put them in a food processor and puree everything, and then when you cook them the peeling disintegrates into the sauce for brighter tomato color and more flavor. This method will produce a rather rustic tomato sauce which still has the seeds. You can always use a food mill to remove seeds when you defrost the sauce if you're making something where you want a more pure type of sauce. Read more about that below.

"Just Tomatoes" Sauce for the Freezer
It's important to use tomatoes that are well-ripened and it's best to pick them the day you make the sauce if that's an option. I'd estimate that it takes about 6-8 large tomatoes to make a cup of sauce, but make as much as you can because this tastes wonderful in the winter when you're dying for the flavor of fresh tomatoes.

Put tomatoes in the sink and rinse well with cold water. Cut out stem area and discard. Cut each tomato into pieces about 1 inch square. (Don't make the pieces too large or the tomatoes won't puree easily.)

Using the food processor with the steel blade, puree diced tomatoes in batches and add to large heavy stock pot. The puree should be nearly all liquidized when you add it to the pot.

Turn the heat as low as you can get it and cook the mixture until it is reduced by at least one half and as thick as you want it. I usually cook my sauce at least 6-8 hours to condense it down to the thickness I want. Your house will smell delightfully tomato-like while you cook this. I like to use a rubber scraper to scrape off the caramelized tomato that sticks to the side of the pot as the level decreases and do that about once every half hour.

When sauce is condensed and thick, put into individual plastic containers and let cool on the counter for an hour or so. When sauce is cooled, snap on plastic lids and freeze. This will last for at least a year in the freezer.

When you're using the sauce, if you want a more pure tomato sauce that doesn't have any seeds you can put it through the food mill after it's thawed. Freezing the sauce this way with no added seasonings at all creates endless possibilities for using it. Add garlic, oregano, basil, or any other seasonings you want when you use the sauce to create soups, stews, pasta sauces, or other dishes this winter.

Tomorrow I'll be posting about something with the taste of pure summer that I created with a bit of my "just tomatoes" sauce.counter customizable free hit

87 comments:

Mimi said...

I made tomato sauce recently and it was the best I've ever tasted (she said modestly).

Kalyn said...

Mimi, I know what you mean. Homemade sauce is just better!

gattina said...

Kalyn,
I was told that the seed make the sauce slightly bitter, so I firstly cook the cut tomatoes briefly, them push them through a sieve to catch all the seed and skin, then continue to cook the sauce... but after seeing your post, about the seed thing may not be true huh?

Scott said...

Yet again this foodblog introduces me to another new concept, this time the "Green Blog Project" - something I'm going to have to get involved with.
(Gattina) - I also find the seeds can make sauces bitter, however a touch of sugar soon rectifies this.
Nice simple recipe by the way.

Kalyn said...

Scott and Gattina, I've made it both ways and haven't really noticed any difference in the sauce with seeds or without. I think the long cooking of the tomatoes brings out the sweetness. Of course you could take out the seeds if you want, this is just something I tried once on a whim and I've been doing it this way ever since.

lobstersquad said...

It´s such great idea to preserve all that summer goodness. Normally I slow roast the tomatoes, but this sounds very good too.

ann said...

oooh, i did this too!
except i passed them through the food mill and just froze the puree
i'm waiting for the first real day of winter, then i'll pull out my frozen 'maters and some frozen herb/garlic moosh i made and craft a huuuuuge! pot of marinara sauce that will still taste of summer
it almost makes me look forward to winter!

JMom said...

Great idea, Kalyn! I'll be trying this with my tomatoes. I do like the idea of not having to can them.

Anonymous said...

Heirloom tomatoes are delicious & so plentiful this time of year. I have never used them for anything besides salads, do you think they would work well for this sauce?

Also, do you think this recipe will work if you let it cook down in a crock pot w. the lid off so the sauce can reduce?

Kalyn said...

Anonymous, heirloom tomatoes would be fine. You could use a crock pot for some of the cooking, but I think you'd have to reduce it on the stove at the end of the time.

Nicole said...

I didn't plant any tomatoes this year but my aunt just sent me a photo of all the tomatoes her plants are producing this year. I think I'll forward this to her!

ahorne said...

I'm going to give your sauce a try. I've got tomatoes coming out my ears, and not enough people to give them to! This looks so simple and easy - and eliminates having to skin & seed - yuck! Thanks - and I'll let you know how it turns out.

glaucia said...

Wow! Thanks for this recipe. I just made the tomato sauce and the roasted tomatoes as per your suggestions, and am so glad that I'll have plenty of fresh tomatoes to use throughout the winter. Thanks for sharing this. It was exactly what I was looking for.

Kalyn said...

Glaucia, so glad it worked well for you, thanks for letting me know.

phil said...

Does it matter whether I leave the top of the cooking pot on or off during this 6-8 hour slow coo?

Hour 3 with top on,
Phil

Kalyn said...

Phil, I cook it with the lid off so the water can evaporate and concentrate the sauce. I also like to take a rubber scraper and scrape off the carmelized tomato that makes a ring around the top of the pot as it cooks, so this gets incorporated into the sauce too. Thanks for the questions! I should have mentioned that.

Kalyn said...

To the person who has left a comment telling me I'm making this sauce the wrong way, I don't believe there is only one way to do things in the kitchen. Yes, you can core and peel the tomatoes. That's one way to make tomato sauce. This is another method. I've made sauce that I enjoyed using this method, and apparently so have others (if you read the comments.) Feel free to use any method you like, but don't visit my blog and tell me I have to cook things your way.

Jaime said...

this looks so simple to do! definitely looking forward to doing this this year with our tomatoes! thanks so much for sharing. :)

Anonymous said...

I have been looking for a simple way to use the abundance of tomatoes I have and have been wanting to try a homeade tomato sauce. I can't wait to try this today!!! Thank you for making this recipe available.

Melanie said...

Thanks so much for this recipe! I have been looking for a recipe for homemade tomato sauce for some time. It turned out GREAT! I hope you don't mind that I shared a link to this post on my blog.

Kalyn said...

Melanie, glad you liked it and it's fine to share the link, thanks.

xxxxx said...

I just started getting all kinds of ripened tomatoes up here in MN, so I am very happy to see your blog. Any idea's on what to do with yellow pear and grape tomatoes? I have so many and not enough people to pass them on to in time. Thank you for sharing this!

Kalyn said...

If you enter "cherry tomatoes" into the search box on the left, you'll find lots of recipes for them. This Spicy Cherry Tomato Sauce for Pasta is one thing I've made with them that can be frozen.

Gayle said...

This is great! Exactly what I was looking for. I've never done any preserving of tomatoes before but Wisconsin had kind of a cool summer, so instead of my tomatoes ripening and being ready over several weeks, they are suddenly ready now. We can't eat them all and those I give tomatoes to have had enough. This was so easy.

Anonymous said...

Tried your tomato sauce and it worked swift and neat. Much easier than canning. Question: Years ago a friend of mine made pizza sauce with fresh tomatoes and spices that cooked in the oven on a low heat overnight and then she canned it. Do you have such a recipe? Thanks Connie

Kalyn said...

Glad you liked the tomato sauce recipe. I don't have a recipe for pizza sauce, but I'm guessing it would have dried oregano, dried basil, and maybe some garlic.

(I actually use Muir Glen pizza sauce in a can! Here is a pizza recipe that talks about that sauce.)

vestitches said...

I'm busy reducing half a gallon of chopped cherry tomatoes phew! (blender was making a hash of it)
What is the specific reason for reducing on lowest heat as opposed to cranking it up a little to shorten the cooking time?
I'm not impatient honest! I just have to leave the house sooner than 6 hours

thanks for the tips, this seems sooooo much easier than dealing with canning

Kalyn said...

You can definitely reduce the sauce on higher heat if you're not going to be home that long. I just like the way the long slow simmering time develops the flavor, but I don't think it's essential.

LeeAnn said...

I love that years later people are still commenting on this!!! So glad I found it, just did a small batch today!!! ty ty ty

Kalyn said...

LeeAnn, it is interesting that people are still commenting, but maybe it's because tomato sauce is such an essential ingredient, and homemade sauce is so good! Glad you like the recipe.

Anonymous said...

I'm trying this recipe now - just 1 hour into cooking time. Read through the comments and found out someone else is reading too, yesterday! Thanks for this recipe.
Catherine

Kalyn said...

Catherine, it's definitely the season for this recipe, no doubt about it!

Anna (Green Talk) said...

I make sauce every year but fine that the regular tomatoes not the plum ones make the sauce bitter. Am I not cooking it enough time? Also can you throw in the cherry tomatoes too?

Kalyn said...

Anna, I don't know what would cause the sauce to be bitter. Since it's just tomatoes, do the tomatoes taste bitter before you cook them? I haven't had any problems using different types of tomatoes, but I don't think I'd use cherry tomatoes for sauce. There isn't much flesh to them, so it doesn't seem like it would be worth it.

Anonymous said...

We have been freezing tomato sauce for over 30 years and agree that it is the fastest and easiest way to preserve the goodness that everyone loves about tomatoes. Our method is slightly different in that after the tomatoes are put through the food processor, we pour the puree into a large container such as a coleman or similar cooler which has spout at the bottom. Leave the processed puree in the container for 8-12 hours. This will allow the water to separate to the bottom of the mixture. Open the spout and drain the water until the puree runs from the spout. Next run the remaining contents (which is puree minus all of that water) through the food mill to remove the seeds and then heat the sauce to a rolling boil until the desired consistency is achieved. This will vary slightly based on you tomato preference. By doing this you eliminate the need to consume the huge amounts of energy to simply evaporate the water in the puree.
After the sauce has cooled, place the desired serving amount in a ziplock freezer bag. We usually put 2 cups per bag and place several bags in a shallow pan which is then placed in the freezer. When the bags freeze they can be removed from the pan and stacked neatly in the freezer since they are relatively flat.

Kalyn said...

Anonymous, I can't quite picture the container you're describing, but it sounds like an interesting method.

Anonymous said...

Kalyn,
The container we use is actually a cooler that is used for dispensing water or cold drinks like lemonade. It holds about 3 gallons but you could use any container that has a drain on the bottom since that is where the water will be when it separates from the puree. We set it near the sink and drain it directly into the sink. The remaining puree can then be scooped out from the top using a cup or small pot and put in the food mill. This method saves a massive amount of energy since you do not need to boil all of that excess water to simply achieve the consistency you desire. We generally find that the puree contains between 30-50% water depending on the type of tomatoes used. By the way, you can season the sauce and add the other ingredients such as garlic or peppers etc. when the sauce is thawed for use.

Kalyn said...

Ah, now I am picturing it. Very interesting.

Anonymous said...

Kalyn,

Thank you so much for the great recipe. I am enjoying the smell in the house and the fact that I will have a bit of summer for the rest of the year. Thank you again.

Heather

Kalyn said...

Heather, glad you're enjoying it!

Annigyrl said...

Kalyn,
I am enjoying the aroma of simmering tomato sauce as I write this to you. This is the first summer in a long time that I've had enough tomatoes to make sauce. Surprisingly enough, I prepared mine similar to yours, but forgot exactly how to freeze them. Thanks for clear and concise directions.

Kalyn said...

Annigyrl, you're welcome. Enjoy!

Shannon said...

Plan to freeze and enjoy all year long - can't wait! Your tip of adding a bit of sugar if sauce seems too bitter - would that be best to do later, when I pull a batch out of freezer to use vs. adding sugar right now while I'm simmering down the tomatoes? - Shannon

Kalyn said...

Shannon, I would add it when you're simmering the sauce, but it probably would work either way.

Peter said...

Hi Kalyn,

I had tomato overload this year from the garden and was very glad to find this sauce recipe! Everything worked as you described it. Thanks a lot! Could you offer some advice about how to defrost the frozen sauce? At room temperature or in the fridge? How many days do you start the defrost in advance of using the sauce? Thanks again.

Kalyn said...

Peter, I usually defrost in a pan on the stove (or just add to whatever soupor stew I'm using it in and let it defrost there) but I think it will defrost just fine in the microwave or in the fridge overnight too.

Anonymous said...

I am so glad I happened on this page! Am making my sauce as I type. I have a gas stove so even on low, it'll have to be watched but am excited to see how it turns out. I have one of those juicers, so how easy it is to toss the tomatoes in and have it give me nothing but the juice. Might not be as red as when you get the puree, but that's okay with me. Thanks so much for your recipe. This is awesome!

Sandy

Kalyn said...

Sandy, you're welcome. Hope you like it.

BiketoWork Barb said...

So glad to find this because it validates the way I made my sauce today. I had a big box of tomatoes from the farmers' market, no food mill, and while I love to cook I'm always looking for time/labor-saving shortcuts that don't hurt the outcome.

I think of things like skins and seeds as extra fiber so I always want to leave those in when I can.

The hint about draining the juice out (using what I picture in my mind as a big sun tea jug) sounds good except I wouldn't want to clean the puree out of the spout! (with my preference for "lazy" cooking methods...)

I pulled the juice out as the tomatoes cooked, just pulling out cupfuls of stuff, draining it through a sieve and dumping the pulp back into the pot. I got about 12 c. of fresh tomato juice now in the freezer to serve as soup base come winter.

@BarbChamberlain

Kalyn said...

Barb, sounds good to me! (I like your idea about the skins and seeds being extra fiber!)

Anonymous said...

Can you freeze it with garlic etc in it?

Kalyn said...

Anonymous, definitely. I always freeze this Sausage and Basil Marinara Sauce.

Anonymous said...

Making 2 pots of this right now but have a couple of questions. How do you know when the sauce is done? Also if you run out of time can your refrigerate and resume cooking the next day?

Kalyn said...

The sauce is done when it reaches the thickness you want. I can't think of any reason you couldn't refrigerate and cook down more the next day, but you could also do that after it's been frozen if it was easier.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. It only took about 6 hours so I had time to get both finished.

I still have a bunch to do tomorrow. I'm wondering if it would give a better/more intense flavor adding more to the same pots and letting it reduce again.

Oh and grape/cherry tomatoes worked just fine and produced almost 2x the sauce in a smaller pot.

Kalyn said...

There's no reason you can't add already cooked sauce back to the pot and reduce it more, so try that if you want a stronger flavor. Glad it's working for you.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if this has already been metioned, but there is a prodcut called the Vitorio Strainer and it peels and seeds the tomatoes, leaving only the meat in a turn of the handle.

Kalyn said...

That could be a good option for people who don't like the seeds and peels in the sauce, but I kind of like the more intense color and thickness they add.

Lynn said...

September 2011 and still going! I am excited to find your blog as I am watching my neighbor's garden while they are gone. Their tomatoes are ripening fast and I don't want to lose them.

We plan a sauce cook off for when they return!

Thanks so much,
Lynn

Kalyn said...

Lynn, that sounds like fun!

Anonymous said...

I just ran across this blog and sounds just like what I was looking for. I'll give it a try and see how it goes. Thanks!

Karen said...

This recipe was exactly what I was looking for. We made two HUGE pots yesterday and after 8 hours on low they weren't thick... so I cooled them, put them in the fridge and started them again this morning. The two pots are finally down by half, and they look beautiful, but the sauce tastes very bitter. I had a lot of seeds... I could add sugar I guess, or just freeze it and cross my fingers... any words of wisdom?

Kalyn said...

Karen I haven't had that problem before. I would probably freeze it like it is. You can always add sugar and/or spices when you use the sauce.

Laurie said...

Hi Kalyn,
I just discovered your foodblog and I love it! Like you, I have also avoided canning tomatoes for years and was thrilled to find that I am not the only one that makes tomato sauce with skins and seeds and freezes it. I thought I invented it and always felt that maybe I was doing something wrong because I had heard that the sauce would be bitter. Was my taster off? Are we used to bitter sauce? I'm happy to hear that your sauce isn't bitter either.
Like you, I chop the tomatoes, whirl in the food processor and then cook down. The only difference is that I work next to the kitchen sink and first I halve the tomatoes and give them a squeeze over the sink. This removes alot of the seeds and extra watery juice and reduces cooking time. Then I give them a chop and throw them in the food processor. Thanks Kaylyn!

Kalyn said...

Laurie, good idea to squeeze out some of the seeds over the sink! I will try that. And I agree, this has never tasted bitter to me.

phylbean said...

Hi. Just noticed this conversation has been going on now for more than 5 years! wow.

So I am staring at large bowls of tomatoes and looking forward to trying your cook and freeze method.

My question is what to do with the massive amounts of Green tomatoes.

I've made green tomato relish which is great, and combined with my tomatillas, made salsa (yum), and combined with hot peppers made green hot sauce (yow)...

But, still seeking additional simple green tomato advice.
ciao.
Phyl

Kalyn said...

Phylbean, hope you enjoy the sauce. My friend Lydia recently made Slow Roasted Green Tomatoes and I'm going to try that this year.

Jolene Kroeger said...

I wasn't sure where to ask this question sorry. I have been reading alot of the posts about freezing things (which is SO NEW TO ME) and I am just a little confused on the "containers" that you use. I don't mean to sound silly, but do the containers that you use to freeze your soup, tomato sauce, herbs, etc need to say that they are "freeze proof"? Are some brands better than others? I have tried freezer some things but they ALWAYS end up with ice all over them...is that normal?

Kalyn said...

Jolene, it's always good if the containers say freezer proof, but what's most important is that they are air-tight. I'm a fan of these Ziploc Twist-n-Loc Containers.

Jolene Kroeger said...

Thanks for those containers! I am going out shopping tomorrow to pick up some. I just have a few more freezer questions I hope you don't mind answering. Are there any specific labels you use to label the containers? Or do you just use paper and tape? I know some stickers are so hard to get off. Where can I find a chart of how long to freeze things? It seems like everything has different times that they can last in the freezer.

Kalyn said...

Jolene, my favorite thing to label things for the freeze is regular adhesive tape (sold by first aid products; "in store brand" is fine.) I write on it with a sharpie, peels right off.

I would try google for a freezing chart; I haven't seen anything like that.

Jolene Kroeger said...

I did go get some Rubbermaid air tight containers and some "freezer" gallon and quart bags. Now I will start freezing this weekend...wish me luck!

lady firefighter said...

Thank you for the recipe! I was not looking forward to canning. I have a vacuum sealer I think I will use for small patches of sauce. I use tomato sauce for many things and pre spicing would limit the use. I planted many varieties and will mix whatever is ripe in the sauce. I Am planning to use the cut and squeeze method before the food processor. I want to save the juice and use it too!

Timothy Penziner said...

Go you keep the pot covered when you slow cook them?

Kalyn Denny said...

No, you don't cover the pot when you're cooking the sauce. You want the liquid to evaporate to thicken the sauce.

Nozzleram said...

I am so excited I found your blog! My father-in-law has a huge garden and cans, but I like frozen for the ease. This is the first time I have tried my hand at keeping veggies, and started by blanching and freezing his amazing green beans, then tried my had at refrigerator dill pickles. Success 2 times!

So, with these under my belt, I tried your recipe today. Unfortunately, my food processor is headed to the garbage, so I improvised like any good cook. I used my smoothie blender. I threw in quarters, and the result was a tomato daiquiri. But once the stock pot heated up, the sauce was beautiful. It's cooking away now, but I just had to say thank you for such a simple solution to a bountiful harvest.

Regena said...

Hi Kaylyn,

Your blog is one of my go-to blogs for cooking healthy and delicious food. So it was a no-brainer to check here first when I was trying to figure out what to with my bumper crop tomatoes this year. I read this recipe, and found the answers to every one of my questions in your replies to comments, and today I finished my first batch of this tomato sauce.

I followed Lauri'e suggestion of halving the tomatoes and giving them a gentle squeeze over the sink - this gets rid of most of the seeds. I then gave them a rough chop and processed in my Vita Mixer for about 30 seconds. I cooked about 5 quarts of the pureed tomatoes in my slow cooker overnight on High. In the morning before I left for work, I put the crockpot in the refrigerator. After work, I simmered the sauce for a couple of hours. It didn't reduce as much as I wanted, so I put it back in the fridge and finished it up the next day. The yield was just under 8 cups of nice thick sauce. It was a little bitter, so I'll add sugar when I use the sauce in other recipes.

Thanks again for being such a great resource!

Kalyn Denny said...

Nozzleram and Regena, so glad it was helpful for you. Love the idea of using a slow cooker to simmer the sauce!

Morticia said...

Thank you for such a wonderful recipe! My good friend gave me a huge box of tomatoes that she picked this morning and I spent the afternoon cutting, squeezing out seeds (it really does work!), pureeing and prepping and I am about to pour my beautiful red sauce into jars to cool. I was inspired to make my own sauce from scratch after going to an Italian restaurant that makes everything fresh. Now I will have a nice batch in the freezer to use whenever I want. In case you are interested, my friend gave me regular tomatoes, Romas and Pear tomatoes and I used them all together and it tastes great!
Thanks, again! I look forward to checking out more of your blog and I hope this post keeps going for another 6 years!

Kalyn Denny said...

So glad you enjoyed the sauce! The blog is still going strong; no plans to quit.

Renee said...

I am making this as we speak. Virtually every receipe I looked at online was for "spaghetti" sauce and I wanted plain ole tomatoe sauce.

Paul said...

What a great blog! My mother used to do this, and recently, that gene has surfaced in me. Dad also grew a ton of basil, so mom would toss a bunch in the blender, and puree' with olive oil, pour into ice cube trays and freeze. After it was frozen, she quickly transferred to a freezer baggie. In winter, she would float a cube or two on her sauce. She did the same with Sage, and other herbs.

My sister puts a whole peeled carrot into her sauce when she cooks. The sugars sweeten the sauce. She simply pulls it out out before serving or freezing.

Now, I am hungry....

Kalyn Denny said...

Paul, it's interesting how we end up doing so many things like our parents did them, isn't it?

ruth anderson said...

Just came across this and am making the tomato sauce as I write this, have much more to do. Will be a busy week. I am freezing in 1 pint jars this year. See how that turns out. Thanks for the recipe.

Bernadette Ireland said...

So I tried the idea of putting the pureed tomatoes into the tea container and let them set overnight. I woke up to a layer about 2-inches thick of "water" that I just drained out. Great idea ... thanks for the recipe and the site. Love the no-heat lunch ideas too.

Kalyn Denny said...

Bernadette, glad that worked well for you!

silkissd yorkies said...

Try putting up your tomatoes this way ! I take my fresh picked tomatoes, core and rinse. throw the whole tomato in the freezer for about 24 hours to a hard freeze..Rinse under hot water, the skin falls off, and throw the frozen balls in a large pot and simmer down..(I use a 23 quart pot)..no need to chop the tomato, they macerate down to a perfect sauce consistency..add your onion garlic, herbs, freeze in plastic containers, pop out when frozen and vacuum seal..I put up an average of 20 gallons each summer..I plant around 40 plants each year ~

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