Full disclosure here: food preservation takes time. As a grower, my responsibilities in the spring, summer and fall fully out-weigh my need to preserve. There couldn’t be enough hours in the day to get everything done. Yet, the farming life cannot be sustainable for me if I do not preserve food for the winter. After all, much of my salary is measured in how many vegetables I get to eat in the off season. So, I preserve food anyway, taking shortcuts where ever I can squeeze them in. Usually Sam is right by my side, helping out and coaxing me to bed. Sam likes to get to bed far more than he likes to finish projects, whereas I could stay up until 2 am waiting for the last batch of sauce to come out of the canner. We balance each other out.
One of the shortcuts we discovered this summer was freezing tomatoes instead of canning them. The benefit of canned tomatoes is that they can sit on a shelf in the pantry and need no extra energy to keep them shelf stable. Frozen tomatoes, on the other hand, need to stay in the freezer until used. One freezer fills up quickly, and before you know it, you’ve got three freezers full of food, all using energy to keep the food preserved. On the flip side, canning takes up time. Once you start the process, you have to follow through without stopping. (Six quarts of moldy tomato sauce that we forgot about in the fridge taught us that lesson.) After the tomatoes are prepared and boiling, yo have to sterilize jars, put in the tomatoes and then place them in the canner for 45 minutes per 8-quart batch. That 45 minute wait can be excruciating.
We froze some tomatoes. The process of freezing is so much easier. The tomatoes can either got in the freezer raw or cooked. Most of the time we either roasted a pan of tomatoes and peeled them or chopped up raw ones, then portioned them in quart sized bags and threw the bags in the freezer. A few times, late at night, we skipped the peeling and portioning steps, and hurriedly dumped roasted tomatoes in gallon sized bags, put them in the freezer and forgot about them, in the interest of sleep, of course.
I found one bag of said roasted tomatoes yesterday when I wanted to start a pot of chili. One solid gallon brick of frozen roasted tomatoes. There is no way I can use one gallon of tomatoes for one pot of chili, or even fit a solid gallon brick of tomatoes in my pot, so I had to defrost the entire bag over night. Once defrosted, the skins slipped off easily and I just threw the tomatoes in the pot.
The tomatoes themselves are amazing. After I slipped off the skins, the actual tomato flesh was more like paste because all the liquid leaked out of the bag. So, the fuss is worth it, but I feel like the fuss of peeling and portioning them in the summer is worth it too.