This is truly the best time of the year in my little corner of the world. If you live out in farm country like I do, everything is in season right now, so everything is fresh and readily available at the local farm stand. This includes ginormous boxes of stewing tomatoes for next to nothing. We scored a beer-case of them from Hopkins Produce for about $10. So this long Labor Day weekend was stewing tomatoes weekend.
There are several approaches to stewing tomatoes. You can do them on the stovetop in a large pot or cook them in a roasting pan in the oven. But the overall principle is the same. You want to preserve as much of the tomato juice as possible. The best way to do this is to steam them.
For this volume of tomatoes, I used our large tamale pot with just enough water in the bottom to touch the metal grate insert. You'll also want to sort your tomatoes, culling out anything with a seeping blemish or a healed mar that has acquired mold. There will most likely be a couple, and you don't want them flavoring the rest of the pot.
You'll also need to wash them thoroughly to remove any garden residue. An old toothbrush is especially useful for this.
Gently load up your pot, cover it, and turn on low heat. It will take about 3-4 hours for them to stew completely. Then, turn off the heat and let them rest for a bit. But not too long. If they settle down into the pot like mine did, the once on the bottom will be smashed.
Once they have cooled down enough to be handled, you can easily remove the skins. Use a kitchen shears to cut out the stem core and to cut your tomatoes down to a smaller size.
You can stop here and either can them or vacuum seal them. Or you can season them up and cook them down. I proceeded.
To my stewed tomatoes, I added about three onions (chopped) about a dozen leaves of basil from my garden (minced) plus salt and onion powder. I let that simmer for a good couple of hours until it had cooked down into a nice thick sauce.
I have a vacuum sealer which makes quick work of prepping food for the freezer. And this is really a good way to store liquids in the freezer because it takes up less space and is easier to organize.
Ladle the liquid into a large vacuum-seal bag, filling it up only about a third of the way. Then, carefully lay it flat in your vacuum sealer. I set mine to vac for 10 seconds and them seal for 9 seconds. This seals the bag completely without making a mess. Then I lay the bag flat on a shelf in the freezer. It freezes into a sheet that can then be stored upright like books on a bookshelf.