When I was young I hated tomatoes. You know the kind I am talking about. They were packed three to a plastic tray and wrapped in cellophane. They were pale red on the outside and almost transparent on the inside, and they were hard. So hard if you threw one at your brother it wouldn’t break open. It would hurt.
I remember vividly the first time I tasted a real tomato, picked fresh and sun-warmed directly off the sprawling vine that my neighbor was tending among her flowers. It was a revelation! A hefty classic beefsteak that, when sliced, was larger than the bread I used to make my sandwich. It was bright red throughout, juicy and sweet and slightly acidic. I was hooked.
From cherries to beefsteaks and from red to yellow, purple, orange, and even black, the tastes and varieties of tomatoes available at our local farm stands, farmers markets, and CSAs are astounding and delicious! As I look at my own garden this year, I am grateful for the farmers and seed savers who have brought back my favorite heirloom varieties that seemed long gone when I was a child. Who knew tomatoes would become one of my favorite foods?
But here is the problem. If you are a tomato lover like me, you may have also planted many more tomatoes than you could ever eat. Even during a harsh growing year like this one and with the late blight finally hitting my plantings, I still have more tomatoes ripening than I can reasonably consume before they go bad. I can’t stand the thought of wasting a single tomato. However, the thought of standing over a hot stove, canning or putting up a sauce is well, uninspiring to me!
So here is my solution – slow roasting and freezing
Take any variety and amount of tomatoes you have on hand. Slice them in halves or quarters if need be, cherries can stay whole. Put them in a pan, drizzle with good olive oil, add some minced garlic to taste, along with a good grind of sea salt and fresh pepper. I wait and add herbs later. Pop the pan in a 300 degree oven for about 2-3 hours, until you see the tomatoes caramelize. Remove them and when they come to room temperature, pack into the container of your choice and freeze!
Some cold and blustery Friday night in February, when you are settling in for the weekend and in no mood to go out, take this out of the freezer. It is delicious served with hot fresh pasta, or you can chop it up more finely and use it as a topping on any kind of toasted bread – it makes a great bruschetta or pizza depending on the herbs and other toppings you choose. Now you can enjoy your fresh local tomatoes all year!