Our vegetable garden has done pretty well this year. I learned a few things along the way (who knew that kale got SO HUGE?!? one plant would have been plenty and I had to go and plant FOUR of them!), one of which is that it takes TONS of tomatoes to produce a can of tomatoes — I have a new appreciation for the great bargain I get at the grocery store.

We have plenty of tomatoes and no one in my family appreciates them raw, so I thought it would make sense to freeze the abundance to use later.

Brilliant idea.

What planning, what foresight.

Let me show you what I learned.

I started with a stockpot about half full of tomaotes, which seems like a lot, way more than my family of five would eat in a week.

Looks like a lot, right?

This is gonna make tons of sauce, for sure.

Before I did any boiling, I prepared an ice bath, just a big container of water with some ice cubes to make it even colder. The goal is to get the boiled tomotoes to quit cooking, so you dunk them in this ice water.

I boiled the tomatoes for just four minutes so I could get the skins off.

Since I boiled them only four minutes, does that qualify as “blanching” them?

Then came the ice bath. This all sounds putzy, and to be honest, it is. There are a lot of pots, a lot of water, and then you have to clean up all that stuff.

Let them sit a spell until they’ve cooled down.

Now comes the most severely putzy part. Make an X at one end of the tomato, and peel off the skin. This should be pretty easy. What’s not easy is squishing out all the water, seeds and tomato innards. Sometimes all I had left was a palmful of tomato run-off. Here is one picture of peeling skins (which just sounds gross).

Most of the skins should come off easily, like this one.

So after all that effort, I was left with this amount of stewed, skinless tomatoes to use in whatever way I want:

Makes you really think about all that goes into that can at the back of your cupboard!

On the one hand, I grew these tomatoes from little plants and there is definitely something very gratifying about being able to produce your own food. I know where it has been. I trust my dirt. I know how the labor has been treated…since it’s usually me!

On the other hand, this is plain inefficient. I can’t be doing this with every batch of tomatoes that ripens throughout the season. So I’m left with a couple options: start eating more raw tomatoes, cook with more raw tomatoes, be generous and share more tomatoes, plant fewer tomatoes, break down and admit that sometimes a good thing doesn’t have to be efficient. I’ve got a long way to go before our family is self-sustaining, and that’s not even the goal, but it is fun to know we’re able to do it.

What do you do with all your garden harvest? Do you can it, freeze it, sneak it into your neighbor’s mailbox? Help me out with advice so I can work smarter next year!

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