A great thing about having an obsession with food is that some of the best feeling in the world is totally within reach. Who cares about standing on top of a mountain or getting a standing ovation? What could be better than the feeling of endless possibility that comes from having a completely empty freezer? With an empty freezer, anything could happen. There's space. No worries. You can put in as many pints of homemade applesauce and loaves of bread and jars of raspberry jam as you want. Now that's food security.
I have recently learned that I can concentrate the flavor of summer through the magic of roasting. Using the freezer provides a way to have a gift that keeps on giving from a day of roasting tomatoes. In this year's deep of winter we'll have roasted tomatoes from a 1/2 bushel that I got from Frog Holler Organic Farm and another set from our friend Mike's garden.
I roasted my tomatoes two different ways - fast and high and slow and low. Both ways were so good that if I hadn't had so many, I would probably have had trouble saving any for the winter. They're as sweet as candy when they come out of the oven, soft and juicy, and carmelized on the bottom.
The first batch I did from Frog Holler were a 1/2 bushel perfect, small, ruby red regular tomatoes. Lots of recipes for roasting recommend taking out the seeds. I tried de-seeding some of them, but decided they didn't taste quite as good and the cost/benefit ratio for the effort didn't work out. So, I just cut the tomatoes in half, lengthwise, after cutting out the core, and let it go at that.
I like that you can do different things with roasted tomatoes - roast a little, keeping them still juicy, and then puree them to make sauce. Or roast until they're almost dried out and use as sun-dried tomatoes. The concentrating and carmelizing (or the Maillard reaction) that happen during roasting kicks it up at least a couple of notches. I was surprised at the resulting yummy-ness. Perhaps I shouldn't have been - those Frog Holler tomatoes were absolutely perfect to start with. And Mike's were too.
Roasted Tomatoes - Fast and High
1. Remove core from tomatoes - as many as you're roasting - and cut lengthwise in half (through the north and south poles).
2. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then drizzle with olive oil.
Variation one: slice up 4 or 5 cloves of garlic, put a small piece on each tomato, sprinkle each with an herb (like chopped thyme, basil, or rosemary, etc.)
Variation two: Mix 1/2 t. fresh ground pepper, 1 t. salt, and 1 t. fresh thyme (or rosemary) in large bowl. Add 6 tablespoons olive oil and 2-4 cloves minced garlic and whisk to blend. Add tomato halves and toss to coat. Let marinate 15 minutes.
3. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Line large rimmed baking sheets with parchment (or brush with 2 tablespoons olive oil).
4. Arrange tomato halves, cut side up, on prepared baking sheet. Drizzle any oil mixture remaining in bowl over tomatoes. Roast until tomatoes are slightly softened and browned on bottoms and around edges, about 65 minutes.
Roasted Tomatoes - Slow and Low
From The Perfect Pantry
1. Start with 5 pounds of tomatoes - any kind. Plum, beefsteak, yellow, or even cherry tomatoes if that's what you have in the garden. Remove cores.
2. Cut the tomatoes in half end-to-end, and place cut side up on a rimmed sheet pan. Chop 4 cloves of garlic, and sprinkle over the tomatoes. Strip several sprigs of fresh thyme, and sprinkle the leaves over the tomatoes. Season with coarse sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. Drizzle extra-virgin olive oil liberally over all of the tomatoes; you'll want to save the oil for use in your cooking.
3. Place in a 200º oven for 10-12 hours (less time for smaller tomatoes - for cherry tomatoes check after 4-5 hours). The tomatoes will collapse, but not completely dry out.
4. Pack into small ziploc bags or a freezeable container, and pour the oil from the pan over the top. Can be frozen for up to one year.