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Wednesday, Mar 29, 2017

What to do with all those tomatoes?

I’m like an impatient kid who’s 16 hours into a 24-hour road trip and every five minutes asks, “Are we there yet?” And if I kept a diary, no doubt I would scribe the similar words of anticipation each spring, “Are the tomatoes ready to pick yet?”

For a month now I’ve watched the nearby Artesian Farms tomato vines grow larger, bushier and develop the shiny green fruit that’s now bright red.

I’m usually disappointed by supermarket tomatoes, so I can’t wait to pick a bucket of these sun-ripened beauties, which beg to be sliced or served on a BLT and in a salad or, as I do every year, made into a basic freezer tomato sauce.

After removing the skin, I cut out the stem area and discard it. Then I cut each tomato into pieces, being careful not to make the pieces too large so the tomatoes will puree easily. Using the food processor or blender, I puree my diced tomatoes in batches and add them to a large heavy stock pot. The puree is nearly all liquidized when I add it to the pot.

Then I turn the heat as low as I can get it and cook the mixture until it reduces to the thickness I want. I usually cook my sauce for at least two to three hours.

About every half hour, I like to use a wooden spoon to scrape off the caramelized tomato that sticks to the side of the pot as the level decreases. When the sauce is condensed and thick, I put it into individual plastic containers and let them cool on the counter for an hour or so. When the sauce is cooled, I snap on plastic lids and freeze.

My cache of yummy sauce lasts for at least a year in the freezer. Freezing tomato sauce this way — with no added seasonings — creates endless possibilities for using it.

From now through the end of June, you can pick grape tomatoes and a variety called Florida 47, which I call Ruskin tomatoes, at Artesian Farms U-Pick. It’s open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 2710 College Ave. E., Ruskin.

See you out in the tomato field!

Lynn Kessel is a freelance food columnist. For more of her recipes, visit southshore.tbo.com and enter the search words Lynn Kessel.