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Sep 11, 2012 08:59 AM

Processing Tomatoes, skin+seeds vs. not

When processing tomatoes for freezer stash I have always followed the traditional method of removing the skin and seeds before packing. On another thread here, someone pointed out an adored brand of canned pizza/Italian style tomatoes, the description of which specifically stated the skins were left on to preserve that "tomato velvet" just under the skin "where a lot of the flavor resides". Also, prevailing wisdom is that a lot of flavor is contained in the seed smut one would remove with de-seeding.
So my question is, if I am pureeing or at least immersion blendering them once they're out of the freezer and in use, have I unknowingly taken away lots of flavor AND added effort at the processing stage by peeling/seeding?
Is peeling/seeding necessary, in your opinion? Will I get a noticeably more flavorful tomato product by not doing so? Will I regret those cases of bits of skin/seeds in my finished dish? Perhaps seed but not peel or vice versa?
At this point I've done a few pounds with skin and seeds intact and am contemplating doing all the rest of my crop this way. What I have put up so far is peeled/seeded. I'm not crazy about the added layer of decision making I buy into with the some of each approach, so I guess I'm looking for the impetus to decide on one method and stick to it in future seasons.

I'd love to hear opinions.
(Perhaps neither of these approaches is best?)

I grow and process mostly San Marzano and Amish Paste plus a few other varieties, if that matters.

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  1. Not always, but quite often, leaving the seeds in the tomato sauce makes it somewhat bitter so I'd remove the seeds. Leaving the skin intact to preserve the "'velvet" makes me wonder if the person offering that advice peels the tomato cold. If you heat the tomato over an open flame or dredge it for a short time in hot water the skin slips off quite easily and leaves the "velvet". I would peel, remove the seeds, and continue normal processing form there.

    1. I grow San Marzanos too. I (also) don't can them, but freeze them instead. I purée them intact then freeze. I have never had a bitter batch. I think removing the skin and seeds might be better just for canning.
      I also make tomato jam (freezer jam) with them this way. I think the tomato flavor is better with the skin and seeds left in.

      3 Replies
      1. re: sedimental

        Thank you both for the replies. Do either of you think the issue of seeds and bitterness could be related to variety? Todao, can I ask if your comments about bitterness are based on personal experience? I know it's prevailing wisdom, but I am a questioner of everything and take that with a grain of salt until proven or disproven by my (or other chowhounders) experience. I'm honestly not sure I've ever experienced the seeds=bitterness thing, but I know SM's and similar varieties are known for having small and few seeds compared to others.

        WRT the "tomato velvet" concept, I found that statement on the website of a commercial brand of canned tomatoes and then started paying more attention to my own method. There is definitely a residue of tomato flesh left on the skin after removal following boiling water dip. The amount seems to depend at least a little on how long the dip lasts. And then one is losing some of what remains on the tomato to the handling involved in halving and seeding...

        I can definitely see why peeling/seeding is preferred for canning. My canned tomatoes end up looking kind of spooky because I heat them as minimally as possible prior to packing and they separate in the jar. Someone gifted me a jar of canned that had either not been seeded at all or not thoroughly seeded, and those were sad AND spooky looking with the impression of having been sloppily prepared. OTOH I'm obsessive and very visually oriented and they tasted just fine.

        1. re: splatgirl

          Question everything!!! That's a valuable philosophy with which I agree entirely.
          Yes, my reference to bitterness is based on personal experience but I must admit that there are more varieties of tomatoes than there are dogs in Cesar Millan's pack of mongrels so I couldn't definitively say that all tomato seeds offer bitterness. However, based on what I've experienced and somewhat intuitively, I've just developed the habit of seeding them for certain recipes; like sauces.
          I might suggest that you remove the seeds from three or four of the tomatoes you'll be using and chewing them up to determine if they are in fact bitter.
          While I did suggest a heated water bath for making tomatoes easier to peel, I did so out of respect for the many home cooks on the forum who may want an easy method for doing the job. Personally, I don't use a water bath - I use an open flame from the burner on my gas range while holding them with a fondue fork. I heat them as evenly as possible and as soon as the skin splits I get the peel off. You can feel the "velvet" on the outer flesh (they're even kind of slippery) and if there's any remaining on the inner side of the skins I just don't worry about it. I'd rather suffer the loss of a bit of velvet than have skins in my finished product.

          1. re: todao

            Thank you.
            I've done about six pounds this afternoon via a whole new branch of the decision making tree.
            I did not peel. I seeded, reserving the seeds and goo in a strainer over a bowl. I forced the goo through so all that was left to discard (or save!) was a thick mass of seeds. I spooned the harvested liquid back into the freezer bags before sealing. I got about 2 cups of liquid from ~6 lbs. of a mix of SM, Amish paste and a few Ponderosas.

            Novelli, thanks for your comments below. Do you think the thickening/pectin/yum is from the seeds themselves or the goo?

            One of my default methods for a fresh sauce for wood-fired pizza is thaw, drain, reduce drained liquid, add back to flesh, puree. This gives an intense tomato-y flavor while retaining the brightness of the fresh tomato that I seek, and the freezing works in my favor by because it breaks down the cell walls and releases the liquid. I find this method produces a product that is far superior to even one made from just-picked tomatoes, so it's a win on all fronts.
            Anyway, barring just not seeding at all, being able to retain all that juicy goo seems like reason enough to go the strained seed route, especially now that I've seen how much yum has been ending up in my slop bowl by not doing so.

            I also made it a point to eat some seeds from all of the varieties. The SM's did have a distinct lack of presence vs. the Amish Paste, which were bigger, harder and a little unpleasantly textured. Neither tasted bad, but perhaps that changes with cooking and pureeing.

      2. I grow San Marzanos and can them peeled, but whole (if anything, maybe a bit crushed).
        I don't seed them, because to me, that gelatinous tomato pectin is one of the greatest things in the world. Full flavor and adds a wonderful consistency/thickness to the finished sauce.

        Although, when I do make a sauce with them, I will cook them with the seeds, but run it all through a food mill to remove them (or as many as I can) once done.

        1. I can and freeze both. I use all kinds of tomatoes for each, and I never, ever, seed the tomatoes. Whether or not I peel them depends on what I am doing. Since I don't have wide mouth jars, and am not willing to have 2 sets of rings and lids and jars, I don't can whole tomatoes (I also usually have too many different sizes at a time to can whole). These are the products I make every year:

          Canned crushed tomatoes: Peel, quarter, cook until hot, pressure can with a little salt.

          Canned salsa: Roasted unpeeled tomatoes, peppers, onions, lemon juice. Pressure can because I don't want to mess with worrying about acidity, and I don't want to make a very tart salsa.

          Roasted unpeeled tomato halves, with garlic or onions. Freeze in 1 qt ziploc bags. Use on hot pasta as a stand alone sauce, or puree and use as a base for a fancier sauce.

          Frozen unpeeled whole tomatoes. Not very many of these, because they take up a lot of room in the freezer. But they are nice to use in Indian cooking where 1 or 2 tomatoes are used as a background addition. Like pulao. They do peel easily when partially thawed, but I don't always bother.

          1. I do peeled, but not seeded. I've decided I don't like the peels in my sauces.

            1 Reply
            1. re: jaykayen

              Same here. I freeze my tomatoes, no peel, with seeds. I deal with the seeds later if I don't want them in a particular recipe.