Mail Call September/October 2014: Food Preservation Methods and More

Readers share their input from food preservation methods to advice for raising horses, hay making memories, fish allergies and more.

| September/October 2014

  • Dried tomato flakes are wonderful seasonings on a multitude of dishes.
    Photo courtesy Donna Shelby
  • Dried tomatoes go into the food processor.
    Photo courtesy Donna Shelby
  • Dried tomatoes processed to an ultra-fine consistency serve well as instant mixes.
    Photo courtesy Donna Shelby
  • Dried tomato flakes work well for instant tomato soup.
    Photo courtesy Donna Shelby
  • Farmer mowing hay is a classic scene in the rural Midwest. There really isn't anything like the smell of fresh-mown hay.
    Photo by
  • Chicken coop belonging to Vicki Kapke and Connie Lohman before it got a makeover.
    Photo courtesy Vicki Kapke and Connie Lohman
  • Enhanced with a pergola, new window and door framing, and various retro farm items, Vicki Kapke's and Connie Lohman's chicken coop now adds beauty as well as functionality.
    Photo courtesy Vicki Kapke and Connie Lohman

Favorite Preservation Methods

Dehydrating produce has become my preferred method of preserving garden bounty. We have an Excalibur electric dehydrator as well as The Solar Food Dryer from the book of the same name by Eben Fodor.

We are especially fond of dehydrated tomatoes, so I want to share what I do with some of them when we are inundated with tomatoes that get ahead of us; both dehydrators work for this.

I wash the ripe tomatoes, cut them in halves or quarters depending on size — removing spots or undesirable stem and core areas as they are cut up — and throw them in my food processor. They are whirled until they become a thick, finely minced “batter,” not quite as smooth as baby food, but definitely fine chunks somewhere between the size of grains of rice and small peas. This is poured onto nonstick sheets and spread to an even thickness as much as possible, similar to making fruit leather. They are then dried — and this is the secret to the final product — to a crispy state; drier than the chewy, leathery stage for many fruits and vegetables. The “pancakes” should crumble apart almost in brittle shards when being removed from the sheets. Some of these are broken into small pieces and flakes and vacuum-sealed to use in stews, soups and chili. They can be rolled between sheets of wax paper into finer crumbs to shake onto food.

The remainder is further processed into “instant” tomato powder. For the latter, I have a Krups spice and nut grinder dedicated solely to tomatoes. The pieces are ground nearly as fine as cornstarch, with the seeds, skins, and the entire tomato becoming a consistent powder; this is why it is so important that they be extremely dry. This is vacuum-sealed in 8-ounce jelly jars — a great gift with instructions. Because there is no extra ingredient to prevent caking, this stuff does pack down, so it may have to be scraped and dug out of the jar if vacuum sealing is used. This is a wonderful product to have on hand as a seasoning, but be aware that it is potent in the flavor department. Mixed with varying amounts of water, desired seasonings and/or sweetener, and allowed to sit a short while to thicken, it becomes instant tomato juice, tomato soup, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and more. It’s wonderful added to meat loaf, too.

The grinding can take awhile, I admit, but it is a very compact way to store tomatoes, and it is both handy and delicious — and it’s 100 percent tomatoes.

Donna Shelby
Comanche, Oklahoma

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