Preserving the Bounty: Drying Tomatoes


| 8/30/2011 2:58:04 PM


Tags: drying tomatoes, dehydrating tomatoes, tomato, tomatoes, drying, dehydrating, storing, preserving, allan douglas, Allan Douglas,

dehydrator, cutting board, knife, tomatoes, dehydrating 

Dehydrating (drying) tomatoes is easy to do, requires little skill or equipment, and produces very satisfactory results. You can dry tomatoes in a food dehydrator, in an oven or in the sun (if you have sufficient steady sunshine). Dried tomatoes are great for cooking; the dried 'maters will re-hydrate in liquid, like soups or stews, and the intense tomato flavor is a great bonus when used dry for breads and salads because the tomato flavor is concentrated when the water is removed. 

 tomatoes store compactly when dehydrated 

Also, dried tomatoes store very compactly for long periods if you vacuum seal them into pouches. If thoroughly dried, they can be kept in your pantry or in a decorative jar on your kitchen counter.

Preparation

how you cut the tomatoes depends on their size and your intended use 

For drying, you will want firm, meaty tomatoes, not the juicier ones like beefsteak. Romas are an excellent choice, as are small Best Boy and Lemon Boy tomatoes. Freeze the big ones, dry the small ones. Before dehydrating, wash, dry, remove the cores and cut your tomatoes. There is no hard and fast rule on how to cut tomatoes for drying; some like wedges, some like slices, some like halves. Mostly it seems to depend on the size of your tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes, plumb tomatoes and even Romas, do well as halves because of their small size. Anything larger dries faster and with fewer hassles as wedges. ¼ to ½ inch thick slices dry the fastest, but will wither up to practically nothing in the process. Use the same "equatorial cut" I described in Freezing Tomatoes and clean out the wet, seedy goop with a spoon or paring knife to speed proper drying… except with cherry tomatoes, it's not worth the bother on them; just cut them in half. Regardless of the drying method you use, place the tomatoes skin side down while drying. Refrigerate them if you must stop the dehydration process for the night or if you must leave the house for an extended period.

Using Solar Power

To sun dry tomatoes, first prepare your "rack"; a piece of plywood works well, cover it with Saran Wrap and tape that to the wood around the edges. Cut your tomatoes and arrange them on the rack. Slices work best for sun drying. Sprinkling with salt will hasten drying by absorbing some liquid, but this is optional. Set the rack in a secure location that will get the maximum amount of direct sunshine. Do what you can to keep bugs away until they "skin over" at that point the bugs seem to lose interest. This will take 18 to 24 hours of strong sunshine, so you will need to plan on setting them out for several consecutive days. Refrigerate them between sessions. This method won’t work well for us here in the mountains of Tennessee; folks in Texas, Arizona or California would have better luck with it.

steveb
8/7/2013 6:18:18 PM

 

I have dried tomatoes and love them! My wife and I have a slightly different use though. On the larger tomatoes we slip the skins just as if you were preparing them to be canned. The tomatoes are processed in the Excalibur. The skins are put on a rack by themselves and dusted with powdered dried basil from our garden. Once everything is dry, the tomatoes are vacuum packed and put by for later use. The dried, seasoned skins are run through a spice grinder and the resulting powder is put into a shaker. The powdered skins are excellent for boosting the tomato flavor in any dish. It really shines though in adding tomato flavor to any dish that you do not want chunks of tomato in.

 


nannette
6/26/2013 8:48:56 PM

Last year I use my dehydrator to dry my tomatoes. I then put them in a ball jar and used my Seal a Meal to take out the air, and screwed the ring on. Today they are still good. The seal a meal has a jar attachment that allows you to re-seal the jar as though it were never opened. It does such a good job that it is very difficult to open when needed. I also found a non-electrical way to suck out the air by using a Brake bleeder for cars and hand pumping the air out. Good for if the lights go out.


vanessa
9/23/2011 3:19:30 PM

I routinely dry tomatoes with my well-used Excalibur. I slice them in rounds, like potato chips, and often sprinkle them with Italian seasoning or just oregano. Since this is part of my provision for the off season, I dry them crispy, layer them in glass jars, and give it a tight seal. We eat them straight up as vegi chips, or rehydrate them for stews, etc. I am experimenting this year with "crumbing" or powdering them for later use as tomato paste, sauce or soup (just depends on the amount of water you add to the powdered tomatoes). I am a firm believer in as much nutrition as possible, so I do not core or skin them. (I even leave in the seeds.) We love our tomatoes~fresh, dried, powdered, roasted, sauce, chips, etc.!


deborah bier
9/23/2011 2:30:28 PM

Hi, I would not preserve tomatoes or basil in oil -- particularly without refrigeration. Oil is an anaerobic environment. Leave that to the industrial packers who have the right equipment, or freeze yours if you feel you must pack them in oil. However, drying tomatoes and storing in a tightly sealed jar, container or a good plastic bag is wonderful. Just make sure they are really dry! I like to half-dry plum and cherry tomatoes, mix them with herbs and olive oil, and freeze them. This mimics "roasted" tomatoes which take several hours in a warm oven to accomplish, but with the dehydrator the house doesn't heat up and I suspect I'm using less energy than heating the oven. They're also marvelous!


nebraska dave
9/3/2011 8:19:42 PM

Allan, I have not tried my hand at dehydrating. It sounds easy enough and those dehydrators have really come down in price. It really does sound like a good way to store things. The dried tomatoes in the olive oil sounds delicious. All good ideas as next year I'll have many more tomatoes than this year. I had 5 plants this year and plan on 10 next year with perhaps more on an off site property. Have a great tomato dehydrating day.





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