If you freeze or can tomatoes you will end up with tomato skins to deal with. I've always tossed them in the compost bin, although some will say I shouldn't because tomatoes are part of the Nightshade family and do not belong in the composter. Whether this is true or not is a topic for another discussion. Today I want to discuss an alternative means of using tomato skins should you decide not to compost them: instant tomatoes.
Removing Tomato Skins
To remove skins from tomatoes for canning or saucing, drop them into boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds; just until the skin splits, fish them out with a slotted spoon and drop them into cold water (to stop the cooking process). Once cool, core the tomato and the skins will peel away easily. When freezing tomatoes, core and clean them, cut them into quarters and freeze. After thawing, the toughened skins will slip right off.
Drying Tomato Skins
Collect the skins in a colander to drain off as much fluid as possible. When you've finished doing what you're doing with the tomatoes themselves, set up your food dehydrator and spritz the trays with a non-stick cooking spray.
Lay the tomato skins on the trays, skin side down, in a single layer. Run the dehydrator until the skins are crispy dry - like onion skins.
Once thoroughly dry, collect the skins and place them into the cup of a small food processor. If you can not proceed to the following step right away, seal the dried tomato skins in a good zip-lock bag (like a freezer bag) and squeeze out as much air as you can before zipping it all the way closed. This is to keep them from re-absorbing moisture from the air (probably not a problem if you live in Nevada, but here in the Smoky Mountains humidity levels run high). Grind the skins in small batches using a blade made for pulverizing.
The objective is to reduce the skins to a fine powder. You may need to pulse the grinder a few times to get the contents evenly ground.
Transfer each batch to a glass jar that seals up tightly. Refrigeration is not needed as long as the powder stays dry.
How to Use Powdered Tomato
Once you have the powdered tomato on hand there are several uses. One is to mix even amounts of powdered tomato and water to make your own tomato paste. Thin further for an approximation of tomato sauce. Or you can add the powder to soups, stews, eggs and casseroles to get a tomato flavor when actual tomatoes are not needed.
One thing that came readily to my mind as I was making this tomato powder is that it is far more easily transported and stored than fresh tomatoes. The culinary endeavors of campers, hikers, sailors, mountain climbers, and the like could benefit from having "instant tomatoes" tucked away to liven up their cooking when bringing fresh tomatoes isn't practical. I'd recommend transferring a supply to a zip-lock bag for backpacking.
The fact that this foodstuff is made from something that would ordinarily go into the rubbish or the compost bin, is just an added bonus.
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