Dehydrating Tomatoes Is Easy with a Few Tips
All types of tomatoes can be dried—from tiny grape tomatoes to large beefsteak tomatoes. I think drying is the best way to keep juicy cherry tomatoes and large slicing tomatoes that never found their way to a sandwich. These high-moisture tomatoes make a watery sauce that can be bitter if the seeds are not removed with a food mill or sieve, but they dehydrate into flavorful tidbits just right for adding to cooked dishes like pasta salad or chili.
Comparatively, the dry-fleshed, meatier paste tomatoes are also wonderful dried. They tend to dry faster than juicier types and are easier to handle when drying.
You can mix up different types – whatever is ripe that day can go into the dehydrator. Just be aware they may dry at different rates because of their differing water contents.
Dehydrating tomatoes is the best way I know to fit fifteen pounds of tomatoes in a one quart jar, with each piece in ready condition for cooking!
To Prepare Tomatoes:
- Wash your produce, removing any dirt and debris from their surfaces.
- Soak them in a big bowl or a sanitized sink using a vinegar water bath.
- Rinse thoroughly.
- If you are removing the peels from your tomatoes, blanch in boiling water for a minute or two until the skins split, then plunge into ice water. The skins will slip right off.
- Cut up tomatoes with a sharp serrated knife, mandolin, or tomato slicer using these tips:
Cherry or Grape Tomatoes: slice in half
Paste Tomatoes: Slice 1/4-inch (6.35mm) thick, dice 1/4-inch (6.35mm) square or cut into wedges. For wedges, use a sharp knife, or a special knife just for cutting tomatoes, chop the tomato in half from top (the place where the stem used to be) to bottom. Take each half and slice off wedges. Tip: don’t make them too narrow.
Slicing (Sandwich) Tomatoes: Slice at least 1/4-inch (6.35mm) thick. Because these tomatoes are much do not contain as much meat as the other two, It is best to slice a bit thicker than the standard size to have enough meat as they to dry turn them over. Dicing and wedges also follow this rule for thicker pieces.
Tomato skins: No cutting needed. Merely lay on mesh-lined tray to dry. I usually leave the skins on when dehydrating tomatoes, because they give beneficial structure during the dehydration process. Besides, when you rehydrate dried tomatoes, or put them in a soup, the skins naturally float free and are easily fished out of the pot should you want to remove them.
To dehydrate tomatoes:
- Place the tomatoes, cut side up, directly on mesh-lined dehydrator trays. Be sure air can flow freely between pieces.
- Set dehydrator temperature to 135°F/55°C.
- After 4 or 5 hours, turn the tomatoes over. (If tomatoes are cut in half or wedges, press flat with a spatula.)
- After a few hours, turn the tomatoes again and flatten gently. Flipping the tomatoes every few hours keeps them from sticking to the trays.
- Continue drying until crispy, about 8-16 hours depending on conditions. When fully dehydrated, they should feel dry like paper and be flexible but easily torn.
- To test dryness, remove a few pieces from the trays to a plate and allow to cool. Do this allows the pieces to harden for more accurate testing.
Although my preference is to flavor my tomatoes after dehydration, I know many of you will ask how to season your tomatoes.
Tomatoes have high water content and herbs and spices will stick readily to their surface before dehydration. I prefer to grind the herbs and spices, putting them into a spice shaker with small holes and shaking the mixture right on top of the tomatoes as I load the trays. Use a light hand when applying as flavors will intensify during the drying process.
Like other foods, dehydrated tomatoes benefit from a period of conditioning. When cooled, put the dried pieces in a big jar, screw on the lid, and keep it at room temperature for a day.
Moisture levels will equalize between the pieces. If your tomatoes feel damp and sticky are a day of conditioning, throw them back into the dehydrator for another hour, arranged in loose piles.
They are now ready to store in airtight containers in a cool, dark place. They will last for six months to a year (if vacuum sealed) at room temperature. In the freezer, dehydrated tomatoes are still perfect after a year.
To make tomato powder with your dehydrated tomatoes, full directions are here: If You Powder Nothing Else, Make Tomato Powder.
To learn how to make sun-dried tomatoes, follow this article: A Taste of the Summer Sun, “Sun-Dried” Tomatoes.
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