I don’t know about you, but as fall arrives, I’m still harvesting tomatoes from my garden. If you have an abundance of tomatoes still available, why not try drying them to preserve that wonderful sweetness all winter long? Today, artist, mom, writer, and blog follower TERESA ROBESON gives us step by step instructions for doing just that. Here’s Teresa:
Making your own dried tomatoes is so easy and produces a product that is tastier and far less expensive than what you can get at the store! With a cutting board and some adult supervision, kids can help!
Some people use their ovens to dry tomatoes (directions for that method will follow), but we bought a dehydrator about 20 years ago and it has paid for itself many times over. Hubby did some research and found the Excalibur to be an excellent and reliable brand. We have not had any trouble with ours at all. While you can dry just about any tomato, we have found that cherry or grape tomatoes are better for drying as they’re less watery and therefore dry faster. Any variety will do, but since hubby is not crazy about cloyingly sweet dried tomatoes (and the flavors intensify after all the moisture is gone), he doesn’t grow Super Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes anymore. These days, we grow a combination of less sweet cherries and grape tomatoes.
The dehydrator comes with 9 trays. We slice the cherry or grape tomatoes in half (or even quarters if they’re so large that they stick up too much and run into the tray above it) and space them out evenly on the trays.
Then we just slide the trays back into the slots…
…and set the temperature and time as advised by the instruction manual that comes with the dehydrator and let it do its thing.
Hubby likes to turn the trays around mid-way through drying as the fan is in the back, but sometimes we forget, and it’s been fine, too. Check it when it’s close to the end of the timed cycle; if it’s not at the dryness level you like, just add more time.
Adjust the oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions. Preheat to 425F. Spray wire racks with veggie oil spray and set them in 2 rimmed baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
Toss cut up tomatoes with 1/2 cup olive oil. Place cut side down on prepared wire racks. Roast until skin is a bit wrinkly (20 minutes or so).
For dehydrating larger tomatoes, you can discard the skin and cook for 20-30 minutes more on 300 degrees before flipping over for 3-4 hours more until they’re visibly shrunken, dry and slightly dark around edges.
For smaller tomatoes, I’d just turn the oven down to 300 and cook for 3-4 hours, checking on it every half hour to an hour to make sure they don’t burn.
After removing tomatoes from oven, let them cool to room temperature. Lightly pack them into a jar with tight fitting lids. Cover completely with olive oil and seal the lid. Can be stored in refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. Or, store your dried tomatoes in baggies in the freezer until needed.
And here they are, the beauties! To use, you can soak them in water or oil for however long it takes to get them to the softness that you want. Pretty easy, right? Beats paying $5 or more for a tiny jar with less than two ounces worth. Plus you know exactly who has handled your food and trust that it was grown and handled to your specifications.
Teresa Robeson is a writer-artist with published illustrations and works of short stories, poetry, and nonfiction appearing in the SCBWI Bulletin, Ladybug, Babybug, and other magazines and anthologies. She lives on a small hobby homestead with her husband, two boys, and varying number of chickens. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest via the links her website: http://teresarobeson.com
writer, artist, illustrator
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