Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Dehydrating Tomatoes

In looking at many of my recent posts, you may think I am very "together" domestically speaking.  Canning, refinishing furniture, making slipcovers.  Hmmmm.  It does sound impressive, but it feels very misleading.  I feel domestically challenged most of the time.  Yet, here I go again, with a post that sounds like I know what I'm doing.  I think actually what I am good at is going through tons of directions and putting together everything I read, then being able to act like I know what I'm doing.  So, here I go again.

I made Sun Dried Tomatoes.  It sounds impressive.  It looks impressive.  It's ridiculously easy.

I have a wonderful dehydrator, but a less expensive model would do.  I purchased mine on sale with a coupon at Cabelas after doing lots of research.  They don't sell my exact model anymore, but this is the closest one to it. I previously had a super cheap on, but it didn't have a way to read the temperature and that is one feature worth paying for.

Sun Dried Tomatoes are seldom made in the sun anymore.  They are dehydrated.

First, pick out the tomatoes. We used several different varieties, but Romas (which we didn't have) are often used.  There were one or two of these that ended up being too ripe.  If the tomatoes have bad spots, cut those off - the other side may be salvageable. 

Wash the tomatoes well.

Cut the tomatoes up and put them on a tray.  Ours are spread out a little more than necessary.  They can be very close, but they shouldn't touch.  Air needs to be able to circulate through the dehydrator.  You can cut them into slices or quarters or whatever, as long as they aren't too thick. Truly, how you cut them doesn't seem to matter, however, slices did stay on the trays better.  If they are very juicy, you may want to remove some of the mushy part. 

The recommended temperature varies greatly.  It must be at least 90 degrees, but not over 180.  If you are a proponent of eating raw when possible, you'll want to keep the temperature lower - 105, 115, 125, depending on who you read.  I set it to 125 for the first batch and 115 for the second.  A few raw food sites recommended setting it to 140 for the first hour, but it seems to me that it would defeat the purpose.

The length of time varies as well.  The lower the temp, the longer you'll dehydrate.  The more items you put in, the longer it will take.  Our first batch, with 5 trays loaded cooked at 125 degrees for about 15 hours.  Our second batch, with 9 trays loaded cooked at 115 degrees for about 18 hours.  I could have pulled them out at anywhere from 16 to 22 hours and they probably would have been just fine.

Five trays of sliced tomatoes made up 3 bags of dried tomatoes.  Each bag weighed betweeh 1.9 and 2 oz including the baggie.

Even though it doesn't look like much, they will go a long way.  Dried tomatoes have a much stronger flavor.
They are delicious cut up on homemade pizzas.  You can soak them in water for half an hour to reconstitute them.  They'll be delicious in soup and chili.

You can store them unrefrigerated in an airtight container for several months.  If you put the airtight container in the freezer, they will keep for 6 to 9 months.

Dehydrated takes much less hands on time than canning.  I will do both because they each have their uses.  The greatest satisfaction is knowing that our tomatoes are not going to waste.  Even with giving plenty away, at some point you can be overrun with garden bounty.  Plus, having a garden is about more than feeding yourself for a few months.  There's almost always a way to put the foods away so they can be used throughout the year.

I will say this - all of this stuff takes time.  Lately, I have been feeling like I am drowning in my to-do list.

I have linked to these parties:
Tuesday Garden Party at An Oregon Cottage
Made by You Monday at Skip to My Lou


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