Friday, May 15, 2015

Saving Space - Dehydrating Canned Tomatoes

The love affair with my dehydrator is more intense these days.  If it's not nailed down or consumed, more than likely food will find itself on a drying tray. 

Nine pints of tomatoes sat in my pantry that were a couple of years old.  There are a lot of conversations lately about how long home canned items should sit on the shelf and a lot more disagreement about the quality of the canning lids or flats, as Mom called them.  The debate is not about the sealing material, but about how much of that material is on the lid, especially during the last couple of years.  Ball, Kerr, Mason packaging states that home canned items should be used within a year and claim that has always been the recommendation.  Home canners are upset that their canned goods no longer have a 3-5 year shelf life as they had been accustomed.  There seems to be no resolution.  So rather than taking a chance on losing my good organic tomatoes, I dried them. 

As is typical, I forget to keep a camera on hand during the process.  The text version will have to do for now.

I drained the biggest portion of the liquid from the tomatoes, mostly water, then gently spread two pints of tomatoes on a dehydrator tray.  Gently spread the fruit on the tray, but don't press down.  You want to keep the good tomato flavor in tact.  Cut the larger pieces in half so the trays fit properly in the dehydrator.  Set the temperature to 125 and let the tomatoes dry overnight.  The next morning, peel the tomatoes from the trays, flip the tomato pieces over, and allow dry for another 4-5 hours.  When brittle, remove and allow to cool for a few minutes.

Use a coffee grinder, a blender, or food processor to make a powder.  Sift the powder into a bowl and reprocess the bigger chunks again.  Store tomato powder in a canning jar with an oxygen pack.  Results:  Nine pints of tomatoes yielded 1/2 pint of tomato powder.  A scant tablespoon of powder is equivalent to 1 cup tomato sauce.  The powder is a beautiful red color and has a fresh tomato smell.  It dissolves easily in warm water - great for soups!

Finished Tomato Powder
You may be wondering how much tomato "trash" was left.  Less than a teaspoon!  I could not get this to grind any smaller; it was mostly some of the "unripe" parts of the tomatoes that were hard when I packed the jars. 

Dried Tomato "Trash"
All in all, I'm happy with the results and happier with the extra pantry space.  Good timing - there are a lot of tomatoes in the garden waiting to ripen.