Dried Tomatoes

If our gardens are as successful as we hope them to be, we will soon have a bountiful crop of tomatoes. There are often too many of them to use when they are ready to be harvested. The extra ones can be saved. Canning is the most common way of preserving tomatoes. Detailed information on how to do so is available from the library or the County Homemaker Extension service.

Other methods of preserving are by drying. Tomato fruit leather can be prepared in the same way that other fruit leather is prepared. The addition of salt and sugar and other fruits is dependent upon the palette of the cook. Try several experimental recipes until you find the one you like best. Very ripe fruit may need no additives.

The tomatoes can also be sliced and dried. Removing 80 to 90% of the moisture in food will enable it to be stored for long periods of time. If the food is first sulfured or blanched, vitamins and flavor will also be preserved. Sulfuring involves unpleasant and dangerous fumes, so most of us will probably not choose to use this technique. Blanching is a brief heat treatment in steam, boiling water, or in a microwave oven Tomatoes should be dipped in boiling water for one minute or steamed for three minutes. They should be microwaved for a long enough time for the skin to be easily peeled. The fruit should still be firm enough to be sliced after being blanched and peeled. The sliced tomatoes can be dried in a commercial dryer, in a homemade dryer, in your oven, or on trays indoors or outside. The aim is to have a flow of warm, dry air over the fruit to dry it as rapidly as possible. Tomatoes will probably take 10 to 18 hours before they are as they should be, brittle, crisp, and light in weight. Optimum drying temperatures are between 95 and 145 degrees, with 140 the best. Sunlight speeds drying but also destroys some vitamins. Outdoors, dust and automobile and truck fumes can be a problem. Outdoors, as well as indoors, a protective covering of cheesecloth will help to keep insects off the fruit.

After it is dried, the fruit should have a final treatment to fully finish the drying and to kill any insect eggs that maybe in the slices. Spread the pieces on a tray and bake them for 10 to 15 minutes in an oven heated to 175 degrees. Cool the fruit and put it in open, enamel, glass, or ceramic containers for about five days, stirring it twice a day. If it seems moist, re-dry the batch. If the tomatoes are to be stored for a long period of time, sterilized glass jars or plastic bags should be used. Metal containers may be used if they are lined. The fruit should not touch the metal. Perfect canning seals are not necessary, but the lids should be tight and secure. The fruit should be stored in a cool, dark place. The freezer is a good place to store dried fruits. If unfrozen containers of tomatoes show any condensation during storage, dry the food again. Rehydration can be accomplished in about two hours by pouring boiling water (114 cups of water for each cup of fruit) over the dry food or the dry tomatoes can be added to sauces, stews, or soups. Some of my friends tell me that they eat the dry tomatoes plain. Just like any other sliced, dried fruit.

Elizabeth Riordon
May, 1994