My mother was a tomato grower and canner without peer.
Seriously, she was good.
Back then, my parents didn’t have air conditioning. But, that didn’t keep my mother from spending day after day slumped over huge, steaming, graniteware kettles, doing things with tongs and filling shelf after shelf with her homegrown canned tomatoes.
But, despite my mother’s success, maybe it is the memory of what seemed like too many long hot hours and too many procedures and having to be totally sterile that made the discovery of a food dehydrator in DH’s barn so exciting.
The abandoned food dehydrator waiting to be filled with tomatoes.
I also love the concentrated sweetness and flavor of sun dried tomatoes. Home dried tomatoes are less expensive than those from the grocery. They take up much less shelf space than canned tomatoes. They can be used in any recipe calling for tomatoes.
Best of all, they are easy to make.
The first tier of tomatoes is ready.
Plum or Roma tomatoes are recommended. However, any type you want to use will work. The tomatoes should be firm and ripe, but not over ripe, which will lead to decay. For round or slicer type tomatoes cut the tomatoes crosswise into no thicker than 1/4 inch thick slices.
Drain your tomatoes in a collander, pat slightly with paper towels, then place the tomatoes on your dehydrator racks leaving enough space between the slices for air to circulate.
Rotate the trays if you have more than one to dehydrate. Ideally the temperature should be at 135 to 140 degrees. To oven dry: place your tomatoes on foil lined cookie sheets. Your oven temperature should be between 140 to 150 degrees.
Be sure to turn your tomatoes over when necessary and to rotate the tiers. Some of mine are wet and need to be turned over.
Drying tomatoes will take from 10 to 24 hours. When your tomatoes are dry they should be leathery but pliable. As soon as my tomatoes were of the same texture as a raisin, I removed them from the dehydrator with a spatula. I decided to preserve them by freezing to prevent mold and used ziplock bags with the air pulled out through a straw.
If your tomatoes come out too dry or you want to make them into flakes put them into your freezer for about 5 minutes and then crush them with a rolling pin or kitchen mallet.
To make tomato powder use your food processor or blender until the tomatoes are ground very fine.
1/4 cup of dried tomatoes I am going to hydrate with Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
To rehydrate your tomatoes, soak them in water or olive oil at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours. Using boiling water will speed up the process.
Dried tomatoes can also be added to soups and stews during the last half hour to rehydrate. I added them to my chili on Sunday. DH said it is the best chili he has ever had!
SUN DRIED TOMATO CREAM CHEESE SPREAD
This recipe is simple and absolutely delicious.
– ¼ cup sun dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and coarsely chopped
– 8 ounces block cream cheese, softened
– ½ cup sour cream
– ¼ cup mayonnaise
– 2 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
– ¾ tsp. salt
– ¾ tsp. black pepper
– 1 Tblsp. Dried basil (I used 2-3 Tbsp. of fresh basil)
– A dash of hot sauce (or more if you like it spicy!)
Toss all of the ingredients into a food processor, and blend until smooth. (I just used a whisk because I like having little tomato chunks in my spread.) Chill for about an hour before serving. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container, and it will keep for up to two weeks.
– You can make this spread figure-friendly by using reduced fat versions of the cream cheese, sour cream, and mayonnaise. It will taste so good, you’ll never miss the fat!
Tomorrow I will use the cream cheese spread on bagels. But, DH and I couldn’t resist getting out some crackers and doing some taste testing. The spread is outstanding!
SUN DRIED TOMATO, MUSHROOM, CHEESE &
- 1 1/2 ounces sun-dried tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch slices
- 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms (I used 1 can of canned)
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, or 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 (10-ounce ) can refrigerated pizza crust
- sweet onion sliced thin and chopped (optional)
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (4 ounces)
- Meatballs (precooked & chopped)
Combine dried tomatoes and 1/2 cup water in a saucepan; let stand for 15 minutes. Add canned tomatoes and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. Add the next 5 ingredients and cook 5 minutes longer or until liquid has evaporated, stirring often.
Press pizza dough out onto a greased 12-inch pizza pan and spread with tomato mixture; if desired, arrange onions & meatballs on top. Sprinkle with cheese and bake in a 425°F oven 12 to 15 minutes or until crust is golden brown.