September 14, 2008

Dried tomatoes

Many years ago, we got a food dehydrator so we could dry our surplus garden tomatoes and make stuff like fruit leather from bountiful summer fruit. One day I was feeling creative and decided to turn too much chili into dried "chili-leather" to take on a camping trip. Why buy expensive dried camping food when you could make your own? Right? Well, I don't remember exactly how long it took to dry the chili, but it was several days. And the whole time it was drying, I was picturing botulism spores growing and multiplying. Would I actually eat this stuff? Feed it to my children? I was practically driving myself nuts between really wanting this to work and fearing a medical rescue from our campsite. Well, we took the stuff camping, re-hydrated and cooked it, stared at it and then consumed it. The taste was a little unusual but no one got sick. And no, I never dehydrated chili again, although I have dried lots of other stuff.

It's that time of year again when we can't give away any more garden tomatoes and we're stuffed to near max with pasta sauce and salad. Time to bring the food dehydrator up from the basement and start slicing and drying. My drier now has the maximum number of trays (12) and if I fill all 12 trays, I end up with about 1/2 a gallon bag of dried tomatoes. I will usually fill about three gallon bags. Because it's so hot here at the moment, it took about 24 hours to dry this batch and now I'm going to pasteurize them in the oven for 10 minutes, let them cool and then pack them into a freezer bag to store in the refrigerator for use during the winter.

My dehydrator is pretty old. When I bought it, there were only two American Harvest models to choose from and I chose the less expensive one. If I were buying today, I'd probably go for a more powerful version so the food would dry more quickly. It originally came with four trays but I quickly found that if I were going to the trouble of drying food, I wanted to dry a lot at one time so I added the maximum number of trays. Even 12 isn't enough when you've got advancing tomatoes and bagfuls of pears.

Here you can see the tomatoes on a drying tray at the start of the drying process.

And here is a bowlful of gorgeous, dried tomatoes.
I'm very careful when I preserve food. I disinfect all the prep surfaces and knives and wash my hands a lot. I've never had a spoilage problem or gotten sick from the food. I love having the dried tomatoes available - they really add a punch of flavor to dishes all year long.

After you have a quantity of dried tomatoes, you could create beautiful jars like this for gifts or to keep.


  1. I don't have a dehydrator, but I'm planning to sun-dry some tomatoes this week, for the first time ever. Oh, I just scrolled down and noticed you're in Wisconsin. I've been there once (my dad is from Milwaukee) and I mostly remember humidity and mosquitos. I suppose that would make it difficult to air-dry stuff. On the other hand, such pretty greenery!

  2. When I'm on top of things, my posts are written up to two weeks before they appear, and two weeks ago, when I was drying tomatoes, we had a couple of really hot days. But the humidity, in general, is not that bad. We only used our lone, bedroom air conditioner twice this summer. And the mosquitoes weren't so bad either. They were around for a couple of weeks and then they disappeared.

    Good luck with your drying! The dried tomatoes are so great.

  3. I love dried tomatoes, too. I've sold my dehydrator (didn't use it enough), but my new stove has a digital temperature gauge that will allow me to set it as low as 100F, so I can use it instead! And wish I were as organized as you with blog entries--I'm never more than a few minutes ahead!!

  4. My stove will do low temps, too but it doesn't have a fan, and I'd want the dehydrator trays which take up as much room as the whole dehydrator, so I might as well keep it even though I only use it once a year.

    And notice I said "when I'm on top of things..." That doesn't happen a lot. For the moment, yes, but probably not for long...

    How can you say you're not organized? You're halfway through a book! :)


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