Preserving your Tomato Harvest

The late summer bounty of tomatoes brings joy, but often there is too much to use at once, so we explore ways of preserving some of it for use in winter.
Drying tomatoes can be done very simply in an oven or it can be done in a dehydrator.
For oven-dried tomatoes, try to get similar sized tomatoes, so that they will take the same amount of time to dry. Cut them in half or in quarters if they are large and use a paper towel to dry the cut surface. You may remove the seeds if you wish. Brush the cut surface with olive oil and sprinkle the top with some salt. Place the tomatoes on a wire rack over a tray, with the cut side facing up. Do not allow the tomatoes to touch each other, make sure there is space all around each half for the hot air to circulate. Place the tray in an oven with a low temperature of 100 – 1200 C, and leave them for 6-10 hours. It all depends on how dry you want your tomatoes to be and on the varietals you are using. They can be stored in jars. You might want to layer with dried herbs and fill the jar with olive oil.
If you are using a dehydrator you can dry cherry and large tomatoes. Cut cherry tomatoes in half – this way you can monitor how they are drying. It they are whole you won’t know if they are still moist inside. Bigger tomatoes are best sliced 8-9 mm thick. Skinning and seeding the tomatoes are optional. Blot extra juice on tomatoes with a paper towel. Spray the dehydrator trays with a very light coating of vegetable spray or rub them with just a touch of olive oil to prevent tomatoes from sticking. Place tomatoes cut-side up on dehydrator trays, about 1 cm apart. Do not allow tomatoes to touch. Sprinkle tomatoes with salt, garlic powder, or fresh herbs. Dry the tomatoes, checking them regularly. If necessary, rotate racks to allow tomatoes to dry evenly. Remove pieces that dry before others to prevent them from scorching. Average dry time in a dehydrator is 8-12 hours. Dried tomatoes will be reduced in size, shrivelled and leathery, but not sticky. Remove tomatoes from the dehydrator and allow them to cool thoroughly. Pack tightly in freezer bags, vacuum sealed bags, plastic containers or jars.
You can take one step further with dehydrated tomatoes – you can powder them. Store the dried tomatoes in a freezer bag in the freezer for about a week. Set up the blender. Remove the tomatoes from the freezer and transfer immediately to the blender. If you have more than one blender full, do this in batches. The idea is to grind up the tomatoes when they are frozen and fragile as glass. This approach gives you the finest powder. Transfer the tomato powder to a glass container with a tight¬fitting lid. Store in a cool place, away from direct sunlight. The powder can be used like stock powder and to add tang to a variety of dishes.

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