Fake it till You Make It: “Sun Dried” Tomatoes

dried maters

The reasons for drying at least a third of your tomato harvest are many.

1. The tomatoes need to picked when they’re ready, even if you’re not, (AKA before the bugs can get to their juicy, juicy goodness) so drying is a great way to quickly preserve them as they come in at their peak flavor without a ton of effort–the dehydrator does 90% of the work while you’re off watching important television shows like GofT or “sleeping it off”.

2. It preserves their tomato-y flavor at its peak without watering it down. Pure mater goodness.

3. You can stash a crazy amount of tomatoes in a teeny space once they’ve been dried. For those of us who don’t have a well appointed, oaken shelved preserves pantry, but rather a tiny-ass ghetto kitchen, this is of utmost importance.

4. It’s stupid easy to do if you have a dehydrator, which if you don’t, you should. I got our first one at Harbor Freight for like 20 bucks with a coupon, which you can get at their website, since I didn’t want to throw down for anything fancier until I determined whether we’d use it enough to justify the expense. It ended up becoming an essential homesteading tool that we use all the time. In fact, since we plan to work with higher volumes of produce this year and Travis melted most of the trays for the old cheapo one in his jerky making “experiments”, we recently splurged and got a new one, and while it ain’t no “Excalibur”, it seems to be doing the job just fine.

In case you can’t figure it out on your own:

Step 1: Get your ass some tomatoes out of the garden.

maters

Step 2: Cut em’ up into slices, halves, or a mixture of both. Cut off any funky parts and core the bigger bad boys. Obviously, the thicker your slices, the longer it will take to dry, but also the chewier they’ll turn out. I don’t seed them because that sounds messy, and I got nothing against tomato seeds anyway.

Step 3: Arrange cut up tomatoes on trays, using a finer mesh screen if you’ve got one since they can be a little drippy. It’s not a deal breaker if you don’t–our dehydrator just happened to come with a couple.

maters 2

Step 4: Dehydrate at 160 degrees for 6-12 hours (depending on the volume of tomatoes you’re drying)–checking every few hours or so to remove any that dried faster than his brethren.

Step 4: Store in an airtight container (I typically save glass jars from olives and stuff for this purpose) or submerge in olive oil, also in an airtight container, and stash in a cool, dark place for up to a year. The safety queens would probably advise you to refrigerate them if you store them in oil, but I don’t, and I’ve never had an issue. I use the first storage method for the maters I plan to put in my triple threat tomato sauce and the second for ones I’ll use as mini-pizza toppings.

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