Dried tomatoes tasty alternative to canning

#FlashbackFriday This was originally published in September 2012

Barb Ingham, UW-Extension Food Science Specialist
Department of Food Science
UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

Still trying to figure out what to do with an abundant harvest of tomatoes? Barb Ingham offers types on drying tomatoes as an alternative to canning.

3:05 – Total Time

0:13 – How you dry a tomato
0:36 – Oven temps and drying time
1:04 – How to tell when tomatoes are dry
1:30 – Seasoning and oven tips
2:31 – Storing dried tomatoes
2:55 – Lead out

Sevie Kenyon:
Barb, how do you dry a tomato?

Barb Ingham: Actually, drying tomatoes is easy and it’s a lot of fun. Most of us have a dehydrator that we can use and we may not even know it and that happens to be our oven. What I might do this I would take a Roma tomato and I cut it in half. You can add a little seasoning, maybe some salt, and you put it in your oven.

Sevie Kenyon: Barb, can you give us some tips on temperature setting and length of drying time?

Barb Ingham: The oven needs to be able to be set about 140 degrees Fahrenheit. That may take a little bit of engineering on your part to try to figure out how you can do that. Digital ovens, you can probably set them that low. Those that have a dial setting, you might need to use a thermometer to check and make sure. It may take up to twelve hours for your tomatoes to dry so you do have to dedicate your oven to drying tomatoes when you choose to do that.

Sevie Kenyon: How do you know when your tomatoes are dried?

Barb Ingham: They’re dry when they’re pliable but not sticky. Tomatoes are fruits, and so we dry them such that if you take a tomato and you fold it over, and you’re folding in half, that it doesn’t stick together but it actually springs back a little bit. That’s the same test that you would use if you were drying apple slices.

Sevie Kenyon: Do you have any suggestions for seasoning and what kind of drying rack to use? Those kind of tips?

Barb Ingham: If you’re using your oven, just make sure you realize that if you choose to dry directly on the oven rack you’re going to get some drippage through, so make sure you’re ready to clean your oven or prep, put some type of foil or something, at the bottom. I like to use a cookie sheet.  So if you have a cookie sheet that maybe has just a little rim on two sides that works great. I take tomatoes and slice them in half, often a little bit of seasoning, maybe a seasoning salt type product, or just salt, or basil, or parsley, or something like that and they’ll dry. You can dry them all the way or, sometimes, I like them to be a little bit ready for pizza or maybe a salad so I’ll dry them until there’s a good bit of moisture still left in them but they look like sundried tomatoes. Then I’ll take those, and I have to store them in the freezer, because they will mold, but they’re a little bit moister, a little bit juicier and they’ve got some good chewiness. They’re great for adding to pizza, or maybe to a salad that I want to make.

Sevie Kenyon: Barb, can you give us some tips on storing and keeping dried tomatoes?

Barb Ingham: If they’re well dried, so that we find that they’re like fruits that they’re no longer really wet at all, those we can store for up to a year. It’s a great idea to put them in a used canning jar or something because glass doesn’t allow moisture to come in. We want to keep them like that. Or simply popping them into the freezer, they’re nice and compact by that point and I usually find that I can find a couple corners of my freezer if I have some dried tomatoes and I want to use them that way.

Sevie Kenyon: We’ve been visiting with Barb Ingham, Department of Food Science, University of Wisconsin Extension in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Madison, WI and I’m Sevie Kenyon.

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