Simply dry tomatoes yourself: oven, sun or automatic dehydrator?

The uses of tomatoes freshly picked from the bush are almost inexhaustible. But there are often so many that they cannot be eaten that quickly. Then it is important to keep the harvest surplus for several months. One way to extend the shelf life of these aromatic fruits is through drying.

Why dry tomatoes?

First of all, drying tomatoes is a very good way of preserving a harvest surplus, because usually more fruits are ripe at the same time than can be consumed or processed in a timely manner. Mold and bacteria cause fresh tomatoes to spoil relatively quickly. Due to the withdrawal of water, dried fruits contain a much higher concentration of important nutrients, vital substances and minerals.

The quality of dried fruits is usually much better than the dried tomatoes that are bought and the aroma is much more intense and distinctive. Once dry, they can be used in a variety of ways, be it in sauces, pesto, refined with herbs and oil or just as a small snack between meals. Before drying, the fruits must be prepared accordingly.

Prepare the fruits for drying

In principle, only fully ripe and fresh fruits, preferably from your own garden, should be used for drying. Bought tomatoes are not so good, they usually lack taste and aroma, which does not change significantly even when dried.

  • Wash the fruit before drying
  • After washing, chop the tomatoes
  • Halve, quarter or sixth, depending on the size
  • Cut particularly large tomatoes into 0.5 cm thick slices
  • For small cocktail tomatoes, halving is usually sufficient
  • Then cut out the stalk and any rotten spots
  • Finally, if necessary, remove the gelatinous seed heads
  • Only remove the seed heads and not the pulp
  • It is not absolutely necessary to remove the seeds
  • If the seeds remain in the fruit, this delays the drying process
  • On the other hand, the taste is even more intense after drying
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Depending on your personal taste, the chopped tomatoes can be seasoned with salt, thyme or garlic before drying. A little oil on the tomato skin allows the tomatoes to stay more elastic while they dry.

Tip: To support the drying process even more, you can put the chopped tomato wedges with the cut surfaces on kitchen paper or a clean, absorbent cloth. The pad absorbs the residual moisture from the tomatoes.

Dry tomatoes

Basically any type of tomato can be dried, whereby bottle tomatoes such as the ‘Pozzano’ variety are particularly suitable due to their lower water content. The loosened seeds can be dried if necessary and used for the next sowing. The drying can be done in different ways, in the fresh air, in the dehydrator or simply in the oven.

In the air or in the sun

Drying fresh fruits in the open air, in the sun, is the cheapest and most environmentally friendly but also the most complex method of drying tomatoes. The biggest hurdle here is certainly the weather, because you need a few consecutive hot days and a sunny and well-ventilated place. Therefore you should choose a time for drying when it is dry and hot for a long time. For best results, the temperatures should be over 32 degrees and the humidity under 60 percent.

  • Looking for a place that is in the sun for most of the day
  • Place to dry, should be a little higher
  • Use a clean grid, grillage or similar air-permeable surface for drying
  • Place the prepared fruits on the grid with the skin side down
  • Lay out the tomato pieces so that there is enough space between them
  • They should not touch and should be optimally ventilated at all times
  • Stretch a cheesecloth, fly net or similar close-meshed net over the fruit
  • Cover should protect against insects and bird damage
  • The net must not touch the fruit

Over the next few days, the tomato wedges have to be turned over and over again. In order to protect them from any moisture, they are only left outside during the day and brought into the house at night, in any case when it rains. With enough warmth, sun and optimal ventilation, the fruits are dry within three to four days. They look wrinkled and have a leathery or rubbery consistency. Their color is now much darker than when they were fresh.

Tip: You should make sure not to dry the fruits in the sun longer than necessary, because then they quickly become brittle and crumbly.

In the oven

If drying outdoors is not possible because the weather may not play along, the classic variant, drying in the oven, is the best option. It is available in almost every household. What speaks for this method is the independence from the weather and that no additional equipment or materials are required. The main disadvantage is the high energy consumption. In addition, some of the nutrients are destroyed at these high temperatures.

  • Before you can start, preheat the oven to 90 degrees
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper to dry
  • Spread out the chopped fruits with the skin side up
  • Leave about 1 cm space between the individual tomato pieces
  • Season accordingly as needed
  • Then turn the temperature down to 50-60 degrees
  • Put the tray with the fruits in the oven
  • The whole time, leave the oven door ajar
  • To do this, clamp a wooden spoon or something similar between the oven and the door
  • Important so that moisture can escape
  • Dab on the water that collects on the baking sheet with kitchen paper
  • It takes up to six hours to dry, depending on the size and quantity of the tomato pieces
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To check how far the drying process has progressed in the oven, you can occasionally press on one or the other piece of tomato with a spoon handle or something similar. If no more liquid escapes, the fruits are dried. Like prunes, they have shrunk again and have a rubbery consistency.

Tip: After the drying process, the tomatoes are left to cool on the baking sheet. They can then be stored in appropriate containers, soaked in oil or used in some other way, as required.

In the dehydrator

If you have a dehydrator, you can also use it for drying. If you regularly dry fruit and vegetables, it can be worth buying an automatic dehydrator. However, it should be a device that can also be used to set low temperatures. Because the aromatic fruits can only be dried in a nutrient-friendly way at low temperatures. The main disadvantage of the dehydrator is the power consumption, although it is still lower than that of the oven, for example. Depending on the device type, the drying time can also vary.

  • Tomatoes lose a lot of liquid when they are dried
  • It is therefore best to use baking paper or special drying foil
  • But not absolutely necessary
  • Halve, quarter or slice the fruit as thick as a thumb, depending on the size
  • Season or not, depending on your personal taste
  • Then cover the grate or individual drying shelves with drying foil
  • Distribute the fruit pieces on top so that they do not touch
  • Remove slots that are not required from the device
  • Then set the dehydrator to 65 degrees
  • If available, set the timer to seven hours
  • For even drying, change the floors about every hour
  • Tomatoes in the automatic dehydrator are usually dry after a maximum of ten hours
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Store dried fruits

Once the drying process is complete, the dried fruits can be placed in airtight jars or plastic containers and stored until they are used. A few grains of rice in a tea filter or a normal filter bag in the storage container can absorb any residual moisture and thus protect against mold formation. So they can be kept well in the refrigerator.

Another possibility to store dried fruits is by vacuum sealing or welding. They are then stored in a cool and dark place, for example in an unheated cellar. If necessary, the dried fruits can also be frozen. After thawing, they can only be used for soups or sauces. Another very popular method of preservation is soaking in oil.

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