Appalachian Food Preserving/Canning

We Have a New Love

dried tomatoes

We’ve never dried tomatoes until this summer and oh my we’re in love with them!

I’ve been eating the tomatoes pretty much as soon as they finish drying. They are so tasty! I never would have guessed how all that tomato goodness could solidify and become even more intense in a dried tomato.

I should have known though, because the exact same thing happens to apples. The Deer Hunter has started calling dried tomatoes: tomato raisins.

Since we’re so new to the game, I’m hoping you’ll share your tips, suggestions, and uses with us. Things like:

  • do you add salt or other spices before drying?
  • do you let them dry till they’re brittle or stop a little before that?
  • how do you store yours?
  • how do you use your dried tomatoes?

Tipper

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p.s. If you’re wondering about The Deer Hunter’s bent pinky finger in the photo—he didn’t injure it, he was born with it bent. Several family members on his Pressley side have the same bent pinky and all of this grandfather James’s left hand fingers were bent from birth. The Deer Hunter says since his finger’s been like that his entire life it never bothers him…except for when it comes to putting on a pair of gloves.

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19 Comments

  • Reply
    SusieQ
    August 11, 2020 at 12:35 pm

    Catching up on all my reads after a camping trip …. I’m sure I would enjoy tomatoes dried since I enjoy raisins, apples and yes prunes…tasty and good. I don’t have a dehydrator presently ( if that’s how you did your tomatoes) . Having read of others using them see the valued am considering purchasing …I follow on Instagram a grandma who lives in Australia who uses them often . country_homeschooling_grandma. (Darling Downs Farm). On Her page she shares a lot of things she dries using a dehydrator and how she stores and uses them plus how they garden in raised beds, & more….interesting site , now I think I will go chow down on a nice fresh salted tomato…yummy.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    August 6, 2020 at 9:28 pm

    As many tomatoes as we grew in Choestoe–“the place where rabbits dance”–near Vogel State Park, Union County, Blairsville, GA, we never dried tomatoes! I think we must really have missed out on a real taste. We never put anything on our dried apples–and why would you add, beyore drying, any spices to the dried tomatoes? (My question/opinion). Like when you cook dried apples, you add the cinnamon and otehr spices to make apple pie after you cook the dried apples, right? And as for your husband’s “bent” pinky finger, I would not have noticed if you had not mentioned it. It looked to me like it was somewhat “cured” around the wonderful dried tomatoes! Interesting that it was a “passed on” characteristic in his family! Sort of like “blue” eyes–or “brown eyes,” or a twitch of the lower lip, eh?

  • Reply
    Royce Sims
    August 6, 2020 at 7:12 pm

    We always sprinkle some fresh basil or oregano on prior to drying in dehydrator. He gentle the taste can be intense. I would recommend experiment with fresh hot peppers finely chopped or what ever trips your trigger.

  • Reply
    Quinn
    August 6, 2020 at 5:14 pm

    I’ll save this idea for next year – just about the time the storm blew down all my corn Tuesday night, I started planning next year’s garden. I don’t have tomatoes this year because I didn’t go to any of the places where I usually buy a few young plants – feed store, farmers market, or – my favorite – the town library benefit plant sale. I thought I wouldn’t mind doing without fresh tomatoes for one year but I’m missing them now that the pole beans are ready for picking every day. I think a nice red tomato looks especially good on a plate next to yellow pole beans 🙂

  • Reply
    Brenda Moore
    August 6, 2020 at 4:01 pm

    I have a countertop oven, similar to a toaster oven but bigger, that has a convection setting. I dry the tomatoes I have as they just get to the point of starting to wrinkle so they don’t go bad. About 200 degrees set on convection, takes a few hours, just however long it takes. If they make it to storage, and that’s a big if!, I put mine in EVOO and store in the fridge. But I mostly like to eat them like candy just after taking them out of the oven and they’ve cooled a little. Sometimes -most- they don’t make it to the fridge. Great in salads too.

  • Reply
    Pamela Moore
    August 6, 2020 at 11:44 am

    I have learned a great deal from today’s post. Drying intensifies flavor and in Asian cultures many they dry vegetables and fruit for that reason, including greens, not just for storage. Dried onions and other alliums are a common staple in my kitchen and add a great depth of flavor to soups and stews.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    August 6, 2020 at 11:36 am

    Tipper,
    I don’t have a dehydrator for tomatoes, I can them. (or at least, I use to.) For years, I canned those Mountain Princess Tomatoes and I gave my daughters a box a piece in Quart Jars. The Cross Family has the Best Tomatoes I ever ate for Canning. There’s Nothing Better than Homeade Vegetable Soup and Cornbread. …Ken

  • Reply
    Cynthia
    August 6, 2020 at 11:17 am

    I slice the tomatoes and then dry them. They make a great snack. They’re great chopped and mixed with a block of cream cheese for a spread or dip. Also great in salads and sauces. We didn’t plant anything this year.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    August 6, 2020 at 10:33 am

    Tipper, I tasted your dried tomatoes and they were wonderful. They didn’t seem like the peal would be a problem in cooking with them but if it turns out there is a problem you could just put them in a food processor and that would take care of it.
    With your abundance of little tomatoes they should be enough to take care of all your tomato cooking needs for the whole winter.
    Jim, nothing has the flavor of the Cherokee tomatoes as far as I’m concerned. Tipper and the Deer Hunter are always willing to share theirs with me!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    August 6, 2020 at 10:33 am

    I tried drying some tomatoes on a half sheet out on the hood of my truck. They dried reasonably well but just before they got to the point they were ready to store, a hoard of tiny ants invaded and colonized them. Being the genius I am, I decided the next batch would go in the truck, on the dash, where is gets hotter than 10 yards of you know where. The drying process went even better but….. . The ants came back and brought all their family and friends. I tossed the tomatoes but then I really had a problem. The ants didn’t leave! I saw ants every time I got in my truck all the way to winter that year. Now I use a dehydrator.
    I have dried tomatoes with salt, pepper and dried basil on them already. The salt draws out the moisture and seems to make the process faster. Plus the salt serves as a preservative.
    I dry mine until they are leathery. Tomato flesh does have its own oils albeit it very little. If you dry them until they are brittle, you’ve dried out that oil too which is fine if you want to crush or powder them. I store mine in emptied and washed peanut butter jars in the freezer. I like them in a salad or on homemade pizza.
    My tomatoes are finally starting to get ripe so this year I hope to dry some. In previous years I have sliced them across like you do for a sandwich or a biscuit then dry them. I have noticed however that when you half, quarter or eighth them for salad you sometimes cut between the seed pockets and all the seeds fall out. If I can figure out where to cut, I can dry me some seedless tomatoes. Even if I miss I can just juice the failed pieces.
    Dusty’s little fingers both curve inward.
    I noticed the fingerprints in the picture. They are quite distinct. Reckon I could snip and save them to later use to open a biometric door lock or maybe a cell phone.
    I looked at the loops and swirls on those fingerprints and tried to compare them to my own. I found nothing to compare to. I don’t have any! Not even looking through a magnifying glass! You don’t think I am an alien do you?

  • Reply
    Tmc
    August 6, 2020 at 9:13 am

    I’ve never dried tomatoes, but with this years bumper crop I think I’ll try it.

  • Reply
    gayle larson
    August 6, 2020 at 8:54 am

    I have a dehydrator sitting in my storage room which has never been used. I think after reading the comments from Jim I may just get it out and do some tomatoes. After my canopy of sun closed and my gardening days ended I lost interest in drying. I think I will buy some tomatoes and give it a try.
    I was sure after I retired I would do some of these things but the years have gone by and it seems I am busy doing something or other all the time. The virus has slowed me down so maybe it is time to get the dehydrator out. Thanks.

  • Reply
    Shirl
    August 6, 2020 at 8:49 am

    Very interesting post! I gave my dehydrator to my deer hunter grandson and never thought about ever needing it for anything other than a handful of fruit on occasion. Most dried fruit and vegetables take on an entirely different taste when dried the old fashioned way using a needle and thread and hung behind a coal stove pipe to dry. Dried green beans, known as shuck beans, have a unique taste that doesn’t resemble green beans in any way. I feel the same way about dried apples. I can’t offer any help for drying tomatoes, but will continue to read your post and hope I can learn from your readers. I’m sure some of the tomatoes on my table will end up in the oven before the day is over.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    August 6, 2020 at 8:10 am

    No help from me I’m afraid. I have never dried tomatoes. We have bought them and they do have a concentrated summer taste. I like them in little bits mixed with tomato sauces. I’ll be watching comments today to glean what I can. I’d like to try it.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    August 6, 2020 at 7:06 am

    Tipper–I have considerable experience with drying tomatoes and agree that the intensity of flavor, not to mention other plusses such as minimal storage space, less work than canning, and a convenient way of making sure none of a banner crop goes to waste, make them a winner. You’ve asked for tips, so here are a few based on my experience.
    *To keep fully dried tomatoes from being brittle and thus prone to crumbling into bits, toss them in a bit of olive oil after you’ve sliced them and are ready to begin dehydration. Just a bit of oil will keep the dried result pliable even after they are completely dehydrated.

    *To avoid any chance of dried tomatoes ruining because the dehydrating process failed to get rid of any spores or other things likely to make them go bad, place the finished product in a freezer for 24-36 hours (or if you want to be really sure, store in a freezer).

    *I find peelings something of a nuisance, especially on tommytoes, and hope some reader has an answer in that regard. When the tomatoes are reconstituted for use in sauce, for example, the peelings are mighty tough.

    *On large tomatoes, the peeling is easily removed by cutting a shallow cross on the bloom end, plunging it in boiling water for 30 seconds, then taking out of the water. The peeling will come right off and the tomato is still firm enough to be sliced easily for the drying.

    *The thinner you slice, the quicker they dry.

    *Less juicy tomatoes, such as Romas or most yellow varieties, dry really well. However, I don’t think they have as much taste as my juicy favorite, Cherokee Purples.

    *For a thick sauce for pasta, with incredibly rich flavor, use a bit of water (or olive oil) to help reconstitute dried tomatoes. Place them in a blender and blend until you have a paste. You can then mix with burger or ground venison, or just use atop buttered spaghetti or noodles for a meatless yet hearty dish.

    *Use an ulu (Inuit knife) to chop dried tomatoes and sprinkle them atop a salad with your favorite dressing. Talk about a taste sensation!

    *Be willing to experiment. About any Italian or Tex-Mex dish which involves use of tomatoes will find dried ones working well.

    *For incredibly rich soups, whether a vegetable, vegetable beef, or plain tomato one, used dried tomatoes. The flavor is wonderful.

    Hope this helps a bit and I’ll be eager to see what other readers have to offer.

    Jim Casada

    • Reply
      Melissa P. (Misplaced Southerner)
      August 6, 2020 at 11:38 am

      Hey, Jim, I don’t know if this will help with your peelings problem or if it would work with dehydrating, but I’ve always quick blanched tomatoes to remove skins before putting them up. I don’t know if you could do it quickly enough to make it work in your process, but it’s a thought.

  • Reply
    Michelina
    August 6, 2020 at 6:31 am

    When we’ve had bumper crops of tomatoes we dry them completely brittle , then (Gently) ground to a powder and put in a repurposed spice shaker. Takes up less room and stores easily. Then come winter we sprinkle on all sorts of dishes for a great burst of summer taste. Baked potatoes, buttered noodles, scrambled eggs, any veggie gets dusted. Plus if you have a sauce or gravy that needs thickening a good teaspoon or two of this will reconstitute and do the trick! Oh and guess what? My ancestry trees has quite a few Pressleys, we maybe distant cousins! Our finger trait is Dupuytrens Contracture (Viking fingers). We’re way up in North central NY (closer to Canada than the “city”). Had to share, have a blessed harvest.

  • Reply
    Sue W.
    August 6, 2020 at 6:20 am

    I “dry” Campari tomatoes in the oven. Low and slow at about 225 degrees. I put salt, pepper, powdered garlic, oregano, olive oil and crushed red pepper on for hubby. I leave off the crushed red pepper for me! Yes, I have to do two batches! I rotate my sheet pans top to bottom every hour. It takes as long as it takes. You never know because you never know how much water is gonna be in the maters! I also flip the tomatoes over at about the 2 hour mark. We like them when they are still a little underdone. He will eat them if they are more crispy, but I prefer mine a little chewy! I’m “weird” in that I only like them when they are fresh out of the oven and still warm or at room temp. Once they go in the fridge, I don’t want them any more. I store hubbies in a Rubbermaid container in the fridge. He will eat them on his sandwiches, or put some in a bowl, add some olive oil and eat them like he would a fresh cut bowl of peaches! I will also sometimes buy some fresh mozzarella cheese and chunk it up, put it and some of the dried tomatoes in a bowl with olive oil, salt, pepper and oregano and buy a crusty loaf of bread and we will eat the mixture on the toasted bread.

  • Reply
    Brenda Schlosser
    August 6, 2020 at 6:10 am

    Tipper, I love dried tomatoes but haven’t tried drying them. I love them in pasta salads and my very favorite is stuffing chicken breasts with dried tomatoes, fresh basil, and mozzarella or brie cheese. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic, and olive oil, then grill them. Delicious.

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