From garden to dehydrator!
It's garden harvesting season and I've been super busy dehydrating our over abundance of crops this year! My daughter and I were just talking this morning about the current events in our country. During our conversation, it dawned on me that there is a reason we planted a bigger garden this year; there is a reason we have an overabundance of crops; there is a reason I have been dehydrating so much! We may not know the reason, but God does. Actually, I think we do know the reason, we just don't know the exact timing. But, I can tell you with the way things are headed for our nation, it is soon! Soon we will be needing to rely on our preparations. Soon. It is my prayer that when that time comes, that you and your loved ones will be ready!
I kind of got a little off track there, and I would apologize for it, but I won't, because I do feel what I said was necessary. Someone needed to hear it. Now, back to our subject at hand. Today, I am dehydrating some cherry tomatoes from our garden. And, holy guacamole, are they huge this year! The average size of our cherry tomatoes this year is around four and a half to five inches in circumference! Last year's harvest was about half the size of these.
Before I get too far into sharing how I actually dehydrated the cherry tomatoes, I want to tell you that this is my first ever attempt at doing so. And, I thought I would share my learning experience with you!
There are a couple of things I learned in my research of dehydrating cherry tomatoes that I want to mention here, because it may help make your adventure in dehydrating tomatoes a little easier. So, here goes:
Your tomatoes do not have to be fresh from your garden; they can be some that you purchased from your grocer, farmer's market, roadside fruit/vegetable stand, or CSA. But, you will want to make sure your tomatoes are fresh and not overly ripe. Overly ripe tomatoes are softer and will have more juice in them than those that are still firm; therefore taking even longer to dehydrate. And, they are harder to slice as they tend to “give” too much when applying a knife to them.
Use a sharp knife. You don't want to be sawing through your tomatoes, or worse yet, smashing them; you want to slice them. I personally prefer a serrated knife for slicing tomatoes.
Roma tomatoes and cherry tomatoes are best for dehydrating because they are firmer, more meaty and are less juicy. However, you can use any variety of tomato.
You may want to use parchment paper, silicone sheets, or something similar on your dehydrator trays as the tomatoes will drip and stick. But, DO NOT use wax paper in your dehydrator, as that will melt.
If you're already tired of reading (or you're returning and you just want to get to the instructions) you can skip to the "How to" section.
Preparing the cherry tomatoes for dehydrating
The cherry tomatoes I am using today were picked over the course of two evenings. After bringing the tomatoes in from the garden, I washed them, drained them, and let them dry in the strainer. Once they were dry, I put them into a gallon sized freezer bag and placed them in the refrigerator. If the tomatoes are not totally dry when you bag them up, you can fold a paper towel in half and put it in the bag with the tomatoes. That will help draw some of the moisture off of the tomatoes.
You don't want to let your tomatoes sit in the refrigerator for too long as they will continue to ripen. I did have some in the refrigerator that had been there a few days, but did not use those. They probably would have been just fine, but I wanted to use the freshest ones I could. Of course, you don't have to keep your tomatoes in the refrigerator if you are going to be dehydrating them right away.
When it was time to dehydrate, I took the tomatoes out of the fridge, grabbed my cutting board and knife, and got everything ready to begin. I washed my hands, and began slicing the tomatoes. I had debated whether or not to slice them or just cut them in half. Most of the research I did regarding dehydrating cherry tomatoes said to cut them in half long ways. Only, that's not really how I had envisioned in my mind my dehydrated cherry tomatoes as I was putting them on top of my salads. So, I decided to slice them. You can choose to do whichever way works best for you. You can slice them in half, slice them in fourths, dice them up, or just slice them normally like I did.
I sliced the cherry tomatoes about one-fourth inch thick, placing them on the dehydrator trays as I went. Usually, I will have a bowl handy to put the veggies in as I'm slicing and then put them on the trays once the bowl is filled. However, with the cherry tomatoes being juicy and all, I put them directly on the trays as I sliced each one. The tomatoes filled up almost a full six trays. It was just one row short of completely filling all six trays! That's two cherry tomatoes. Ugh. So close! But, hey, it was really okay.
Dehydrating the cherry tomatoes
Once the six trays were all filled and placed in my dehydrator, I set the temperature for 130º F. Normally, I would run them at 125º F, but it is super hot and humid here today and I knew from prior days of dehydrating that it would take a slightly higher temperature. Then, I set the timer for 14 hours, knowing that was just an estimate; they could take more or less time. Most information says dehydrate anywhere from 9-24 hours or more. The main reason for so much difference in the time is because it can be dependent upon your dehydrator, the thickness of your tomatoes, the type of tomatoes used, and the weather. So, even though I set a timer, I knew I would dehydrate them until they are dry and crispy.
Flipping cherry tomatoes, not burgers!
At around seven hours in, I took each tray out of the dehydrator and turned each and every tomato slice over. Doing that helped to release them from being stuck on the trays as well as allow for more even dehydration. The tops had started getting dry, but the bottoms were still sticky and some even a bit wet still. I also rotated the trays after placing them back into the dehydrator.
The waiting is the hardest part!
Then it was just check and wait. I did check every couple of hours as I had no idea how long they would actually take to become dry and crispy. Once they started to look like they were dry and ready to remove, I would take one of the biggest/thickest slices and set it on the counter until it was completely cooled off. After it was cooled off, if it was crispy and not bendy at all, they were ready. If there was any bending to it, I would keep dehydrating for another two hours. Don't worry, you can't really over-dehydrate. But, do be careful that you do not under-dehydrate. As it turned out, I only had to put them back in twice after I started testing. The third test time and they were crispy!
Oh my! I personally have never dehydrated anything that took as long as it took for these cherry tomatoes! Twenty hours! For real! But, you know what?!? It was totally worth it!! They are so delicious!! And, they look so pretty in the jars! Not to mention that they will be perfect for adding to my lettuce salads
We're not quite done yet
Even though the cherry tomatoes were fully dehydrated, it did not mean they were done and ready to store. The next and final step is to “condition” the dehydrated cherry tomatoes. I put the tomatoes into two pint-sized jars; being careful to distribute evenly. Fortunately, the just shy of six full trays was the perfect amount for the two jars. I let them cool down before putting the lids on. Once I placed the lids on (after taking a picture or two) I put them in the cupboard. The reason for putting them in the cupboard is to keep them in a cool, dark place as well as being close by to where I would remember to check them. Then, for the next two days I will check them a couple of times each day. By checking, I mean I will take them from their place in the cupboard and roll the jars around to see if there is any moisture on the inside of them. If there is any moisture at all, I will immediately put both jars full of the dehydrated cherry tomatoes back into the dehydrator for a minimum of two hours and then follow the same process for checking if they are done as above. Once they are done the second time, proceed to put them in the jars as above.
After there is no moisture for a full two days, the jars are ready for either an oxygen absorber (in each jar) or to be vacuum sealed with a jar attachment. Then, they should be stored in a cool, dry, dark place. Some people choose to store them in the refrigerator or their freezer.
Dehydrated tomatoes will not last as long as most vegetables for long term food storage; supposedly because of the acid content in them. So, I would advise to check them every six months or so just to make sure they have not taken on any oxygen which could cause them to become flexible instead of crisp, and could produce mold. If they are no longer crisp, it would be best to get rid of them and not eat them. Since this is my first time dehydrating any type of tomatoes, I can't say for sure how long I think they would be shelf stable for. I've heard so many different opinions on it that I feel safest just advising to keep checking them at least every six months or so. The ones I dehydrated today will not be used for long term food storage. I'm just hoping they will last a couple of months before they're all gone!
I'm really glad that they turned out as perfect as they did! Up next on my experimenting and learning agenda is learning how to ferment some vegetables and maybe even a salsa. Once I get all of our bountiful harvest from our garden put up, I will be working on completing a couple of emergency food/DIY MRE recipes that I left hanging a few months back. Once those are completed, I will be putting up a video of them on YouTube.
If you try dehydrating cherry tomatoes, or have dehydrated them before (or any tomatoes) please let me know how it went in the comments below. I love hearing from you and “chatting” with you! If you'd like to interact more with me and other like minded preppers, check out the Christian Prepper Gal Facebook group. I like to keep in touch and talk about some of the things I'm working on over there.
Until next time...happy prepping, and God bless!
Proverbs 21:20, The wise store up choice food and olive oil, but fools gulp theirs down. (KJV)
P.S. As I'm editing this article, I'm enjoying a lettuce salad topped with my dehydrated kale and the dehydrated cherry tomatoes. Oh my! The tomatoes are so full of flavor!! I'm loving them!! I just hope we get enough tomatoes to make another couple of pint jars!
How to dehydrate cherry tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes (or any other variety of tomatoes)0
Wash and dry tomatoes. Do not peel.
Slice tomatoes into 1/4 inch (approximate) slices. You can also slice cherry tomatoes in half, lengthwise, or cut them into fourths.
Place tomato slices on dehydrator trays in a single layer. Do not crowd them.
Put trays with tomatoes on them into dehydrator.
Set dehydrator temperature to 125 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Set timer for 9-24 hours. The time it actually takes will depend upon your dehydrator, the type of tomato you use, how thick your slices are, and the heat and humidity inside your home. The timer is just for reference, not a strict time.
Dehydrate for approximately 7 hours and then turn each slice/piece of tomato over. Continue dehydrating, until dry and crispy. (Check for dryness by taking one of the bigger slices out of the dehydrator and letting it cool for about half an hour. If it is crispy, they are done. If it is still bendable and pliable, keep dehydrating until they test done.)
Once dry, let them all cool down and then place in canning or other glass jar(s). Condition for approximately 48 hours (see above on how to condition).
Remove air from jar using food saver with jar attachment or place an oxygen absorber in the jar(s) with the tomato slices/pieces and screw the lid on tight.
Place in a cool, dry, dark area for long term storage. Some people choose to store them in the refrigerator or their freezer.