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ikkivan Posted - 07/13/2012 : 07:35:15 AM
We recently purchased an Excalibur dehydrator to help handle all of this year's garden bounty, expecially tomatoes, and I have become hooked on making dried tomato powder! In the past we had used a solar dehyhrator, but because it is so dependent on the weather (not to mention owners who keep managing to break the glass on top), we decided we needed an electric one for backup.

I no longer "put up" food by canning (the daughters do that now), but I really love dehydrating, as there is much less nutrient loss than with canning. I have frequently packaged up dehydrated tomatoes to crumble into stews and soups, but just this summer have discovered the beauty of grinding crispy-dried tomatoes (seeds and skins and all) into a fine powder to be reconstituted at varying degrees (depending on the amount of water added, of course) into instant tomato paste, sauce, and juice. It also can be used (sparingly, as it is VERY concentrated and potent) as seasoning for meatloaf, to make tomato soup, spaghetti sauce.

One of the great advantages of this is that an entire counter covered with tomatoes ends up fitting into a half-pint jar! Really. I vacuum-seal my jars to remove air, and the shelf life is pretty long.

I am also experimenting with making my own sprinkle-on seasoning with crushed dried tomatoes and several types of peppers, from mild to hot, that DH is bringing in.

Last year the summer gardening experience was missing (some fall and winter gardening) because of our severe heat and drought here in SW Oklahoma, but things are better this summer. We still need rain, but the temperatures are milder (knock on wood).

When I know I will grind the dried tomatoes into powder, I plop them into the blender for puree, pour them out onto the non-stick tray liners as a big tomato pancake, and let them dry until brittle. They are then ground fine in a coffee/spice grinder edicated dedicated just to this task. My little grinder turns even the seeds into powder. Lots of fiber in this stuff, I figure.

Donna, with intentions always bigger than her available time. (OkieDokieKnitter on Ravelry)
3   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
robinstephanie Posted - 07/14/2012 : 10:19:53 AM
Donna, yes, we do have really good farmer's markets here, all over the place. We go to Civic Center on Wednesdays, mostly, but on Thursday nights there's one just a few blocks from our house. It's much smaller; sometimes we don't find everything we want, but we love going there.

I didn't know about the low setting on the oven thing. We have a gas oven, a really, really old one--from about 1940-50, I think It runs on gas, always has the pilot light lit. It's so well insulated that it's always quite warm. I wonder if that would work? I'll give it a try! We don't have any tomatoes, but we have some red peppers. Those might be fun.

On a totally different note, I was knitting something a while back, can't remember what, but I was having problems and going through the Ravelry notes to see if I could find some help. I found your notes on the same project, and they were really helpful, so thanks! I think I left you a note about somewhere (here?) but can't remember. I enjoyed the ravelry/knitter's review cross-pollination.

Robinsteph

Different is good. ~Matthew Hoover
ikkivan Posted - 07/13/2012 : 5:29:40 PM
Robinsteph, I'll bet you have good farmers markets there ... those places often offer opportunities to pick up some really good produce when it's plentiful and in season, when it is also the cheapest. You can dry small quantities of foods in an oven set very low (if your oven CAN be set low enough), if you ever want to give dehydrating a trial run.

Donna, with intentions always bigger than her available time. (OkieDokieKnitter on Ravelry)
robinstephanie Posted - 07/13/2012 : 08:35:05 AM
Donna, that sounds just wonderful, and like it's lots of fun.

I never learned to can, but it's on my list, and I've wanted a dehydrator for years now, but haven't got one yet. S'pose the main problem is I don't have a garden anymore! I miss it a lot, but now I live in San Francisco. Last week I was wearing wool sweater and a hat, and I am not kidding. It's hard to grow great summer vegetables in this kind of weather. Plus I don't think the soil in our backyard is clean.

But I remember the satisfaction and fun of going out to pick a fresh salad or Brussels sprouts for dinner. My sister made pickles one year (I lived with her, then, and the garden was in her backyard) and she still surprises me with occasional bags of frozen tomato paste or cans of sauce.

If I ever do get that garden/dehydrator I'll remember your powder. Sounds yummy, and just really nice to have around, to pull out a pinch or more whenever you feel like it.

Robinsteph

Different is good. ~Matthew Hoover

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