Have you ever noticed that some years the tomatoes in your garden just aren’t very productive and other years you’ve got so many tomatoes you could single-handedly supply the Tomatina Tomato Festival in Spain, you know, the one where people throw truckloads of tomatoes at each other?
Well, I didn’t have quite that many tomatoes this year, but toward the end of the season my tomato vines just kept cranking out beautiful heirloom fruit. The fact that we still haven’t had a killing frost by October 22 here in Connecticut has allowed a lot more green fruit to ripen up. (Usually our first freeze is around October 1st.)
Now, if you’re like me, you can only eat so many fresh tomatoes. We have roasted a lot and put them in little batches in the freezer to use all winter long. I have made some soups for the freezer as well.
But I have also found a fun way to preserve the wonderful taste of late summer: dried tomato leather. You usually hear about fruit leathers, but since I had such a bumper crop of tomatoes, I thought I would try something new.
What a success!
All you need is tomatoes, a little honey and lemon and, of course, a food dehydrator. We have a 9 tray Excalibur Dehydrator* which works wonderfully. I would imagine you can adapt the process to what ever kind of food dehydrator you have. Just refer to your Owner’s Manual for suggestions.
Here’s the basic scoop.
Organic Tomato Leather
- Heirloom organic tomatoes–preferably plum tomatoes or another variety that has more flesh and not as much juice.
- Honey–organic and local if possible
- Lemon wedges
- You can experiment with spices and seasonings once you get the hang of it.
Instructions (see photos below)
- Wash the tomatoes thoroughly and cut out all blemishes and stems.
- Puree 6 cups of tomatoes (large chunks) in a blender (I love my Vitamix). This will give you about 3-4 cups of puree depending on how juicy your tomatoes are.
- Add 1 TBSP of honey per cup of liquid and a slice of lemon (with the rind). Puree this into the tomatoes.
- Line the dehydrator tray with kitchen parchment paper (trim it to fit the tray) or Paraflexx®*, which is made by the Excalibur company and is perfect for this sort of thing. I also tried the shiny side of freezer paper and it worked okay. DO NOT USE foil, waxed paper or plastic bags. Pour about 3/4 to 1 cup of the mixture onto each tray. Depending on how runny your puree is, you may need more or less per tray. You want it to be about 1/8″ thick at the center and about 1/4″ at the edges. This keeps the edges from drying out too fast and getting brittle. Leave about 1/2″ between the puree and the edge of the tray.
- Carefully load the trays into the dehydrator.
- Set the thermostat for 135˚F.
- Tomato leather should be ready in 8-10 hours depending on the moisture content of your puree. If you want to shorten the drying time, rotate the trays 180˚ halfway through the process. They are ready when there are no sticky spots in the middle but they are leathery and pliable. You can pull a tray out and see if the leather is easy to remove. It should come off in one piece.
- Place leather on a piece of plastic wrap. You can either roll it up on itself or roll it up in a piece of plastic. Which ever way you prefer, each rolled piece should be wrapped in plastic.
- Store in airtight containers in a cool dark place. If you make fruit leathers as well, do not store them with vegetable leathers. If you will not eat them all within a month, you might want to keep some of them in the freezer. Sometimes mine have gone bad after a while. But usually we eat them pretty quick.
- NOTE: One batch of my tomato leathers got a little too crisp around the edges. But after they had been wrapped up for a day, they were just fine.
You can also add other goodies to your tomatoes. Try some onion, green pepper, and/or garlic. Maybe some fresh basil or other herbs and spices. For starters, add
- 1 medium onion
- 1 green pepper
- a clove of garlic
to 3 cups of tomato puree and process til well blended. Then just follow the same instructions for drying plain tomato leather.
You will have to be careful while the food dehydrator is working its magic on the puree. You will start to sense a delicate tomato aroma in the air and before you know it, you will be floating around the room with the heady essence of tomatoes. It’s best to start this process at night before you go to bed. To have that wonderful smell in the kitchen and not be able to taste the end product for 8-10 hours just might be too much to handle.
Here are some pictures of the process:
Tomato leathers make great snacks. They can be a complement to any meal or use them in soups and other recipes.
If you try this, I’d love to hear about how it worked for you and if you tried any interesting variations.
Here’s to all those extra tomatoes at the end of the season,
James* Just so you know, these are affiliate links. That just means if you buy something from this link, a few pennies on the dollar will go toward the upkeep of this website. You will have a great product and I will be grateful.
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