Fresh tomatoes in abundance – I’ve been planting more and more every summer just to have a big surplus to convert into tomato leather.
Portable, durable, delicious and likely pretty good for you since my recipe is a combination of tomatoes, herbs, spices, alliums and olive oil.
First a little about tools:
- I have a 9-tray Excalibur dehydrator with a timer. If you get one, don’t forget dryer sheets. I got 2 sets, one for sweet and one for savory.
- Food processor or immersion blender. Both will work, but I’ve discovered that the immersion blender is a huge time saver and way less mess to clean up.
- I source a lot of my spices from My Spice Sage. So far the quality and service are both excellent.
Let’s get started. Just so you know where we’re headed, we’re going to make a delicious tomato sauce and then put it in the dehydrator. Simple, yes?
I put about 13 oz (by weight) of sauce on each tray. I use about 1 lb of chopped onions, so we’ll need around 7 lbs of cleaned, cored fresh tomatoes. Math.
Herbs and spices – I don’t really measure. It’s preferable to be a little excessive as the dehydration process knocks down some of the flavors. Exception – salt – dehydration concentrates the salt, so I do measure salt.
Mise en Place:
- 2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2-3 nice sized cloves of fresh garlic, peeled and minced.
- Couple small palmfuls of crushed red pepper. Adjust for your heat tolerance. If you make some that’s too hot for you, I’m here to take it off your hands…
- 2 medium onions, peeled and chopped. I am for about 16 oz.
- Couple nice sprigs of fresh sage, thyme, rosemary, and basil. Strip the rosemary leaves and chop with the herbs.
- 2 big palmfuls of fennel seeds. I’ve not yet found an upper limit for fennel seeds.
- palmful of paprika
- 2 tsp salt (could be less)
- ~7 lbs of ripe tomatoes, cored and halved
- Put a suitably sized heavy-bottomed, acid-resistant (I use stainless steel) pan on medium heat.
- Add the olive oil and crushed pepper.
- When the crushed pepper starts to sizzle, drop in the minced garlic. Saute for 30 seconds or so. Don’t burn the garlic or it will be bitter.
- Drop in the onions and saute for about 20 minutes, stirring at least every 5 minutes. You’re looking for a nice caramelization.
After the onions are soft and caramelized, add the tomatoes, herbs, spices and salt. Simmer, stirring every few minutes until the tomatoes are broken down and soft – usually about 30-40 minutes for me.
Now it’s time for either the food processor or the immersion blender.
Food processor – cool before processing. Hot food and plastic are not a great combination.
Immersion blender – hot is fine, I do it right on the stove. The sauce can be a little chunky, but big pieces will result in uneven dehydration.
Taste your sauce – it’ll likely seem heavy on herbs and spices and light on salt. This is OK and what we’re aiming for.
Time to chill – let the sauce come down to nearly room temperature. If I’m in a hurry, I put ice cubes and water in the sink and set my wok in it.
Next – measure out ~13 oz (by weight) on your food scale, pour onto the dryer sheets, distribute to near the edges and level out. You might have to shake the tray a little to level it out. Again, you’re looking for even dehydration and thick spots will take longer than thin spots.
Fill the dehydrator, set it for vegetable drying (on mine, that’s about 125 degrees) and let it go. Typically is taking me about 9 hours. Check every 3 hours and rotate / shift trays. There are hotter and cooler spots in the dehydrator.
When the leather is visibly dry and doesn’t smoosh when you push on it (‘leathery’), it’s probably done. Pull the sheets, let them rest (per your dehydrator’s instructions), peel off and store.
We eat them out of hand or on in pieces on crackers and goat cheese. Sometime soon I’m going to try letting them be sauce for noodles on a backpacking trip.
Too much sauce? We pour leftovers in a silcone muffin pan and freeze them for later.
After they freeze, pop them out and put them in a bag for later.