Monday, June 27, 2011

Tomatoes - Will you can or dry them this year?

I'll give you my answer to that question. I'll  be drying them.  For the past years I've spent hours and hours canning tomatoes for days. Making diced tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, salsa, tomato juice, ketchup, BBQ sauce and more. You get the idea! I had tomatoes, tomatoes, and tomatoes at my house. Also, all the sloppy juice and mess. Oh, what a mess they are! Then last year AFTER canning all my tomatoes I got this information from Diane at "Heart to Heart with Diane"  not to can them but ... to dry them.

So, I went out and bought another couple of boxes at the Farmers Market and dried tomatoes. I will NEVER can a tomato again. I simply dried the tomatoes and stored them in several large bags. I then have ground the tomatoes up into powder when I've wanted to create ketchup or BBQ sauce. It's been so simple to break up the dried tomatoes to add to chili, pasta dishes, you name it. The powdered tomatoes also are wonderful to make pizza sauce with. Just add spices, and water. What could be easier? 

Like I said ... No more canning tomatoes for me. You'll find me at the Farmer's Market this year walking away with boxes and boxes of tomatoes, but I'll be slicing and drying this year. While the tomatoes are lounging around in the dehydrator I'll be lounging on the sofa reading a book.  What about you this year?

On to Diane's information:

I don’t relish canning.  It seems like I wear myself out (to the point that I can’t manage dinner prep) and mess my kitchen up (to the point that I need to mop).  Happily, I have discovered the perfect solution to my dilemma:  what I call “V8 Powder“.  It is easy to make, full of nutrition, compact to store, and easy to hide greens and other great veggies in!

It’s simple: just dry tomato slices, plus kale leaves, parsley, collards, swiss chard, and any other super nutritious veggies that you have in your garden, in a food dryer.  Then blend them in the blender to form a powder you can use to make tomato products.

Here’s how to make it:

Wash and slice tomatoes about 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick.  Slice the top and bottom skin off thinly, so that the raw edge is exposed.  Lay them touching each other (but not overlapping) on the food dryer trays.  To add greens, wash and trim out the thick central rib on swiss chard and kale.  Collards, spinach and other veggies do not need to be trimmed.  Lay loosely on dryer trays. You can also add onions, carrots, or any other vegetables you would like.
Set the food dryer thermostat to 120 degrees, and let it do the work.  I put mine in my laundry room where it warms up the room a bit and keeps the low hum out of the already noisy family living area.  I don’t worry too much about it, but check it after a day (approximately 12 to 24 hours).  You can’t overdry, so whenever you get to them is fine.  When the veggies are crisply dry, let them cool thoroughly.  Then, put them in the blender and blend them into a smooth powder.
Store the powder in a glass jar, for a year in your cupboard with maximum nutrition content. If you store it in a cool, dark place,  it will retain the most. If you want it to last longer, you could put an oxygen packet in the top of the jar before putting on a canning lid and ring.  The oxygen packet will displace the air and seal the jar for better freshness.

Wow, I feel liberated!  I am making a batch a day with my garden produce without putting out much effort.  I just smile thinking of all that garden-fresh nutrition just waiting to be added to soups or stews or pizza sauce or spaghetti sauce when the garden is long gone and the snow is on the ground!
To use your power-packed nutrient powder, just follow this chart:
*Thanks to Rhonda Hair for the idea of drying tomatoes and for the great reconsitution charts above! 

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