Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Red Tomato Harvest.

September 22, 2020; the first day of autumn, the beginning of Mabon and celebration of the fall season.  Mabon is the Second Harvest; a reflection of the past, gratitude for the present, blessings for the future.  A week-long celebration in which the bounties of fruits, vegetables and grains are harvested for the final time.  Pickling, jamming, jellies, bread making, dehydrating, roasting, and food preservation are the major goals.  Winter, depending upon where one lives, can be knocking at the door at any moment.

In my previous article, we visited the taste treat of Fried Green Tomatoes.  I bet many of the home cooks tried it, but I bet many others pickled those green tomatoes for future use.  Since this is time for Second Harvest, consider this a second article to figure out what to do with all those extra red tomatoes.  While they can be canned or frozen whole, homemade pasta sauce and salsa are very much delicious options.   However, two other options are dehydrating and roasting. 

Dehydration is extracting all moisture from a thinly sliced food item, then sealing it in air tight packaging.  It can be seasoned before processing, but be careful as anything added will be greatly intensified in flavor.  Jerky?  Yes, this is made through the dehydration process, as is “fruit leather”.  Owning a dehydrator makes the process easier, less messy, more hygienic, but still time consuming.  Cutting the ripe, red tomatoes into one quarter inch slices, space them out on the dehydrator disks.  Cover, turn on the device and my three trays still took eight hours to completion.  If all five trays had been used, the time would have been ten to twelve hours.  Once completely dried, carefully lift the slices which have shrunk to 1/8th of an inch thin.  I placed mine in a resealable plastic bag, making sure to, carefully, squeeze out the air, before sealing.  Yes, a container can be used, but it is air that will destroy all your hard work by creating mold on the tomato slices.  Keep them in a cool, dry, dark environment; heat and light are not friends to dried foods.  In a cabinet, they will keep for six months; stored in a freezer is a one year bounty!

Freshly sliced tomatoes in dehydrator.

Dried tomato slices.

Dehydrated Tomatoes

The other method for drying out tomatoes is to Sun Dry.  The tomatoes are sliced, placed on parchment lined trays and exposed to the sun until completely dried out.  This method takes days, leaves the tomatoes open to the air, and anything air borne.  While, in Utah, the red dust of our magnificent sandstone formations is nicknamed “seasoning”, do we really want it on our drying tomatoes?  Then there are insects, falling leaves, pet hair, and who knows what other non-tasty and unhealthy yuck that might get added in.  So, as you can guess, I am partial to a dehydrator.

What can dehydrated tomatoes be used for?  First, they can easily be rehydrated by soaking in hot water for thirty minutes.  Chop them up to add to salads, slices onto sandwiches, or anything else tomatoes are called for.  They can, also, simply be crushed or ground up to be added to soups, stews, dressings, and basically any dish calling for seasoning.  Dried tomatoes have intensified tomato flavor, so add a sweet/tart/tangy balance to a recipe.

Roasted tomatoes will not keep as long as dried.  Up to five days in the refrigerator, only six months if frozen.  Reason being is the cooked olive oil which can eventually turn rancid, even if frozen.  However, these little tidbits are so exquisitely delicious, they will not last long anyway!

Preheating the oven to 450F, slice the tomatoes, again, to one quarter inch thickness.  If using cherry tomatoes, simply cut in half.  In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes with a half cup of olive oil  (this is for 6-8 large Roma tomatoes), one quarter cup of Italian herbal mix, one tablespoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, one half teaspoon of fine sea salt. 


Place the tomato slices, or halves, in rows, onto jelly roll pans (the sides will keep the oil from leaking onto the oven floor).  Roast for 20-25 minutes in the oven; any longer and they will begin to turn too mushy.  Let cool for 15 minutes before placing in air tight containers or bags.

Roasted Tomatoes

You will be tasting them, I know you cannot resist!  Have any frozen pizza in the freezer?  Unwrap, place a few slices of the roasted tomatoes on it, and then rewrap.  Wait until you finally bake that pizza, the taste will make your eyes pop out!

How about some Bruschetta?  While the tomatoes are roasting, brush thick slices of Italian or French bread (even sub rolls will work) lightly with olive oil.  Once the tomatoes are done, space them out on the bread, top with shredded mozzarella and pop back into that 450F oven for 15-18 minutes.  One bite, and you will be totally in love!

Bruschetta and Roasted Tomatoes

Joyous Mabon, Welcome Autumn, Second Harvest is here, Celebrate and eat some tomatoes!

Mary Cokenour

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