Hi all --
I'm going to dry my first batch of cherry tomatoes, and am wondering if I have to scoop the seeds out of them or if I can just halve them and put them in the dryer as is?
Thanks in advance,
I did this last year. I just halved them and dried, I did not scoop out the seeds. With one batch I sprinkled salt and dried basil on them - they were very yummy.
I dry tons of them using the same technique Ann does: just cut them in half and put them in the dryer. I find that it's faster and they don't flop around as much if I don't cut them all the way through, just leaving a little hinge (like a presliced hamburger bun).
If you get a chance next year, try growing a variety called Black Cherry (developed by Tomato Growers Supply) and drying them. They're large cherries and quite meaty; when dried their flavor is sublime.
Gosh, you'd be forever scooping out all those seeds.
I do the same, just cut in half and dry. I do lightly baste some with olive oil and sprinkle with dried herbs, but those I refrigerate or freeze.
Two cautionary notes:
One: Line them up on the trays cut side up. Otherwise you're likely to have a mess on your hands.
Two: The flavors intensify when you dry them, and there is no snack as good as popping a dried cherry tomato into your mouth and letting it rehydrate on your tongue. However, they can become addictive, they're so good. Bet ya can't eat just one!!
One: Line them up on the trays cut side up.
Exactly what I was going to add. I like a light sprinkle of Tony Chachere's or Zaterain's Creole Seasoning on top.
Takes about 3 days at 125Â°F in my dehydrator. You know they are dried enough when you can put them in a sealed jar and no condensation forms on the glass.
Yep. I do these by the zillions just in my oven at the lowest setting; takes about 2 to 6 hours. I then pop 'em in the freezer since occasionally it turns out they weren't 100% dry and a batch gets mold. Not very often, but I hate to lose any. (I find this easier than testing for condensate; they thaw in no time.)
And I second the recommndation to try black cherry --- both as a fresh tomato and as a dried one it's really amazing. This year I have one called brown cherry that has a similar but slightly "darker," almost "smoky" taste, and is larger and meatier, that I am looking forward to drying (though I expect it will take longer).
I also love to dry Sungold, which are at the other end of the taste spectrum --- terrifically sweet. They are, in fact, the sweetest tomato on record, and when dried the sugars concentrate so the results are almost as sweet as raisins but with a tomato taste --- I use them sometimes in savoury recipes that call for dried figs.
Oven drying is slow, and inefficient. A dehydrator works well enough that it can take all the water out and leave a dried product that will not spoil quickly.
"Takes about 3 days at 125Â°F in my dehydrator."
"...in my oven at the lowest setting; takes about 2 to 6 hours."
"Oven drying is slow, and inefficient."
Something doesn't compute here. I haven't dried cherry tomatoes but it sounds like a good idea. I don't yet have a dehydrator, but am seriously considering it. I was successful at making beef jerky in my oven back in the hippy days when I was backpacking in the mountains and, wanting nutritious, light weight, non-perishable foods, emulated American Indian methods. Of course, Beef Stroganoff is not a good example of American Indian cuisine, but it makes a satisfying main dish, prepared over a campfire from jerky, noodles and a Knorr powdered instant sauce, all of which weight practically nothing. The heavy part, water, was always close at hand in the mountains.
But I digress. :-) I'm thinking my oven, set low, door ajar with a fan blowing, would work quite well. I would use nice nonstick wire racks which can be had in sizes almost large enough to cover the oven from wall to wall. Good idea?
My husband prepared a batch yesterday--cherry tomatoes halved, cut side up on a baking sheet with a bit of salt, fresh cracked black pepper and a light dusting of chopped fresh herbs and olive oil--into the oven on a low temp. for a couple of hours, then into the freezer once cooled. The flavour is very intense, we are looking forward to using them in a stuffing for pork! Among other things........oven worked like a dream for us, but then we are keeping them frozen until use.....
I've learned to dry as slow as practical using as low a temperature as possible. In the less humid winters here I can drop the temperature down to 115Â°F and accomplish the same thing that requires 125Â° in the summer.
One of my old dehydrators was factory set at 165Â° and resulted in color loss, change of flavor and for peppers would gas off the capsaicin.
Someone here reported a Nesco American Harvester that overheated. (can't remember if started a fire or not) My first Nesco overheated too and the factory sent me a new one. Question is... does this problem still exist? When I spoke with customer service the lady said had never heard of such a thing happening before. (abt 2 years ago) Now I wonder if was telling the truth.
One of the advantages with living in a "humidity challenged" climate is the speed of drying stuff with a dehydrator. I did mint leaves yesterday in 2 hours, it took that long because the layers were so thick. Cherry tomatoes take overnight, and even then, some are crunchy.
Re sungolds, I'm hitting the peak now, and picked a gallon yesterday off of 3 plants. They also keep very well in the fridge for several days, and make a wonderful snack to take along on long drives, which we are doing as the kids sports season is in full swing and the competing teams are often several hours drive away.
I expect it takes John such a long time because he can set his dehydrator to any temp he wants, and he chooses to set it very low. (Maybe it's more even that way? I have never had a dehydrator so I don't know much about 'em.) I can't get my oven much lower than 200, and the temp is fairly uneven.
Nevertheless, this technique has worked very well for me on hundreds and hundreds of cherry tomatoes, just on cookie sheets. I bet wire racks would provide for evener and faster drying. (Assuming the openings are nice and small --- once dried, a cherry tomato is only a little bigger than a raisin and you wouldn't want them to fall through! But I'm imagining these are screen-type things more than chicken-wire-type things?)
As for oven drying being slow and inefficient, this is one of many areas where different people on this forum have different opinions about the necessity of particular equipment. Ken has often stated his love of his dehydrator (though we know he loves his Villaware food mill most of all!), and I have equipment of my own that I'm very partial to and wouldn't be without.
But a dehydrator sure hasn't been necessary for my own tomato drying. If I wanted to store them shelf-stable, I might feel differently, because I have found, as I mentioned above, that occasionally a batch gets mouldy unless I keep 'em in the fridge (for weeks) or the freezer (for years). But they take up so little room that ziploc bags of them in the freezer work well for me.
The main reason the oven does it quicker, is because no home stove oven can be set at a low 125 degree temperature. Most all ovens I have ever used can only go down to about 170 degrees. Even for that, when I measured my NEW oven it was actually at 220 degrees and remained there, even tough it was set it its lowest temp of 170. Mine has a digital control and according to the manufacturer at that lowest temp, the accuracy is going to be about 45 degrees off due to the kind of heat detection used cin its design. Is more linear when used at normal baking temps of 300 degrees, etc. My dehudrator has no fan or controlled heater, only a heater thats plugged in and reaches a temp of about 130 degrees inside. For ovens to do dehydration efficiently, they also need a lot of air movement to rid the product of moisture quicker. Leaving the oven door open with at least 1200 watts heating it up, is still far more expensive compared to a dehydrator that runs at maybe 40 watts at best. The word 'Inefficient' refers to the amount of power used by an oven, compared to a very low wattage dehydrator. Even if it takes 3-4 hours in an oven to 'bake' the product, and 3 days to dry in a dehydrator, the actual cost of electricity is very important too, when you consider energy costs.
Luckly, I was able to manually adjust the 'offset' for my digitally controlled oven to a lower setting of almost 160 degrees, buy setting the offset to 45 degrees lower (its maximum setting) than what's set on the digital readout. This is because I cannot 'cook' a meat product using higher than 170 degrees, as it should not be heated that high for meat CURING purposes.
Actually, this year, I have not used my Villaware at all. Not a single tomato was grown here this season, and will not be done for about 2 more years. I do like to use the VIllaware for getting the juice from red raspberries though.
Some of the new ovens do have a "Proof" setting for bread that goes as low as 80 degrees. I have no idea, though, how it would work for drying.
My old oven doesn't offer much in the low-temperature range, so I use my MIL's deydrator. It just has a single temperature setting, but it's worked quite well for everything I've dried.
Except I do agree about hotter dehydrators driving off pepper fumes. When I dried Habs I had to put the dehydrator in the shop. However, I found last year's peppers so hot, the loss of a little capsaicin didn't concern me.
Thanks a million for the thoughtful answers, everyone. You brought up many points I had not thought about or was unclear on. For example, that the finished cherry tomatoes would be small and drop right through the wire rack I was thinking of using. And all the info on temperatures and ventilation is most helpful.
Sungold doesn't drop through the racks on my dehydrator, but some things do and I've found that splatter screens are quite adaptable. I think they are about $1.88 ea at WallyWorld.
They come in various sizes. My Dremel tool cuts the handles off and cuts a hole in them if needed.
While we are on the subject of cherry tomatoes, can anyone recomend a cherry that doesn't split on the vines ? I end up throwing half away. Tx.
One aspect of drying in the oven to consider: There is the possibility that even at the lowest setting you will be cooking the tomatoes, rather than just drying them. Cooking results in permanent changes to the cell structure, and they won't rehydrate. Just something to keep in mind.
I don't understand why it's a problem, but JT and I have both had difficulty convincing people that low & slow is the way to go when drying foods.
can anyone recomend a cherry that doesn't split on the vines ?
Sweet 100 Plus
Galina's Yellow Cherry
The thicker the skin, the less likely to split. The problem is that many people prefer the thin-skinned varieties, such as Sungold (me too!).
> can anyone recomend a cherry that doesn't split on the vines ?
Too much rain can crack just about any tomato and you would not believe the measures I've taken to prevent this on my container plants.
Anyways, just wanted to suggest picking the tomatoes in the late afternoon and not in the mornings. Something I learned the hard way. Used to pick perfect cherry types first thing in the cool morning and after a short time on the kitchen counter many would crack.
The quicker a food is properly dehydrated the less chance of losing flavor and quality.
>The quicker a food is properly dehydrated... (Emphasis mine)
Sure can't argue with that. But I do feel confident that dehydrating at too high a temp has a negetive affect on taste and quality. Although the least exposure to air as possible would seem to be beneficial.
Slow and low is in my experience working out better than the way I used to do it. I don't even pretend to say that what I am doing now is the absolute best way.
There's another danger working at too high a temperature; what I call the "searing effect".
What happens is that the outside of the food item dries quickly, forming a sort of crust. This, in turn, actually hinders or even prevents drying of the inside. Net result: You have what you think is properly dried food, which then turns moldy.
That might be Zabby's problem. She resolves it by putting the dried food in the freezer. I avoid the problem by drying properly.
Low and slow is the way virtually all experienced dehydrators do it. To put that in perspective, JT will confirm that I've even accused him of working at too high a temperature. And he dries at a mere 125 degrees. Personally, I prefer 90-105 degrees; and never work higher than 115.
The idea that you lose anything besides water, when dehydrating foods, is falacious at best. There are very few foods that lose anything by being air dried slowly. Most of those that do so are herbs. But anything that volitile shouldn't be in the dehydrator in the first place.
On the other hand, there are things like peppers whose quality is destroyed by higher heat. Capsaicin vaporizes at 165 degrees, for instance. So if you dry them fast, you lose the very reason for having them.
Alliums suffer greatly by high heat. Try drying some garlic at low heat. Then grind it and compare it with the garlic powder you get in the jars if you need proof of where the quality loss comes from. Gilroy--which produces 99% of the garlic powder sold in this country---keeps its dryers set at 178 degrees.
Most vitamins are heat sensitive, and you can lose them by rushing the process as well.
So that's your basic choice. You can have it good or you can have it fast.
Of course, there is the original way of making sun dried tomatoes, drying them in the sun. That would be slow and low temperature, not to mention picturesque if I had a stucco coated Tuscan farm house to hang them on. :-)
> Low and slow is the way virtually all experienced dehydrators do it. To put that in perspective, JT will confirm that I've even accused him of working at too high a temperature. And he dries at a mere 125 degrees. Personally, I prefer 90-105 degrees; and never work higher than 115.
If I could go lower I would. Please trust me on this... if I go too low on temps what I'm trying to dry can actually hydrate! I know this from trying to dry commercially produced products such as Tones onion flakes to where I can grind them into powders and add to my hot pepper powders. Granted am in one of the higher humidity areas in the states. I think 3rd behind Houston in studies I've seen. (maybe 5 years ago)
I know your problem, JT. Just pulling your chain a little.
But don't you agree one of the hardest things we try to do is convince people to lower the temp on their dehydrators.
Hi, ok so now I have another question- a friend of mine gave me a dehydrator to borrow, but it doesn't have a temperature gauge- just an on and off switch. Do you still think this would be the better choice than an oven? Is there a way I can find out what temp it is? I started it tonight, and to tell you the truth, I didn't really feel any heat - more or less just fans blowing up.
Any suggestions? Thanks!
I own several indoor/outdoor thermometers and find them indispensable for several chores such as seed germinating, dehydrating etc.
This has a probe on several feet of cord that registers as the external reading. Drop the probe into the dryer vent.
The wireless models are not rated as highly in customer satisfaction. Never owned one so can't recommend.
Here is a link that might be useful: Thermometer
Heck, mine doesn't even have a switch on it. Its a round Ronco and has been used for many years for drying herbs as well as peppers. Its temp is about 125 degrees and has no fan, as it uses convenction of air passing through from the bottom. The only think I have to do is roatate the trays every day, and then change the locations by restacking in the opposite levels.