Preserving My Tomatoes

by Anne 0 Comments

Well, I guess I got what I wanted. A bumper tomato harvest. This year’s weather in British Columbia couldn’t have been more ideal for tomato plants; sun, sun and more sun. I am so excited about all these wonderful tomatoes.

I have so many that I am giving a bag to anyone that comes by our house these days – exactly like how someone growing more than one zucchini plant would do with zucchinis haha.

Heirloom tomatoes

With all these homegrown tomatoes it’s time to get in the kitchen and preserve them for the winter!

It is time to preserve some tomatoes, so we get to enjoy the taste of summer in the middle of the winter. My favourite methods are to either make tomato sauce and can it or to make oven roasted tomatoes and freeze them.

How I make tomato sauce

First thing I’d recommend you do is to put your favourite radio station or your favourite album on (might as well hit ‘repeat’) as you will be in the kitchen for a while. My second recommendation is to put an apron on… things are about to get messy!

Then I fill a big bowl with water and 1/4 cup of white vinegar and about two tablespoons of salt. I put the tomatoes in the water for a few minutes. This is mostly to get rid of any bugs that are hiding in the crevices, which there are a lot of in one of my favourite tomatoes to grow, black krim.

I rinse the tomatoes off and transfer them to a cutting board, I cut any ‘bad stuff’ off and cut the tomatoes into smaller chunks. I transfer the tomatoes to a large pot and soften the tomatoes for 5-10 minutes. I find that the softening makes it easier to run the through my food mill. However, I know that a lot of people don’t bother with this step, they simply chop the tomatoes and put them through their food mill.

My food mill was given to be by a friend and it is saving me hours of work removing the tomato skin. A food mill does a great job of removing the skin and the majority of the seeds (a few always seem to sneak through). The tomato skin and seed go straight to my compost bin (hmm… maybe that’s why I get volunteer tomato plants all over the garden every year…).

Food mill

A food mill is a handy tool to get rid of the skin and (most of) the seeds.

If you don’t have a food mill to remove the skin with just cut the stem out and cut an X in the bottom of the each tomato (just piercing the skin). Pop them in boiling water for about a minute. Remove the tomatoes from the boiling water with a strainer spoon and let them cool down a bit before you remove the skin. Then mash them with a potato masher – go on, get all those frustrations out and put all that energy into making a delicious homemade tomato sauce.

Tip: Instead of throwing the tomato skin away, make some Anna’s Italian Salt with it.

Then I put the tomato sauce on medium heat in a pot with a thick bottom for a couple of hours until it is more saucy and less watery. I make sure to keep an eye on the tomatoes and stir every 30 minutes, so the sauce does not burn to the bottom. I adjust the heat so it is a simmer and not a boil.

When I am happy with the consistency I can the tomato sauce and pat myself on the shoulder for a job well done. There are so many different opinions on the proper ways to can. To stay on the safe side I suggest you use a guide like this from the USDA to can your tomatoes.

Homemade tomato sauce

I let the tomato sauce simmer for a couple of hours until I am happy with the thickness.

Oven roasted tomatoes

Oven roasted tomatoes are simply delicious. I love having some of these on hand in my freezer to add to stews and roasted veggies during the winter. A handful of these little wonders will take you straight back to summer. The roasting of the tomatoes makes them caramelized and sweet. Just thinking about it makes me start drooling.

Oven roasted tomatoes

Oven roasted tomatoes are a great addition to pizzas and stews in the winter. Simply delicious!

Here’s how I make my oven roasted tomatoes.

This is usually where I use my smaller tomatoes, golf ball sized and smaller. I give them a good wash. Everything in my garden is organic and the smaller tomatoes don’t have crevices that bugs can hide in, so I don’t go too crazy with the washing of them.

I cut the tomatoes in half and put them in a bowl. I add some twigs of oregano, thyme and rosemary. And then I usually break up a whole head of garlic and add them all to the bowl. I pour a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil over everything and mix everything together.

I put everything out in a single layer on a big cookie sheet with parchment paper (or better, a silicone mat – to reduce waste) and pop everything in a 400F oven for about 30 minutes.

Once they have cooled down a bit I transfer them to glass containers and put them in the freezer. They are delicious on top of pizzas and in soups during the winter. Yum!

What are your favourite ways to preserve your tomatoes? Please share in the comment section below.

 

 

Make Your Own Fruit Leather With a Nesco Dehydrator

by Anne 0 Comments

Sick of the so-called ‘healthy’ snacks from the supermarket? Why not make your own fruit leather out of your favorite fruit or berries?

You may be lucky to have a huge apple tree or lots of blackberry bushes growing in your backyard or a kind neighbour that gives you an abundance of plums… or get an incredible deal on apples at your local farmers market. But what do you do with all this extra fruit? There is only so many fruit smoothies that you can drink and only so much space in your freezer.

Consider dehydrating your bounty. It’s much easier than you think. A food dehydrator is a great gadget for anyone who enjoys a healthy snack and want to know exactly what is in them.

NescoFoodDehydrator

Conserve fruit with a food dehydrator and make nutritious snack your family will love.

The Nesco Food Dehydrator is a handy tool to help preserve your fruit and vegetable harvest. It comes with a total of nine stackable trays and then you just stack the amount you need depending on how much you are dehydrating at a time. I spoke with a representative from Nesco about this and they recommend not using less than four trays at a time to prevent warping.

The BPA-free trays all have a hole in the middle for air flow. There is about an inch of clearance between the trays when they are stacked, so nothing gets squished. You can easily fit in kale for kale chips or grapes for raisins.

What’s included with the Nesco Dehydrator?

  • 52-page recipe and instruction book
  • 3 jerk spice packets
  • 2 BPA-free fruit roll trays for fruit rollups. The tray is solid plastic and has a bit of a lip at the edges, so your pureed fruit does not go anywhere.
  • 5 BPA-free trays (bigger holes) for drying fruits and vegetables.
  • 2 BPC-free trays with smaller holes for drying herbs, nuts and seeds trays

The dehydrator is expandable up to 12 trays, so if you are planning to do large batches of fruit, you may want to buy some extra Nesco food dehydrator trays. They come in sets of two.

Quiet fan

The Nesco dehydrator is a compact (13x13x10 inch) and quiet 600w unit. Unlike many other models the fan is at the top (in the lid). One of my friends has a dehydrator with the fan at the bottom. She says that it is a pain to clean when things drip on it in the drying process. With the fan at the top it never gets messy and you will find that is gives a more even circulation of air. This means that you do not need to move the trays around during the dehydration process. As long as the food pieces are about the same size, they will be dehydrated at the same time.

Adjustable temperature control

Some dehydrators just have the option of a ‘low’, ‘medium’ or ‘high’ setting, so you are never really sure at what temperature you are drying things at. The Nesco dehydrator’s settings go from 95F to 160F. It even has a guidelines printed on the lid, so you can quickly check which temperature to use depending on, what you are dehydrating.

Here is a review from YouTube:

How to make fruit leather:

It is very easy to make fruit leather with the Nesco dehydrator. Just puree your favorite fruit or berries in a food processor and spread it out on one of fruit roll sheets. Some users lightly coat the tray with an organic cooking oil to make the fruit leather easier to remove once dried, but this is not necessary. Pop the tray in the dehydrator and set the temperature on the dehydrator to 135ºF (57ºC). At this low a temperature you will not lose any of the nutrients in the fruit or the heat-sensitive A and C vitamins. The drying time depends on how thick a layer you spread. Usually, the fruit leather will be done in 3-4 hours and is done when the surface is no longer sticky. Allow the fruit rolls to cool down a few minutes before you sample them. If there is any fruit leather left once your family have sampled it, then roll it up and store it in airtight containers.

Things you can also use your dehydrator for:

There are many other things than just apple or pineapple slices that you can dehydrate. Many people are using their dehydrator to make beef jerky, kale chips, dehydrate herbs, mushrooms, flower petals and pet treats. If you enjoy hiking or camping, the dehydrator is a great way to make your own healthy snacks to bring with you. It is just a matter of using your imagination and dehydrating anything you can get your hands on. You may find that there is a bit of trial and error at first, but you’ll soon get the hang of it and want to try more and more things.

Tips:

Don’t get too creative when dehydrating too many different things at the same time. Beef jerky, pineapple slices and tomato chips may sound great on their own, but mixed together not so much. Also, it is never recommended to dehydrate onions with anything else as everything with taste like onions. Onion leather, anyone? No, I didn’t think so.

Don’t be alarmed that your homemade banana chips look different that the store-bought ones. The ones you buy at the supermarket are deep-fried and are filled with oil. Cut them into fairly thin slices (less than 1/8″) and let them dry as long as 16 hours. You may want to check on them every couple of hours and remove the dehydrated banana slices.

If you find it tricky to remove the fruit leather then lightly coat the tray with an organic cooking oil and the fruit leather easily peels off.

The fruit leather will dry from the outer edge towards the centre. So when you spread out your pureed fruit then try to make the outer edge thicker than towards the middle, so it does not dry too fast and get brittle.

If you want nice cuts then place the fruit leather on a cutting board and cut it into four pieces with a pizza cutter.

What people love about the Nesco Dehydrator

The Nesco dehydrator has a great even heat distributing, so you do not need to move trays around. Unlike many other models, the unit is very quiet, so you don’t have to place the dehydrator in the garage – the fan will not bother you. Another great feature is that you only need to use the trays that you need. So no need to stack nine trays if all you are doing is a couple of fruit rollups.

The not-so-great parts about the Nesco Dehydrator

There is always room for improvement, isn’t there? With the Nesco dehydrator it is really a shame that they have not included an on/off switch on the unit. It is not a big deal to plug and unplug the dehydrator, it would just have been nice to only have to flick a switch. Incorporating a timer would have been a nice feature as well.

Having the fan on the top gives the best heat distribution and makes cleaning a breeze, however, it does make the lid heavier than other models. Still, most people prefer the fan in the lid as opposed to the bottom, so no fruit drips on it making a mess.

Conclusion

The Nesco Food Dehydrator is an easy way to preserve your backyard harvest or supermarket deals on produce. It has a quiet fan and most users hardly notice when it is on. The low temperature that the fruit is dehydrated at retains most nutrients as well as vitamin A and C. Dehydrated fruit is a healthy snack that is popular with everyone and is a snack that is easy to bring with you on hikes and camping trips.

Click here to check out the price and more reviews of the Nesco Food Dehydrator on Amazon.com.