Celebrate and eat some tomatoes
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, and blessings for the future. It’s 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 delicious options. However, two other options are dehydrating and roasting.
Dehydration is extracting all the 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, and more hygienic, but still time consuming.
Cut the ripe, red tomatoes into quarter inch slices and space them out on the dehydrator disks. Cover and turn on the device. My three trays still took eight hours to complete. If all five trays had been used, the time would have been 10 to 12 hours.
Once the tomatoes are completely dry, carefully lift the slices which have shrunk to an eighth 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!
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 they are completely dried out.
This method takes days and leaves the tomatoes open to the air and anything airborne.
In Utah, the red dust of our magnificent sandstone formations is nicknamed “seasoning.” But 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 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 them in hot water for 30 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 they 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. The reason 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!
Preheat the oven to 450F. Slice the tomatoes, again, to one quarter inch thickness. If using cherry tomatoes, simply cut them in half.
In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes with a half cup of olive oil (this is for six to eight large Roma tomatoes), one quarter cup of Italian herbal mix, one tablespoon garlic powder, one teaspoon ground black pepper, and a 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 to 25 minutes in the oven. Any longer and they will begin to turn too mushy. Let the tomatoes cool for 15 minutes before placing in air-tight containers or bags.
You will be tasting them – I know you can’t resist! Have any frozen pizza in the freezer? 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 to 18 minutes. One bite and you will be totally in love!
Joyous Mabon, Welcome Autumn, Second Harvest is here. Celebrate and eat some tomatoes!