It has been almost a year since I first blogged about my experiment with creating (not-so-)sun-dried tomatoes in the dehydrator.
I used to occasionally buy sun-dried tomatoes, not the kind that come packed in olive oil in a jar but the kind that come loose in a bag in the produce section. I would buy them for recipes but end up snacking on them – and they were kind of expensive to use as a snack.
I came up with the idea of drying some Ro-Tel diced tomatoes in the dehydrator. When I did my first post a year ago, I was trying the recipe with extra-hot Ro-Tel (made with habanero) that I’d found on sale at United Grocery Outlet. They were good, but in their concentrated form they were way too hot. And they stuck to the plastic fruit roll-up sheets that I made them on, resulting in little bits and pieces of tomato flying everywhere as I attempted to chip them off with a knife or metal spatula.
In the past few months I’ve made some vast improvements in the recipe. First, instead of using regular Ro-Tel I use standard diced tomatoes. These are in larger pieces than Ro-Tel, and so the resulting pieces (while still small) are a little more convenient for snacking than the itty-bitty crumbles that would result from the Ro-Tel.
I do like some flavor with the tomatoes, though, so I sprinkle on just a little bit of red pepper flake. I also add some finely-diced raw onion, which dries at the same time and adds a nice flavor contrast to the tomatoes in the finished product.
The final improvement was simply spraying the fruit roll-up sheets with cooking spray (like Pam) before putting the tomatoes on them. It’s much easier to remove the little bits of tomato.
I drain the tomatoes before putting them on the sheet, but don’t throw away the liquid; I add it to any V-8 or tomato juice that I happen to have in the fridge.
The tomatoes shrink up so much that, even though canned tomatoes are cheap, I’m not sure the finished product is that much cheaper per ounce than those bagged sun-dried tomatoes. But they’re probably a little cheaper, and I like the idea of adding the onion and pepper flavor. They’d probably be great added to some sort of savory snack mix. I’ve also tried adding them to bread dough to make sun-dried tomato bread.
Progress marches on.